Beekeeper, Grandmother, Trailblazer.
With Mother’s Day around the corner, we’re reflecting on the incredible women we strive to provide with tools for success. Uliza Sheha Haji, mother of 6 and grandmother of 2, wasn’t given many opportunities in early life. When Barefoot College Zanzibar approached her to train to become a beekeeper, she eagerly seized the opportunity and has never looked back.
Barefoot College International is a global not-for-profit that works with illiterate and semi-literate marginalised rural women, giving them the tools, training and knowledge to create long-term economic uplift within their communities. Our Zanzibar training centre is one of Barefoot College International’s 7 service centres located around the world, which offers economic opportunities to women across East Africa.
A Rural Beekeeper’s Journey
Uliza Sheha Haji is a rural beekeeper from a small village outside of Kinyasini, Zanzibar. In 2018, she was selected to enrol in Barefoot College Zanzibar’s livelihood training, in partnership with the Frey Charitable Foundation, to master the art of apiculture.
Her training included the comprehension of organic practises and methods around permaculture that ensure the greatest quality of honey that all Barefoot College International products uphold. In just 4 years since she finished her training, Uliza is producing natural honey that is purchased at rates above the local standard and sold to luxury hotels across the island.
At 50 years old, Uliza has been a widow for 12 years. Uliza embraced her natural-born leadership tendency after her husband’s passing and began experimenting with livelihoods on her own, including weaving for roof thatches, which sell at a modest price in markets. She subsisted, but her instincts told her that she was capable of more.
When Barefoot College Zanzibar approached her daughter to work as a chef at the nearby campus in Kinyasini, Uliza became curious about the livelihood and Enriche training they offered. One day, her
daughter recommended Uliza when new classes in beekeeping were starting, and she was invited to
study. Uliza seized the opportunity to be a beekeeper with fervour, never looking back.
Uliza had a third-grade education. Able to read and write minimally, somehow her apprehensions to train at Barefoot were non-existent. She excelled at the beekeeping training, adoring her teachers, absorbing everything they shared with her and appreciating their hands-on approach to learning.
Enriche Training’s Benefits
With the Enriche training, her digital literacy was activated, her Women’s Rights efficacy flourished and her Health and Hygiene understanding expanded. Her classes included Tanzania mainland women, who dressed differently and showed her new weaving techniques that inspired her to create bowls and carpets that she now sells to small markets and tourist hotels during the peak seasons.
She shared intimate moments with these women who were from afar during their Enriche sessions, learning about the benefits and concerns that women face from other parts of the country.
All things against me, Barefoot College International helped me stay confident in my ability to empower myself. This opportunity gave me the boost I needed to provide for myself and for my growing family
The mainland women chopped their own wood and built their own beehives to hang in trees, motivating
Uliza to remain independent and courageous. Enriche classes with Barefoot College Zanzibar trained her
under permaculture methods to garden organically with compost and native plant species and bee-
friendly flora. With these new methods, she began growing okra, peppers and bananas to sell locally
within a small plot of land.
Beekeeper and Beyond
She continues to set goals for herself to expand her business model, obtaining more hives and creating additional sources of income through the skills that she pursues. Her success ripples through her community and influences other women in her village.
While many rural women of Zanzibar receive monetary support from their husbands and don’t have work opportunities, Uliza carved her way with the support of Barefoot College Zanzibar’s programmes, inspiring women in her community to boost family incomes on their own. Uliza is now working on saving extra capital for her weaving business. Her children will all go to school despite their gender.
Barefoot College International in 3 words: Training, Empowering Women and Generosity
After her studies, Uliza’s neighbours began to look at her differently. She wasn’t just a widowed mother
making ends meet; she was the woman who played with bees bravely! They praised her, her pride rose and her strength radiated within her community.
Their impressions grew to inquiry, which led Uliza to involve 8 women- and 1 man- in her village in beekeeping as well, amplifying Barefoot College International’s beekeeper and Enriche training. With her guiding them, these new recruits can smoke hives, install hives and assist with honey harvesting when it’s time.
4 Harvests, 5 Hives, 9 More Villagers
Uliza has so far accomplished 3 harvests and is expecting her fourth. With her success, she continues to exude ambition: her dream is to become a beekeeper trainer at the Zanzibar campus and share her wealth of knowledge with additional rural women like her.
In addition, she along with another woman from her village have been granted a total of 5 hives and wish to see the number increase indefinitely, until there’s no space left. She also dreams of opening her own Kanga shop, a popular local clothing, as a woman’s cooperative where many women can become merchants together.
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