UN Women, Barefoot College Project supports women affected by COVID-19

Date: Thursday, September 3, 2020

Women at work: UN Women is supporting women in Zanzibar to produce some face masks to help strengthen COVID-19 prevention among women and girls. Photo by UN Women.
Women at work: UN Women is supporting women in Zanzibar to produce some face masks to help strengthen COVID-19 prevention among women and girls. Photo by UN Women.

In Tanzania, UN Women has partnered with the Ministry of Labor, Empowerment, Elders, Women and Children (MLEEWC) in Zanzibar, through the Barefoot College International to invest in women’s economic empowerment in an effort to alleviate  the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on women entrepreneurs.

Through this partnership, the Barefoot College project has recruited 60 women to produce 60,000 reusable facial cloth masks that will be distributed for free to 30,000 marginalized people, including women in the rural areas, the elderly and women and girls with disabilities, and those living with HIV. In addition, the recruited women  have received training in entrepreneurship and financial literacy, which is aimed at building skills in sales and marketing, operational efficiency, customer relations and marketing.

UN Women is working with women whose small businesses were affected by COVID-19 to support income generation and recovery of their enterprises. Photo by UN Women.
UN Women is working with women whose small businesses were affected by COVID-19 to support income generation and recovery of their enterprises. Photo by UN Women.

The first group of women comprising 20 women in the Barefoot College project has produced 20,000 masks.

These were distributed to 10,000 people in Kisiwa, Makoongwe, Kendwa and Matele. This group will make way for two cohorts of 40 women who will produce the remaining 40,000 masks and receive entrepreneurship and financial literacy training in September and October.

Young women trainees such as the 26-year-old Afrah Sayed, who is a fashion designer, said she was looking forward to the project being expanded to also include training in digital technology. “My business was badly affected by the coronavirus disease and further support will help me to increase marketing opportunities for my clothing label using various digital innovation.”

Ameera Mohamed, 28, runs a small tailoring business in Unguja. At the height of the pandemic, she had to work from home but says mobility restrictions affected production.  She also hopes for a longer-term support that can facilitate provision of loans and the establishment of savings’ clubs to reinvigorate her business.

Mohamed’s business associate Azhaar Mwinyi is 30-years-old, and she would like to see the capacity of the project increased to include the creation of a network of women entrepreneurs and help Zanzibar businesswomen to connect with other women networks and collaborate in times of crises.

The UN Women Representative, Ms. Hodan Addou said through this project UN Women is supporting the national COVID-19 Response Plan working with governments in both Zanzibar and Tanzania Mainland to build back better, and effectively respond to the needs of women and girls through more gender-equal recovery interventions.

“In the case of the Barefoot College project, our support is building women’s economic resilience and providing income generation opportunities for recovery from the economic effects of the pandemic. This is in line with our response to the Tanzania Emergency Appeal and the UN socio-economic response framework for Tanzania,” said Ms Addou.