With the support of the ExxonMobil Foundation, The Vital Voices Entrepreneurs in Handcrafts facilitated a training workshop in Nairobi, Kenya from September 28 – October 2, 2009. The program trained 20 women artisan leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia. Each of these 20 women leads a community-based group comprised of an average of 10 women artisans.
Each participant demonstrated leadership and management skills and the potential to improve and expand their business. The program was enriched by each of the workshop sessions which were led by talented trainers, guest speakers and members of Vital Voices’ African Business Women’s Networks.
Led by Zoe Dean-Smith, Vital Voices Senior Director of Artisan Programs and assisted by Kianoosh Tahbaz-Salehi, workshop content included: product design and development, basic book-keeping, costing and pricing, marketing and other export-readiness information through both informational sessions and hands-on activities. The expert trainers and speakers included: Therese Smith (Bridge for Africa – USA-based Distributor), Michelle Olson (USA-based Jewelry Designer), Ricca Turgel (Designer and Founder of Abafazi, South Africa), Joan Karanja (Cooperation for Fair Trade in Africa, Kenya), Rebecca Mpaayei-Saruni (Kenya Export Promotion Council), and Caroline Mwazi (Huru Consult, Kenya). The participants also learnt about the value of mentoring through inspirational stories and experiences of Vital Voices / State Dept Fortune mentees Eva Muraya and Phyllis Mwangi and were able to meet and network with other Vital Voices alumnae at a reception held at the residence of Ambassador of the United States of America, Michael E. Ranneberger in Nairobi. Vital Voices co-founder and Artisan Business Development Program founder, Mary Yerrick, also contributed to the workshop.
Additionally, the training included two eye-opening field trips to Beacon of Hope and Kazuri that demonstrated how to operate a holistic social enterprise, the endless possibilities of expansion and the components and inner workings of an international exporting business.
The participants left the program feeling motivated and eager to implement the skills they had learned and also to pass those skills on to their sister women artisans. Vital Voices and the ExxonMobil Foundation believe in the transformative value of women’s leadership and entrepreneurship in society, and will continue to encourage and support the women in seeing that their business and the products they produce grow and evolve in response to the demands of the markets they serve.
Upon returning home, Yathua Etheldreda from Uganda stated “When I reached home the first thing I did was to change the display of my show room and now I know that I am a new well trained serious business woman.” Another participant, Wendy Hammond from South Africa, stated “I was impressed by the strong and motivated women who attended the workshop. I think the experience has forever changed our perceptions of other women on the continent … It amazed me how easily women can bridge continents, cultures and languages to stand together on issues that make the world a better place.”