We have had floods of biblical proportions here recently, haven’t we? In fact very few people have escaped at least some degree of disruption from them.
Our visit to Tanzania was timed to coincide with International Women’s Day this year. A real chance to show that there are women who are inspiring, despite living in some of the world’s poorest communities. It has been a real honour to meet them this week and has once again reignited my desire to keep on shouting really loudly about how incredible African women are.
It has also reinforced my belief that women the world over are all identical. Some may have more material things than others. Some may have a nicer house or a more extensive wardrobe. But at the heart of us all is a desire to provide for our families. To support them financially and emotionally and to do the best by our children.
So for International Women’s Day 2014 I give you the following women who I hope might inspire you as much as they have me this week:
Claudia was written about by Annie after we met her on day one.
Mother, grandmother, business woman, mentor. In March 2013 Claudia was producing 20 litres of liquid soap a month which she sold to friends and family. Producing soap was a hobby that earned her a bit of money.
Lucy’s story was told by Penny after we fell in love with all of her amazing creations
Lucy is a woman with a mission. She wants to help others. She is a teacher by profession, like me she fell out of the profession when her husband needed to move with work, they moved from the country, to the city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
And Bertha whose story I told after we met her and bought samples of all of her products
Bertha is an incredible woman. As she expands and grows her business she also expands the building where she works. Herself. Building the extra rooms necessary to produce the healthy flour, three types of wine, and garlic paste. Now teaching other women the skills she has learned she is training the next generation of food producers
Joyce is the lady I talked about last night.
Joyce is a poultry producer and currently has a clutch of 300 chicks. Thanks to the training and support she has received from The Gatsby Trust next week she will double that with another 400 and be able to use the new building she has built behind her house.
Eliafura blew us away with her stunning batik and tie dye skills
Today we were incredibly lucky to meet Eliafura, a batik artist. She tells me her name means happiness, can you guess why?
And finally Forestiana whose story Annie told yesterday
Forestiana has grown her business with help from the support received through The Gatsby Trust, in a programme funded by Sports Relief, from producing 20 litres per month to 250 litres. She’s designed her own labels and had them printed, sourced bottles, corks, seals and more
All ladies that are prove #lastingchange is really working and changing not just the life of the person receiving support from a project funded by Sport Relief, but that it is helping entire communities.
And on that bombshell:
This morning we met Joyce. Joyce is a poultry producer and currently has a clutch of 300 chicks. Thanks to the training and support she has received from The Gatsby Trust next week she will double that with another 400 and be able to use the new building she has built behind her house.
We met Bertha today at home just outside Dar es Salaam. We were welcomed into her living room and were introduced to her by our guides from The Gatsby Trust. They have been supporting Bertha for the past year and have provided her with training in order to grow her business. A business she had started before she went to them, but need help to make it grow and expand.
Bertha produces three types of wine, a garlic paste and a flour that is used to make porridge. All of this is done from a purpose built building behind Bertha’s house. A building that she herself has been extending as and when she has the funds to do so. For instance, the Tanzanian Food and Drug Agency said the had to have a separate room for processing the flour. So she built one.
Bertha explained to us that she makes about 600 bottles of wine a year. She is not allowed to make any more than that without approval. But there are three rooms dedicated to its production in her processing plant. One where the wine is stored in barrels for a year and a half, another where the bottling is done, and the last one is where the bottles are stored. Bertha buys the bottles from local suppliers, soaks off the old labels, sterilises them, and then when her wine is ready she bottles it all herself. And then it leaves out of the back door. She was very proud of the fact it comes in one door, and goes out the other.
In fact she was very proud full stop. As well she should be to be honest. From what we could see her business was thriving. To the extent were she is now employing four other people too.
So you see when Comic Relief fund a project they don’t just support one person, they could be supporting a whole community. Indeed Bertha is now training other women in how to be a food producer so they can go on and run their own businesses. And it is this #LastingChange that we are out in Tanzania to witness first hand.
Yet again we have been inspired by these women. Truly inpsired. And to Bertha I can now raise a glass of her very own Hibiscus Wine.
Will you join me? Grab a glass and then sit and watch today’s video
Day one is now behind us on this trip. Well a part day really as we didn’t land until 3pm. But the drive from the airport to the hotel gave us our first glimpse of this bustling African city. Vibrant and busy busy busy. And traffic like you would not believe! We were stationary for about fifteen minutes at one point and I asked our driver if there was a problem ahead, maybe and accident?
“No, this is Dar es Salaam!”
There didn’t seem to be any kind of logic to the direction the traffic was coming out of us from and yet despite being cut up everybody was courteous and just seemed to accept that traffic didn’t necessarily go in a straight line. Added to which there was a constant stream of young men offering us all sorts of wares for sale.
Inflatable swimming rings
You name it, you could buy it on that queue. Or even if you were standing at the bus stop there was a chap with a table laden with fruit. He would even peel it for you. There were signs of enterprise everywhere. As we sat in yet another traffic jam we saw a chap demonstrating the latest carrot peeler, complete with a microphone so everybody near by could hear about this new must have gadget. Who needs QVC?! All along the road side there were stalls that consisted of just a sheet of material on the ground, laden high with clothes, shoes or plastic tubs. The railings became a showcase for the trousers sellers. People busily going about their day, just trying to earn a living.
And tomorrow we are off to the Gatsby Trust to see more of the same, with the focus on women being supported by donations from Comic Relief.
70% of the world’s poorest people are women, and they own only 1% of the world’s property.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Comic Relief’s funding is working address changes at practical and structural levels and bring about positive and enduring changes for women and girls in Africa. And that is what we are to see first hand, and report back on. This is what Comic Relief are calling #LastingChange.
On Thursday we are going to be seeing food processors, a tailor and a soap processor, all running their own businesses and reporting back with photos and stories. If you would like information and photo for your own blog, do sign up for a digital postcard (we have extended the deadline until 7pm Thursday night)
Until then. Here is a little video we made just before dinner tonight.
And until tomorrow Lala Salama
If you have seen my tweets today you might have got wind of the fact that I am visiting a Sports Relief funded project this week. As are Penny and Annie. What we have neglected to mention thus far is where that project is. Though the title of this post has now given the game away. Yes, we are off to Tanzania to visit the Gatsby Trust!
Next weekend is International Women’s Day and to celebrate that we came up with the idea of an “Inspirational Women” blog linky over on the Team Honk Blog. Asking people to blog about the women who inspires them. On Team Honk it is Davina McCall. The woman is a phenomenon.
On my blog though, and personal to me is my mum, Olivia. I am the only person who gets to call her mum and I chatted to her about deciding to be a stay at home when I was growing up, going back to university at 40 to do a degree, and then taking on the French in the wine business. Turning around a virtually derelict Chateau, with wine being sold to the Co-op to a stunning home with award winning wines stocked in Waitrose and shipped all over the world.
You made a conscious decision when I was growing up not to work. How important was it for you to be at home for me?
Very important. Having picked you up from the childminder with bruises on the side of your face with a flaky explication of how you got them I decided that the priority was to stay ay home and look after you until you were old enough for me to work. That is why I did Citizens Advice, Open University and ran keep fit classes, because I could organise them around school.
Also I had strong memories of my childhood when my Mum worked and could not be there to see me in School drama productions or be there for GSE award presentations etc. Pushing my bike home from the launderette or with cans of paraffin balanced on it are part of my childhood memories. We didn’t want that for you. So financially there were sacrifices but it was the right thing to, being a stay at home mum and I have no regrets at all.
Some might say that you gave up a lot by not working, having me when you were quite young and not working. What made you decide at 40 to go to university?
I had enjoyed my OU studies and always liked learning. My friend Gail had started at University and I thought why not have a go. Maybe a different life starts a 40 but it was worth every minute
Was it hard being a mature student or did you enjoy the challenge?
It was hard because I was 41 and they were 18 so it was like studying with their Mum. We had absolutely nothing in common! I was living at Chelsea Harbour and commuting at the weekends to Strasbourg and then to Brussels, where your dad was working. It was hard trying to hold it all together. They never did the reading so tutorials were a bit one sided! I can’t lie, it was a very lonely experience but maybe being an only child got me through that. I felt it was was a privilege to have a place at Uni – they could have given my place to an18 year old, I felt I really had to show that they had made the right decision. Another plus point was that the professors liked mature students because they worked and were there because they wanted to be and not because their parents had pushed for it.
Fifteen odd years ago you bought a vineyard in France. What on earth made you do that?
17 years ago! Dad and I were looking for a retirement project and whenever we talked about what to do, wine seemed to feature in our ideas (see where I get my Martini obsession from ) . Having done a degree in French I felt that a vineyard could be the right idea. The learning curve at university would be replaced by a learning curve to do with wine – just another vocabulary to learn. The life style element also appealed as there was no boss. Often a romantic dream for so many people that we would actually be living. Part of my “Well let’s have a go” philosophy. (Now you see where I get that from, too!)
Also we loved France and had a chalet which we could escape to.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to face with being a woman, and an English woman, in the very “male dominated” wine world?
The challenge of three French guys working for me. An English woman who knew nothing about wine making but wanted to make the Petrus of Bergerac. I was totally responsible for making it work as we had invested all our money in it. We HAD to succeed because we had three guys who were relying on us to make a living and Eric had turned down working at Mouton Rothschild to work for me.
It meant though that actually I rose to the challenge that ‘’The English woman” was not mad and would still be there after a year and in fact was there for 11. At meetings when I was probably the only woman there I enjoyed the idea that my French was better then their English and because I was a woman I had a higher profile in the Bergerac wine circle. I have always been on the outside since childhood because of I had divorced parents (unheard of really in the early sixties) so I am used to being an outsider full stop
What was the best thing about running your own business?
FREEDOM!!!!! I could make the decisions with advice from Eric but I had ultimate power. A wonderful opportunity to use my instincts, my languages, my interior design ideas, my selling skills , people skills and live the dream without being afraid of hard work. It meant working 7 days a week sometimes for 12 hours a day. But what a success it became.
Reputation , press articles, gold medals , travelling all over Europe and to the USA and Canada. Giving so much pleasure to people with our wines.
If you could turn back the clock, would you do anything differently?
Maybe I would have been stricter with Eric and what he was making with the wine in some vintages. But I am a proud of what I have achieved and had a chance to realise my potential. I have left behind a Chateau looking the best it ever has. I have always tried to do the best I can for everyone in my life . Life is a learning curve and I am still learning. Turning the clock back is great with hindsight !!!! But if I chose to do things differently would I be sitting in Barbados now ????