The Resiliency of Women

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day held in high regard among the TFFT Team. Despite the progress that has been made globally for women, there are still boundaries to overcome. Worldwide, 130 million girls are out of school. If this were the population of a country, it would be the 10th largest nation in the world. Girls that are educated are 4 times less likely to become child brides, and, if and when they decide they are ready to have children, those children have a 50% higher chance of survival because their mother is educated.  

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This year’s theme focuses on building a more gender-balanced world in order to create communities that thrive. TFFT recognizes these global gender imbalances and works to close the gap by enforcing recruitment policies that are gender sensitive and inclusive. TFFT staff members work to create opportunities to #balanceforbetter when it comes to gender equality and equity in our work.

We have the privilege to watch these convictions become a reality in our scholars, even if it might not be in the way we traditionally planned. TFFT alum, Nancy, is a powerful example of this.

Nancy grew up in the Tengeru region of Arusha. Her childhood was difficult, having lost both parents by the time she was 6 years old. No extended family members were prepared financially to support Nancy and her two siblings, but her grandmother took them in and provided for them as best she could. Nancy and her sister, Nicemary, became TFFT scholars in 2007. Nancy loved being a TFFT scholar. She learned a lot, both in the traditional classroom setting and in life skills. Beyond her formal education, she learned how to interact with people from other parts of the world and improved her English skills.

When she reached Form 4, Nancy was encouraged to continue onto A Levels (Forms 5 and 6) because she had good grades and succeeded in the traditional classroom setting. However, this wasn’t the path Nancy wanted to follow. She had dreams of being a fashion designer, but struggled with what was expected of her from TFFT and her family. Nancy made the decision to leave the TFFT scholarship program. She felt confused and uneasy, but knew that she needed to follow her own path.

After leaving the scholarship program, Nancy worked many jobs trying to make ends meet. She worked as an assistant manager at Shanga, but her salary could only cover her transportation to and from work. Resourceful and smart, Nancy began creating and selling Khanga bags, but when it was not tourist season, buyers were hard to come by. When she was 20 years old, Nancy had a little boy, Brandon. Being a working mother was, and continues to be, challenging. Nancy is constantly thinking about her son while working, and knew she had to find work that could support them. Nancy’s boyfriend and Brandon’s father, Humphrey, was also working to support their family.

Nancy had her first big job break when interviewing at Image-Fresh Supermarket. She heard about the opening via TFFT, but saw that the manager wanted to hire someone who had completed school and had accounting experience. Even though she thought she was underqualified, Nancy mustered the courage and went for the interview. She shared her business ideas, endeavors, and selling experience and ended up receiving the job out of a large pool of applicants.  

Nancy and Humphrey decided to take their business skills and tap into another opportunity—the housing market. The couple built their own house, and then began building small apartments to rent. Doing this allowed them enough money to live comfortably, and Nancy began thinking about going back to school. With the money they earned, Nancy enrolled at Tropical Centre Institute to become a Tour Guide. Nancy was also able to send her son to one of the best preschools in Arusha.

Nancy completed her tour guide education in February of 2019. Her and Humphrey added three more small houses to their rentals and are now able to continue to send Humphrey to school as well continue their entrepreneurial endeavors. With a secure income, Nancy is able to look for work as a tour guide and hopes to be employed full time soon! Despite her obstacles, Nancy never gave up. Leaving TFFT was difficult, and it was even more difficult to get those around her to understand that the traditional academic path wasn’t for her. Giving birth at a young age and having to support a child was an added challenge. Nancy explains how grateful she is for TFFT, both for the opportunities given to her and the support she receives now as an adult and an alumni of the Scholarship Program. She often spends time in the TFFT office, going over her resume and receiving career advice and support from TFFT staff.

Nancy hopes that her son will grow up with all the resources he needs to succeed. She hopes he will get an education and become a good man, whatever that path may look like. She is proud to be able to send her son to a good school and prepare a future for him, something that originally seemed impossible.

Nancy is proof of the resiliency of women and the change that happens when women have the opportunities to choose their path in life. Around the world, many women still do not have agency over their lives and futures. This International Women’s Day, #balanceforbetter is an opportunity for us to recognize the inequalities that still exist and assess how we can overcome them in our places of work, our homes, and our schools. Today, and every day, we are inspired by Nancy’s will to be a part of a world where women can, and will, do anything they dream of with enough determination.

“If I could go back in time and give my younger self advice, I’d tell her that everything happens for a reason. As we grow up, we hear what everyone thinks and wants us to do, but you need to do life in your own way. Do what makes you happy and everything will happen at the right time.”