When women are empowered to reach their full potential, the positive changes they make for themselves radiate throughout their families and communities.
At TechnoServe, we work to help women around the world gain equal access to the resources they need to improve their incomes, their opportunities, and their lives. Through our work with families, communities, and businesses, we train and support women as farmers, workers, and entrepreneurs; close gender gaps in business performance; and build inclusive businesses that generate decent, equitable opportunities for women and men.
As 2022 draws to a close, we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite stories of women’s power and resilience in the face of gender-based challenges.
A Radionovela Role Model
Isabel Matola, a 36-year-old woman living in a suburb of Maputo, Mozambique, owns her own business selling secondhand clothes. And while she now runs her business without any pushback at home, this was not always the case. In the past, her husband had not been supportive of her business and was jealous of the time she spent away from home and interacting with clients, particularly men. He could even become verbally abusive towards her, and it had become very difficult for Isabel to manage both her business and her home life.
Enter Janete, a fictional woman entrepreneur who struggled with similar problems. Janete is the protagonist of a 26-episode radio drama broadcast in four different languages throughout Mozambique.
Just like Isabel, Janete’s character encountered resistance and antagonism from her husband regarding her business. In one episode, Janete addresses his anger by explaining how well her restaurant is doing, and how her business’ success benefits the whole family.
Inspired by Janete’s example, Isabel gained the courage to talk to her husband about the benefits her business provides not only for herself, but for the whole family. “Today,” Isabel says, “I can do my business without going through any issues with my husband—be it psychological or emotional—thanks to Janete’s tips.”
Men have also expressed changes in their mindsets around women in business. One male farmer, Raimundo Mabunda, has been an avid listener of the radio drama from the beginning, and, through listening, has changed his perception of women’s roles and abilities. “They are intelligent and able to reinvent themselves in terms of a new business,” he says.
Developed as part of a TechnoServe program to promote women’s economic empowerment in Mozambique, the Janete radionovela demonstrates the power of “edutainment”, or entertainment with strong educational aspects, to change mindsets, improving the lives and livelihoods of women entrepreneurs.
A First for Women Entrepreneurs: Shark Tank India
Aditi Madan grew up in a family of 14 in Darjeeling, a small city in northeast India in the foothills of the Himalayas. She describes a childhood full of fond memories, beautiful stories, and surrounded by nature–including the many towering pine trees that would eventually inspire the name of her business: BluePine Foods.
Having grown frustrated with the lack of local opportunities while studying at a missionary school, Aditi moved to the capital, New Delhi. There, she noticed that while people in the city were interested in the staple foods of her hometown–such as steamed dumplings called momos–the city’s food offerings were fairly limited. From there, Aditi’s idea for a food business that would share healthy Himalayan foods with the world was born.
Having already placed in the top six on Master Chef India in 2013, Aditi officially registered BluePine Foods as a business in 2016. From there, Aditi participated in a TechnoServe incubation program to help her navigate the many economic challenges of starting a business, and eventually applied to TechnoServe’s Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs program.
The new strategies and confidence she gained through the program helped Aditi to weather the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though she had to be hospitalized with the virus during the second wave of the pandemic, Aditi was able to recover while maintaining her business, and is proud to say that she never had to lay off any of her employees.
“As with any small business, there are always unforeseen challenges,” she says. “But today, we face them with confidence.”
In late 2021, Aditi became the first ever woman to compete on Shark Tank India—she brought national attention to her business, experienced a surge in sales, and won $100,000 in startup funding.
“Persistence and consistency are key,” says Aditi. “Discipline, passion, and having empathy are some of the most important things.”
Now, Aditi’s dream is to make BluePine foods the number one food processing company in India, and eventually in the world. She also stressed the importance of giving back to her community, supporting rural agro-entrepreneurs and working to onboard and train blind and partially blind employees.
On being a woman entrepreneur, she says: “Women have to self-motivate. Even if you have a family, husband, parents, etc., only you can know your business’ vision and future. Your community is there as a support system, but ultimately, success is up to you.”
A Force for Change for Herself and Her Community
When Dara Obispo first began working with TechnoServe in 2020, she was only 19 years old, and had already experienced more than her fair share of difficulties. At 16, she became a single mother—right around the same time that her own mother passed away. She was left to care for her young son, and her family’s abandoned cocoa farm, all on her own.
The cocoa sector creates sustainable livelihoods for thousands of farming families in Peru, but women heads of households are often left behind, lacking access to the same training and opportunities as men. So, in partnership with The West Foundation, TechnoServe began addressing this gender gap in the cocoa value chain by providing targeted training to 90 women heads of household who had experienced domestic violence.
Dara joined the project in 2018 and gained valuable practical knowledge on how to manage her crops, as well as a strong sense of community in the program’s workshops and field days. “The best part has been how lots of women, moms, come together,” she said.
In her first year working the cocoa plot, Dara managed to harvest only 110 pounds of cocoa beans. By using what she learned from the TechnoServe agriculture training and constantly working to apply best practices, she harvested more than 815 pounds the next year—and usually, she did the hard work of running the farm with her infant son strapped to her back.
Today, Dara’s harvest has grown even larger—on average, her farm now produces more than 1,300 pounds of cocoa beans per acre. Dara’s hard work to increase her harvest has allowed her to save up her money to start another business, a grocery store providing necessities to her community.
Dara dreams of expanding both her farm and her grocery store even further: “In the future, I want to expand my cocoa farm to at least eight acres and have my fermentation and drying modules to improve the quality of my final bean,” she says. “At the same time, I want to grow my grocery store and provide a better future for my son.”
Dara’s only son Brandon is now a creative kindergartener, who loves to draw, paint, and play sports.
Looking ahead to 2023, these are only some of the stories that inspire us in our work towards women’s economic empowerment. We know that these women, and many more, will continue to thrive and change the world for themselves and their communities.