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“I am Not Scared of Failing”

A Binti Shupavu Alumna’s Story

My name is Maua.  I am a Binti Shupavu alumna who graduated from TPC Secondary School in 2018.  I joined the new Binti Shupavu program when I was in Form Three, which means that I had two years in school with the program and two years without it.*  What a difference my school life was before and after Binti Shupavu!

In my first two years without Binti Shupavu, I was a young girl who had no idea of what my personal challenges were or even common things most students my age were going through (these are things that prevent some people from completing secondary school).  When I joined the program, I got two Mentors:  Madam Theresia and Madam Evaline.  I could talk to them freely and they were both understanding.

Binti Mentors are different than your teachers.  I could say anything I wanted to my Mentors without worrying if other students would judge me.  When you speak with your teacher, you worry if someone else is going to find out what you talked to them about.

During the Binti Shupavu sessions, the knowledge and skills we were exposed to were not just about school life, but about our communities and life in general.  Becoming confident and motivated to do something made me not scared to start a business.  I can confidently speak to anyone anywhere!

An advertisement for Maua’s branded reusable pad business.

I became an entrepreneur and I currently have multiple small businesses, which include selling reusable pads, fabrics, underwear, dresses and menswear.  I even run a spare parts shop for motorcycles!  I am proud to say that through these businesses I am 100% financially independent.  I also help to support my family.  I will tell you how all this came about.

Because of my proactiveness as a student, my teachers and I expected high academic performance.  But it was not what we all expected – my national exam results were disappointing.  Because of this and the fact that my family could not afford to send me to a private A-level school, my schooling is now finished.  I am happy that I was at least able to graduate from (lower) secondary school as most of the girls in my community because young parents as they are striving to complete it.

After school, when I was thinking of different alternatives, I realized that I liked learning in a real-life way and that I am confident in what I am doing.  I am not scared of failing, rather I prefer to learn from mistakes.  I am good at delivering messages to others and helping others to become knowledgeable about something.  I expected to continue with my studies two years ago, but since it was not possible at that time, I became an entrepreneur.

A conversation with Madam Asimwe from Binti Shupavu really got me going.  She performed a unique role that nobody else could have done.  In that conversation, together we came up with some ideas for businesses that could possibly work in my community with the resources I had.  That was my starting point.  A few months before my conversation with Asimwe, I would visit different relatives and neither them nor my secondary school teachers encouraged me to explore the available options.

“Don’t mind what people are saying, just believe in yourself.”

Maua Shaban Fonga, Binti Shupavu Class of 2018

In her speech to Binti Shupavu alumnae

attending the Opportunity Day event in Moshi, Tanzania on June 12, 2021

My Motorcycle Spare Parts Business

Maua at her motorcycle spare parts business.

I decided to open a motorcycle spare parts shop because it is very marketable in my village.  A number of youth have bodaboda (motorcycle taxi) businesses and some use motorcycles for agricultural activities.  I have seen mechanics go from our village to the next one to buy spare parts and I saw that was an opportunity.  When I began, I had no knowledge about the type of spare parts so I had to learn from scratch.  I learned about pricing, where to get the parts wholesale and how much I can charge for them.  I know I was going to learn from experience when customers asked for something.  Soon after I opened my shop, one of the mechanics came and asked if he could work right in front of it so it was easy for me to sell spare parts and get customers right away.  He has also been helping me to learn more about spare parts.

This is an unusual business for a woman to have in Tanzania (or anywhere).  I sometimes am discouraged by some of my customers who judge me by my looks.  I find it funny that some people say to me that with my beauty I should not be engaging myself in this type of business.  I do not pay attention to them.  I am confident and don’t care about any discouraging words.  My focus is on what works and what does not work for my business.  I want to grow my businesses and the profit motivates me.  I spend a bit of money on myself, but I reinvest the rest.  My strategy is to save 40% of my profit for reinvestment.  My biggest challenge as a young entrepreneur is delayed payments from customers, which slows the money cycle.

My Experience at Opportunity Day

Maua (left) answers a question from another Binti Shupavu Alumna at Opportunity Day.

I was excited to speak to other Binti alumnae and share my story at Opportunity Day in June.  I told them:

“I am not standing before you all because I know more than you.  I am here to share my story, believing we all have potential and we just need to decide to keep working on it.  I was once disappointed also in my academic results.  But I did not dwell on my disappointment.  Life does not stop after Form Four academic disappointment.  Instead, I did something and I believe one day I will be able to reach my dreams.”

*Note:  Binti Shupavu was launched as a pilot program in 10 schools in Northern Tanzania.  It was started in Forms One and Three only and expanded to all four years of lower secondary school the following year.  Thus, a group of girls had a condensed curriculum of just two years.

Binti Shupavu is a four-year life skills course for lower secondary school girls covering topics such as study skills, personal leadership, health and self-confidence with the goal of increasing graduation rates for vulnerable girls.  Since its pilot in 2017, 4,724 girls like Maua have graduated from the program.  As of September, 2021, 4,788 girls are enrolled in the program at 22 schools in Northern Tanzania.

Contributed in 2021 by Asimwe Suedi and Mary Maika, Binti Shupavu Project Manager and Assistant Manager, Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative, Moshi, Tanzania. Mary is also an alumna of the Kisa Project, GLAMI’s leadership program for A-Level girls.