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Stepping Up in Solidarity, from California to Tanzania

Published 03/13/2018 by Global Communities

More than 9,500 miles separate San Diego, California, from Musoma District in Tanzania. But on International Women’s Day (IWD) last week, a group of female leaders from both areas united under the cause of bringing healthy change to their communities.

Five top chefs from California’s coast teamed up with Specialty Produce to host “Grit & Grace,” a five-course dinner and wine pairing that benefited Project Concern International’s Women Empowered (WE) program. The event sold out and raised more than $4,000 for WE, a local and global initiative that empowers women to lift themselves out of poverty and become agents of change in their families and communities.

“It’s rare that five lead female chefs host an event together,” said Chef Katherine Humphus, who was joined in the Specialty Produce kitchen by Chef Rocio Siso-Gurriarán of NINE-TEN, Chef Carmine Lopez, formerly of Great Maple, Chef Jordana Francisco of MIHO Catering, and Chef Elizabeth Olsen of Born & Raised. “We hope to inspire the next generation of chefs and entrepreneurs to give back to their communities.”

WE groups in Tanzania organized a fundraiser on International Women's Day to benefit a school improvement project in the Bwai Kumusoma village of Musoma District.

Thirteen WE groups in Tanzania organized a fundraiser on International Women’s Day to benefit a school improvement project in the Bwai Kumusoma village of Musoma District. Photo by Hillary Dashina/PCI

Across the Atlantic Ocean, another group of women dedicated to creating a legacy of generosity used IWD as a platform to help preschool students in the Bwai Kumusoma village of Tanzania. After learning these children did not have a classroom of their own and received schooling under a tree, members of the Mshikamano WE group took action. Mshikamano means “Solidarity” in Swahili.

“The concentration of the children was very low because of strong winds blowing from Lake Victoria and loud noises from motorcycles passing by,” said Frola Magwa, a volunteer community facilitator for PCI’s WE program in Musoma District and a member of the Mshikamano WE group. “We decided to construct classrooms for pre-primary school children and an office for their teachers.”

In order to finish the classrooms and have a roof installed, the group held a fundraiser on IWD and invited community members, government leaders and other stakeholders to attend. Mshikamano is one of 13 WE groups that are active in Bwai Kumusoma village. All helped to organize the event.

“[IWD] is an important day because it reminds communities about the great importance of women’s participation and contributions to communities’ welfare and also to end any form of gender-based abuses,” Magwa said. “We believe that leaving children to attend school in unsafe conditions is yet another form of abuse.”

According to Hillary Dashina, a WE coordinator for PCI Tanzania, the event was a success and will enable students and teachers to move into their new classrooms and office by June.

“Together, we can,” Magwa said.

Since PCI’s Women Empowered (WE) initiative began in 2005, more than 35,000 WE savings groups have formed and empowered over 500,000 members across the globe. Collectively, WE groups have saved more than $5.1 million, of which $4.3 million has been reinvested in their families and businesses. To learn more, visit