"Today I am a financially stable woman” - how business start-up kits are changing lives in Mozambique
MANICA, Mozambique - Teresa Gala, 44, has five children and has been married for 30 years. Today she is an active member of the Tambara Women's Association (ASMTA) in Manica province and runs her own business. But it wasn't always like this.
Ms. Gala got married at 14 and left school because of her new circumstances. At that time, there was almost no debate about child marriage in the country. For more than three decades, her days were filled with domestic chores and taking care of her children. During the agricultural season, Ms. Gala added to her daily routine by working on her family farm. However, her thoughts always remained focused on having her own business, one that would give her financial independence.
In Mozambique, more than 20 per cent of girls aged between 13 and 17 have been married or live with someone as if they were married (INVIC 2019). Since 2019, the Spotlight Initiative has been supporting the approval and implementation of six laws that protect women and girls from gender-based violence and harmful practices, such as early unions.
"My business makes me feel more respected at home. Today I am a financially stable woman, with savings, who contributes to household expenses and the education of my children", Ms. Teresa Gala, member of the Tambara Women's Association
"Since I didn't study and didn't have my livelihood, for a long time, for anything I needed, I always had to ask my husband for money. And being aware that he didn't earn much, sometimes I asked almost nothing, but I still heard "no" many times. It was very humiliating," says Ms. Gala.
In 2021, everything changed. Ms. Gala joined ASMTA through the Gender Links Association, one of Spotlight Initiative's partner civil society organizations which has been developing income-generating activities for women's economic empowerment.
These associations and women's groups create support networks where women can learn and grow together economically, and create trusting relationships and safe spaces to address issues related to gender-based violence and women’s rights. In Mozambique, over the past year, the Spotlight Initiative supported more than 9,000 women by encouraging the creation of women's associations, facilitating financial management and savings training, and providing business start-up kits. Ms. Gala was one of them.
Supporting income generation through vocational training and equipment supply
In the training she attended, Ms. Gala had access to a "business kit" which included the initial funds for her to start a business selling yogurt made from Malambe (baobab tree fruit) and Maheu (a fermented corn drink). With a strategic approach, and to make her business more profitable, she invested the first profits in purchasing a freezer. In the Tambara district, where Ms. Gala lives, temperatures easily reach over 40ºC, and with her freezer, she began to freeze the Maheu and Malembe yogurts, turning them into a new product: ice cream. The number of customers increased considerably.
By accessing economic opportunities and learning to run small businesses, women are building livelihoods that support their long-term recovery from violence, often overcoming financial dependence on their partners. In many cases, this frees them from the risk of violence associated with economic vulnerability and gender inequality.
"Today, I feel empowered. I no longer have to wait for my husband to meet my financial needs," shares Ms. Gala.
The business is going well, and Ms. Gala has already bought a cell phone. The phone has not only made it easier to communicate with clients and social contacts but also helped her gain financial banking by joining the national mobile financial system. With proceeds from her micro-enterprise, she now contributes to the household expenses and pays the university fees for one of her daughters who is studying for a health degree. Empowering women economically helps to ensure girls' access to school and increases the likelihood of them completing their education cycle.
"My business makes me feel more respected at home. Today I am a financially stable woman, with savings, who contributes to household expenses and the education of my children", Ms. Gala says.
Women's economic empowerment is essential to achieve gender equality and address the structural barriers restricting women's socioeconomic opportunities. Empowered and financially independent, Ms. Gala feels happy and is in a balanced relationship with her husband, which has improved the well-being of her entire family.
The Spotlight Initiative is a global initiative of the United Nations which has received generous support from the European Union. Its aim is to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. In Mozambique, the Spotlight Initiative is led by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Action (MGCAS) in partnership with the United Nations and civil society organizations (CSOs).
By Joaquim Mendonça