A different choice: Nelusigwe's path to becoming a successful business woman

A different choice: Nelusigwe's path to becoming a successful business woman

“Hello, my name is Nelusigwe, I am 26 years old, I grew up in a village named Kyimo in Southern Tanzania and I want to be economically independent before I get married and start a family.”

In Tanzania, almost 40% of teenagers marry before they reach the age of 18, which usually results in their dropping out of school. Moreover, Tanzanian schools routinely demand girls to take pregnancy tests and government policy does not allow young moms to retake exams, which leaves them without (any) school diplomas and no chance for further education.

The majority of young girls who joined the Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) project have dropped out of primary or secondary school due to pregnancy or early marriage. Around 70% of the OYE girls with children are unmarried when they fall pregnant and find themselves expelled from school.

“Some of my friends thought their boyfriends would [financially] support them when they got pregnant. But the reality turned out to be very different. Now they do not only have to provide for themselves, but also for their babies.”

But Nelusigwe is determined to do things differently.

She is one of the few female group leaders in the OYE project and has been encouraging her group members to have an entrepreneurial mindset, work hard and set up as many businesses as possible.

young woman stands in pink shirt stands in front of the green crops

Her group has 11 members, boys and girls, and together they practise a saving and lending model that allows the group enterprise to flourish and provides access to small loans for all the individual group members. They encourage each other to invest this money in business. As a group, they have a horticulture farm where they're growing tomatoes. This year, they also took up the production of avocado seedlings. Through market research, the group found out that there is high demand for the seedlings in the community. Thus, they invested 230,000 Tanzanian Shilling (approx. $110) as start-up capital.

Together with Consolata (25) and Hobokela (30), Nelusigwe also started a catering business CONEHO. They can be hired for weddings, funerals and other events for which they prepare delicious traditional pilau, ugali and local chicken. One of their customers is Veronica Mbona, local implementing partner of the OYE project.

three young women standing together in front of green crops

“We have hired CONEHO to provide morning tea and lunch during the basic life skills and entrepreneurship training in the OYE project. By engaging CONEHO we can give them the opportunity to professionalise their business. But more importantly, these girls show to the other youth in the project that with a lot of hard work and dedication, it is possible to have your own enterprise, even if you are a woman.”

The OYE project provides continuous coaching to youth who have entered the programme from its start in 2013. Coaching supports youth in developing new businesses and guides them through enterprise registration, access to finance and market information. CONEHO is one of the few female-led businesses taking part in the coaching programme, simply because most of them are headed by young men.

By putting Nelusigwe in the spotlight and using her leadership skills and confidence during training and coaching of other youth groups, OYE hopes that she can be a role model to other (female) youth and inspire them to become financially independent too. Nelusigwe will also give a speech during the Women's Day event that will be organised in Isyonge village.