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Training for female entrepreneurs in Zambia

Female entrepreneurship

Namakau was hailed as the entrepreneur of the year 2015 in Zambia. She has her own building company. Additionally, she founded an organisation that attracted 500 female members, mainly poor women in the rural areas. The purpose was to give them a push towards becoming economically independent. PUM expert Anne Heleen Bijl travelled to Zambia, where she trained 200 women.

Anne Heleen Bijl is a young expert (59 and already 10 years with PUM). She studied French and management education. She became director of Noorder Dierenpark zoo and later, in 1986, consultant, in which capacity she worked for the EU for 5 years. She was interested in development cooperation and broadened her horizon with creative thinking. How can you realise innovation, synergy and cooperation? Twelve years ago she started her own company. Drawn to working abroad, she has since offered her services in 20 countries, but also here, where the money is earned. She has always maintained contact with her PUM clients in Benin en Ghana where she gave CSR advice. Anne Heleen Bijl developed a method in which people could during a morning session learn to cooperate and realise results.

Namakau (35) has an own building company, the female organisation that she founded, and 6 children, one of which is adopted. Where does she get all the energy from? "It's about having a good plan. If you feel the urge to do something, then do it. I have known both poverty and wealth. I hate poverty and that gives me the drive to do something about it." She considers herself a born entrepreneur. Her father was an entrepreneur, her mother a teacher. She sold chickens to finance her studies, which included PR and social counselling and she hopes in time to become a professor. She does not believe in easy things like pedicures and doing hair. She believes in working hard. To make money, she cut and sold reed canary grass in the village where she lived, a dangerous activity because of the snakes and scorpions. Now, other village women are doing that and she has a building company that trades in aluminium and glass. In the past, glass and aluminium could only be purchased through a South Africa supplier against extortionate prices. This resulted in the building company that she now runs.

Creatively broadening your horizon

Lunch with Obama?

The organisation founded by Namakau now exists 3 years. While Namakau finances everything herself, there are limits. She is a good networker and, as female, has a unique position in the building sector, which is dominated by men. Anne Heleen Bijl would not be surprised if Namakau was soon invited to have lunch with Obama. The organisation supports vulnerable female entrepreneurs, who often suffer more from a lack of knowledge than a lack of funds. It is that deficit that the organisation wishes to address. When Namakau heard of PUM from the highly active PUM local representative (who won the prize for best PUM representative), she saw an opportunity. ‘Her’ women could receive training in creative strategic thinking in order to become successful entrepreneurs. For example, by bringing them into contact with a PUM expert and their network, and possibly by providing microcredit. "We want to broaden their horizon." To what extent is gender an issue? Anne Heleen Bijl: “We specifically focused our attention here on women. The ambition was to break established patterns, without provoking a backlash from men. At the end of the day, their children will benefit." Namakau: "Women invest money in education. Progress. Opportunities must be made available, then they will seize them."

The mission and follow-up

The mission in Zambia was an inspiration to the 200 women, many of whom had to travel many hours to attend the seminar. Anne Heleen Bijl was there for 17 days, she trained the women in groups of 30 on the basis of their professional background and made sure that not all the group members came from the same village. The mission attracted television coverage, resulting in free PR for the organisation. The name of the seminar was: "progress through innovation and creative thinking".

Following the mission by the PUM expert, a visit was made to the Netherlands to establish contacts and study the possibilities for a new sustainability project that entrepreneur Namakau wants to start. She has notices that every day Chinese cargo boats arrive with containers, and that they depart empty. Can waste not be sold, if it is sorted and supplied as recyclable materials such as glass and paper? During her visit, Namakau, thanks to the network of Anne Heleen Bijl, made the acquaintance of leading entrepreneurs who were drawn to the charisma of the Zambian businesswoman.