Sitting under a mango tree with African women talking business can put a smile on your face.
For local consultant, Shannan Brown, that is exactly what happens. She knows those are her best days and feels fortunate to have them.
This winter, Brown spent two months working on a grassroots development project in Tanzania. Having returned, she is full of news from under the mango tree. This winter heralded the second year of operations for this tiny project.
Although small the results are big. There are now 16 women who have received training, mentoring and access to funds for a business. The businesses launched vary from livestock to tailors.
“One of the most important objectives of the project is to give the women a choice of which business to start. They have natural talents and skills that contribute to the success of their businesses,” says Shannan.
It is that attitude of working together to create success that defines The Bridge to Africa Project. Brown says, “I bring with me financial support from local friends and family along with business skills to share. Yet the women know best what needs to be done in their culture even their villages.” The project relies on having trusting open relationships with the women which is built over time on listening and learning for Brown.
Despite some Swahili language skills, she still relies on an interpreter to ensure the most effective and clear communications.
It is Tanzanian tradition to have long meetings, adding in an interpreter ensures they are even longer. So sitting under the mango tree can last for hours.
To celebrate the success of the projects and the UN’s International Women’s Day, Brown is speaking the evening of Thursday, March 7 at the Maritime Heritage Centre. Hosted by Island Fever Travel, the event will feature handmade African products for sale.
Tickets are $15 per person and available at Island Fever Travel, Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio and Sundance Java Bar. Proceeds from the evening will benefit The Bridge to Africa Project by creating more opportunities for education and capital for the women.