Meet 5 Women Leaders & Vote for Your Favorite Inspiring Story
On Monday, March 8, the world will celebrate the tremendous achievements of women across the globe. In the last year, the COVID-19 crisis has illuminated the essential role women play in society and the disproportionate burdens they carry in their everyday lives. Read five inspirational stories of women leaders who have overcome significant challenges to create a brighter future, then vote on your favorite story.
It’s no secret that women face immense challenges to unlocking economic opportunities – even women leaders. Almost 60% of women around the world work in the informal economy. As a result, many often earn and save less than men do. Women are also at a greater risk of falling into poverty.
Women are often excluded from formal markets and have less access to important resources, including land, finance, and education. Despite these challenges, many women leaders have managed to forge their own paths to success. Along the way, they create ripples of impact throughout their communities.
This year, the U.N.’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.” Every day, TechnoServe works with inspiring women leaders in Africa, Latin America, and India. As we celebrate their exceptional accomplishments and acknowledge the tremendous progress still to be made, we are sharing with you some of their incredible stories.
Read 5 stories of women leaders below:
…then vote on your favorite!
Bernadette Sambo, like many Mozambican women, juggles a lot of responsibilities. She is a parent and the primary caretaker of three children, two of whom are under the age of 10. She also owns a small grocery shop called Mercearia Sambo in Mozambique’s Maputo province.
She was expected to manage both her home and the shop, two full-time jobs, which — until recently — she did largely on her own. After participating in TechnoServe’s Business Women Connect program, Bernadette has seen a transformation in many aspects of her life.
“Now, my husband is my business partner, and we agree on decisions. He also supports me with the children, which means I can work longer hours during the day, thus getting to know my customers’ preferences and pursuing new business opportunities.”
In 2012, Lubaba Mekonnen, a single parent of two, joined a TechnoServe program that was working with coffee farmers in her community. At the time, she had no regular source of income and was worried about being able to support her family. Today, her income has increased by 200%, her coffee farm is flourishing, and her son is getting ready to attend university.
“I want [my son] to go to Addis Ababa University,” she says. “I will help him go to the university and continue to learn.”
Her son, Mohammed Jamal, is 17 now. “She never made me work in the field,” he explains. “She gives priority and emphasis on school, and she always advised me to focus on my education.”
Mohammed was only nine years old when Lubaba first started growing coffee, but he has experienced firsthand the impact it has had on their lives.
When asked about the changes he has seen over the years, he smiles. “She started managing her coffee farm very well, and she started getting more income,” he recalls. “I have been able to learn and go to school, which helps me a lot. This is one of the opportunities that I got from her involvement in the [coffee] cooperative.”
Moureen Nakisozi grew up in a family of boys outside of Kampala, Uganda. After watching her brother take a course on welding, Moureen decided that she, too, would become a welder one day. When she was forced to drop out of school at age 16, she had to put that dream on hold.
Then one day, she heard about a TechnoServe program working to reduce youth unemployment in communities like hers by teaching young women the knowledge and skills to start their own businesses.
“I was happy when I got this opportunity because I knew I could work hard to earn some income,” says Moureen.
Initially, she struggled to adjust to the physical difficulty of the training. “It was challenging to handle very heavy machinery,” she says. “We sometimes use a lot of energy. It took me over a month to get used to it, but I’m now used to it and find it normal and easy.”
As a single parent, Rosa Gonzales once struggled to support her 9-year-old son and nephew solely with income from her small coffee and banana farm. Eventually, she decided she could earn additional money by picking up a job as a seamstress in town, adding long commutes to her already packed days.
But when COVID-19 hit, Rosa lost her clients as a seamstress. Luckily, she had the income from her farm to keep her afloat. Always looking forward despite challenges, Rosa aims to increase her yields and access credit through a TechnoServe program working in her community. She plans to invest further in her farming business and, with time, acquire more land and pay for her son’s education.
“I’m proud to be a working woman and head of my family,” she says. “It’s a challenge to raise my son alone, but I know that even though it’s difficult, I’m capable of achieving good results and moving my family forward.”
For Nimmaka Varahalamma, even the idea of leaving her house used to be a source of stress and anxiety. At the time, she was caring for her two young children and rarely interacted with people outside of her household. “The idea of talking to new people, let alone traveling outside the house unaccompanied, was extremely nerve-racking for me,” she admits.
Today, Nimmaka’s life is profoundly different. Now nearly 56 years old, she is the chairperson of the Manyam Sahaja Farmer Producer Organization. She has been an active community mobilizer for the past 20 years, tirelessly walking door-to-door to meet with people and convince them to join the organization.
“Belonging to a farmer’s family myself, I wanted to give back to my community in whatever way possible — especially the women in these families,” she explains. “I organized community engagement meetings trying to get more women to participate.”
Women Leaders Inspire and Empower Us All
Are there inspiring woman in your life who has made an impact on you?
Make a tribute donation in her honor for International Women’s Day.