We met Naomi while in Tanzania on our last Woven Medical Trip. It was an honor to hear her story and visit the work she is pioneering in Engitani. As we continue our strategic focus in East Africa we look forward to further partnership with leaders like Naomi.
“It makes you want to cry.”
Naomi spoke with a quiet passion as she shared about the basic needs of families in Engatani, a remote village of Tanzania. A Maasai woman, she grew up in a village like this one and now sees it as her mission to empower women like her.
“There are so many needs, so many more than we can help meet,” she admits. There is a school in the village, but families are tempted to take their children out of school and marry them because they have no money for uniform or school fees. Most of the children go to school hungry.
Naomi knew she wanted to be a part of the solution. Four years ago, she told a mentor, “I want to start a ministry with the women, but I don’t know how to start.” They began visiting the women of Engitani and praying with them. Slowly, the vision for a women’s empowerment program was born, and about one year ago they had enough money to purchase a mill and build a grinding facility.
The women of the community run the mill, grinding maize for a small fee for the rest of the village. The project has begun slowly, hindered by the different harvest seasons and the sometimes-working mill they could afford to purchase. But little by little, change is happening in Engitani. All the women–about 40 total– put their money together and purchase things their children need–school supplies, food, shoes and socks. They enjoy having a job to do. They feel that something has changed in their life, that they have more opportunity in front of them.
Sometimes one of their husbands even tells Naomi, “I have seen my wife has changed. Thank you for your prayers.” These women are gaining a status of honor in the community for helping provide for their families. The school has changed dramatically as children are now able to consistently come and bring supplies such as pencils and paper.
And the best part? “The women have something to share. People are receiving what we bring,” Naomi smiles. As a woman who narrowly escaped being a child bride herself, she knows the value of giving women a voice and a place at the table. “I want to teach the women of Maasai to stand with their kids,” she says. She has big dreams for creating other job skills programs and continuing to empower the entire community.
As Loom continues our strategic focus in East Africa, we look forward to further partnership with leaders like Naomi–leaders not only with enormous vision, but who are building measurable change with whatever resources they have available. Our goal is to accelerate the work of social innovators like Naomi so they have greater capacity and sustainability.
“The door is opened,” says Naomi as she reflects on the past year, “and I know that one day everything will be clear.”