Hand in Hand partners with Fund for Innovation in Development to evaluate the impact of a project to boost Tanzanian women’s incomes by engaging with communities to shift gender norms

Hand in Hand, in partnership with Fund for Innovation in Development (FID), is launching a three-and-a-half year project to find out whether it’s enough to train women in business skills to increase their income, or whether engaging with the community to challenge the idea of what a ‘woman’s role’ can be will boost women’s incomes even further than with business skills training alone. Innovation for Poverty Action (IPA) will be the project’s research partner.

In one of the largest randomized control trials (RCT) of its kind in East Africa, the project will develop and expand the body of evidence that shows shifting restrictive gender norms in communities can increase women’s incomes and savings.

Women in rural Tanzania face significant barriers when it comes to earning a living. They lack skills, resources, market connections and access to credit. Crucially, the majority are unable to make their own decisions about things such as healthcare, visiting friends or household purchases without their husband’s permission. What’s more, women are expected to be solely responsible for domestic labour and caregiving, leaving them little time to run a business. In many communities, a woman working is seen as threatening the man’s position as the breadwinner of the family.

When we involve the community in breaking down the social attitudes that hold women back, we see women with the power and time to take their businesses to the next level, women can increase the family’s income, creating a better life for everyone.

The FID funded project, will reach 4,800 participants (80% of whom are women). The RCT  will test the effectiveness of Hand in Hand’s existing training four-step model against an enhanced five-step training model that includes gender training.

Hand in Hand’s existing four-step model seeks to break down the barriers to women’s economic inclusion by providing women with business skills training, access to credit and support to reach new value chains. On average, these interventions yield a remarkable 100% increase in women’s incomes within three years.

The enhanced  five-step model (with the gender component) goes one step further – actively involving men and local leaders to create supportive communities where men act as champions for women’s entrepreneurship, recognizing that, when men and women work together, they stand a better chance at beating poverty. Implemented across 144 villages in the Dodoma and Singida regions of Tanzania, the intervention, and its randomized impact evaluation will be overseen by Principal Investigator Jessica Goldberg (University of Maryland).

Dorothea Arndt, CEO at Hand in Hand International, said: “All too often, women in disadvantaged, rural communities are told their place is at home, not running a business. By working with men and communities to challenge deeply entrenched social norms, we’re changing the rules of the game for women entrepreneurs, kickstarting a transformation that will lead to greater equality and brighter futures for thousands of families.

“The study’s results will tell us whether it is possible to grow women entrepreneurs’ income by engaging the community around them to shift their perception of ‘a woman’s work’. Our established training has already enabled women to double their incomes – this study will show if we can go even further. The findings will not only guide the effective implementation of our own programmes, but will also be shared with the many government agencies currently implementing livelihood programmes across Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Juliette Seban, FID Executive Director, said: “By investing in innovative programmes and their impact evaluation like this one, we support the generation of new  evidence on what works when it comes to tackling poverty, empowering NGOs and governments to adopt interventions that have proven to be effective. With one in four women being an entrepreneur in Africa, learning from this project has a strong potential to catalyze change on a much broader scale.”

Claudia Casarotto, Chief Global Programs Officer – Innovations for Poverty Action, said:

“Our research consistently shows that gaps remain in understanding the comprehensive impact of women’s economic empowerment strategies. This project uniquely integrates financial inclusion with community efforts to shift gender norms, directly addressing these gaps. By evaluating this holistic approach, we aim to generate robust evidence on how these combined strategies can effectively enhance women’s incomes and economic autonomy. The findings will inform policy and practice, contributing valuable knowledge to global poverty alleviation strategies and empowering policymakers and practitioners to implement proven, impactful interventions.”

Hand in Hand’s saffron project attains vital ISO certification

A pioneering initiative to lift saffron farmers in Afghanistan out of poverty has hit a new milestone, with producers involved in the project successfully securing ISO certification. The certification not only signifies compliance with international standards but, crucially, gives the product a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

Funded by Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Danida Market Development Partnerships Programme, the Organic Growth project aims to develop Afghanistan’s saffron value chain, creating jobs and tackling poverty.

Over the last few years, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has become more severe, with the World Food Programme (WFP) estimating more that more than a third of the country’s population is facing food insecurity. The Organic Growth project targets rural areas in the Herat province, where jobs are scarce, and is set to reach 3,000 farmworkers and processors.

Hand in Hand Afghanistan Executive Director, Dr Kamran Hekmati, said: “Five independent saffron companies who are taking part in the project have been awarded ISO 22000, which is a tremendous achievement and means the saffron they produce can now be sold on the international market, commanding a higher price. That money will directly benefit farmers in some of the country’s most deprived rural communities, so families can afford safe housing, medicine and put food on the table.”

Hand in Hand and Cartier Philanthropy project boosts Tanzanian women entrepreneurs’ incomes by $59 a month

A three-year trial conducted by Hand in Hand between 2020 and 2023 to support women to launch and run profitable businesses has helped create 457 businesses and 545 jobs in some of Arusha’s most disadvantaged communities – with women increasing their incomes by an average of 117% (USD 59.72 per month).

As well as providing 600 women with business skills training, mentoring and supporting them to access credit and reach larger markets, the programme also incorporated a gender-specific training module that sought to address and challenge the restrictive social norms and attitudes that prevent women from succeeding as entrepreneurs and run profitable businesses.

The programme also improved women’s financial resilience, with 65% participants saying they would be able to deal with a financial shock, such as an unexpected medical bill, without selling assets or borrowing money​.

As part of the trial, evaluated by International Center for Women’s Research (ICRW) and funded by Cartier Philanthropy, the partners and husbands of 300 women were also enrolled in gender-specific training – designed to shift men’s ideas about what a women’s role can be, as well as couples’ sessions where husbands and wives explored issues together.

In many communities, it’s believed a woman working outside the home undermines the man’s position as the family’s breadwinner. Women are also expected to be solely responsible for domestic work and childcare, leaving them little time to run a business.

Boosting savings and decision making

In a survey of 182 couples, ICRW found that providing male partners with additional gender-specific training improved women’s decision making within the home – with 62% of women able to make decisions about the things that matter to them, such as visiting family or friends, healthcare or household purchases – compared to 45% in the group where men did not take part in the workshops.

ICRW also found that engaging men had a significant impact on the amount of money women entrepreneurs were able to save, with women whose partners had taken part in the gender-specific training increased their savings by 49% – compared to women whose partners did not take part, whose savings decreased by 43%.

Changing attitudes in the home

Typically, women spend six to eight hours a day on unpaid domestic work​, which is why Hand in Hand worked with men to help them develop an understanding of a woman’s workload – as well giving them the skills to help with household tasks.

According to ICRW’s findings, men who had taken part in the gender-specific training reported spending approximately one hour more per day on domestic work – including household chores and care for children. Men who had not taken part in the training said they spent an hour less on household tasks and caring.

Both men and women had more gender-equitable attitudes at the end of the programme – with participants less likely to agree with statements such as ‘men should have the final word in disagreements’. Men who had taken part in the gender-specific training were more likely to hold equitable attitudes than men who had not. Moreover, women whose husbands had participated in the gender-specific training also experienced more positive shifts in gender attitudes, compared to women whose husbands who had not.

Hand in Hand Tanzania CEO, Jane Sabuni, said: “In the traditional societies we work within, the idea of a woman earning an income can be seen as threatening to a man’s status and position. Through this innovative field trial, we’ve successfully worked with communities to challenge attitudes that make it tough for women to earn money – with men even taking on a greater share of domestic tasks so their wives can spend time running their business.”

Hand in Hand International CEO, Dorothea Arndt, said: “We have been able to increase women’s incomes by an average of USD 59 a month in some of Arusha’s most deprived places.

“Women entrepreneurs can’t achieve their full potential unless their families and communities are behind them, but a shift in how women’s roles are perceived takes time. We know change rarely happens unless it’s driven from the ground up – so at the start of the project we engaged with clan leaders, church leaders and local government representatives – showing them the benefits of men and women working together as a team to boost their family’s incomes.”

Pascale de la Frégonnière, Strategic Advisor to the Board, Cartier Philanthropy, commented: “Deconstructing the traditional idea of masculinity is part of the challenge of empowering women across the world. Changing deeply engrained gender norms takes time. This field trial, which is also being implemented in Rwanda by Women for Women, aimed to fill a gap and start building the evidence base we will need if we want to engage men in a meaningful way to achieve gender equity.”

Emily Schaub, Women’s Economic Empowerment Specialist at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), said: “The findings from this trial suggest that men’s engagement has an important role to play in attaining more equitable gender norms and attitudes about men’s and women’s roles. These attitudes in turn can be facilitators of an environment that enables and supports women’s economic and social empowerment.”


87% of Hand in Hand’s women entrepreneurs now have the power to make their own decisions

New data from Hand in Hand shows, after taking part in the charity’s entrepreneurship training, 87% of women participants in Kenya, Tanzania and Afghanistan said they were able to have a say about decisions that affect them, such as household purchases, family visits and healthcare. On average, just 40.3% of women in these countries reported that they were able to participate in household decision making (World Bank).

Hand in Hand provides women entrepreneurs with the skills and confidence to create businesses that lift themselves and their communities out of poverty.

Results from a sample of 9,000 most recent Hand in Hand programme graduates (from Tanzania) also showed that, on average, women entrepreneurs more than tripled their monthly profit (+322%)

The charity operates in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities – where food insecurity is widespread. This income boost enables programme members to provide regular, nutritious meals for their families, pay for their children’s education and afford vital healthcare. In the last five years Hand in Hand International has supported the creation of 285,000 enterprises, transforming the lives of over a million people.

The data also showed that, despite an initial dip in earnings at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, (particularly in Kenya, which saw more frequent and prolonged periods of lockdown) taking part in Hand in Hand programmes enabled participants to weather the Covid-19 crisis, reporting no significant reduction in income, even as the pandemic devastated economies across the world.

Crucially, the programmes also enabled women to become more financially resilient – with 40% of participants across all programmes saying that they would be able to get through a financial shock, such as a bad harvest or unexpected medical bill, without having to sell an asset or get into debt.

Businesses were sustainable, with 88% of all micro enterprises still operational one year after launch.

Hand in Hand CEO, Dorothea Arndt, said: “In the communities we operate within, women face enormous barriers to equality – constrained by unwritten rules that restrict what they spend their time doing, and who they can see and talk to.

“Our programmes don’t just give women the skills to start their own businesses, the money they earn and the confidence they gain helps them to speak up and make decisions in the home, too.

“Increasingly, we are seeing women entrepreneurs taking up leadership roles within their communities – something that had previously been unheard of. We’re also developing a new strand of our programming to engage with men to shift their perceptions around what a woman’s role ‘should’ be.”

87% of women with the power to make their own decisions

285,000 small businesses launched

Average 322% percent increases in monthly income

Hand in Hand Afghanistan appoints new Executive Director

After 10 years as Executive Director of Hand in Hand Afghanistan, Abdul Rahim Nasry will be stepping down from the role, with Dr. Kamran Hekmati being appointed as his successor.

Dr Kamran Hekmati has served as Programme Manager, Program Director and, since January, as Deputy Executive Director of Hand in Hand Afghanistan. Abdul Rahim Nasry will continue to work closely with Hand in Hand Afghanistan in an advisory role.

Abdul Rahim Nasry said: “It’s been an enormous privilege to serve as Executive Director at Hand in Hand Afghanistan and play my part in supporting so many people to lift themselves and their families above the poverty line through entrepreneurship and hard work.

“I’d like to thank my colleagues at Hand in Hand and our generous donors and funders – together we have transformed thousands of lives for the better. I am delighted that our own Dr Kamran Hekmati has been appointed to lead Hand in Hand Afghanistan as Executive Director and am confident that under his leadership the organisation will continue to go from strength-to-strength.”

Dr Kamran Hekmati said: “Since its inception Hand in Hand Afghanistan has supported over 50,000 people to set up sustainable, profitable microenterprises – changing 390,000 lives in the process. I’m excited to lead Hand in Hand Afghanistan in this next stage of its journey, and, working with our donors and stakeholders, look forward to reaching more communities, creating more jobs and helping to build better futures for even more families.”

Dorothea Arndt, Hand in Hand International CEO, said: “Hand in Hand Afghanistan’s success is testament to Nasry’s skillful leadership and his commitment to helping people beat the odds and find their own route out of poverty. We wish him all the best for the future. I’d also like to congratulate Dr Kamran Hekmati on his new role – to which he will bring many years of expertise.”

Increasing resilience in the face of skyrocketing costs

In the last few years Kenya has seen a 70 percent drop in crop production, with an estimated 3.1m people in acute hunger, now in need of aid. As a result of the conflict in Ukraine, the situation has worsened, with disruption to global supply chains causing the price of grains, oil, gas, and fertiliser to skyrocket.

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa CEO, Albert Wambugu, explains how the country’s poorest are bearing the brunt of the crisis – and how Hand in Hand is supporting its members on the ground.

Poor yields and food insecurity

“There are a number of reasons why crop production is falling overall in Kenya,” Albert explains. “Growing conditions here are extremely variable. You might have pockets where the land is fertile – and then areas where the soil quality is degraded, and rainfall is low.”

Maize is the country’s staple crop – but soil degradation and drought is affecting the ‘breadbasket’ regions where it is grown. Some of the commercial fertilisers used here are extremely acidic, and have damaged the soil. Albert says: “When the crops fail, people become reliant on food aid. Some families survive on as little as 2kg of maize a week,” Albert says.

Ukraine war causes price rises for staple goods

Because of the crisis in Ukraine, Kenyans are seeing price rises across the board. “The increasing price of fuel is very noticeable,” says Albert. “There’s been a 30% increase in less than one year.”

People in poverty spend a greater percentage of their income on food. For the very poorest, food price increases will result in adults skipping meals, or subsisting only on staples. “Cooking oil has doubled in price. When costs go up like this, the only thing people can focus on is putting food on the table. You would not be able to afford a balanced diet,” says Albert. “Protein from fish, for example, would be inconceivable.”

Cost of living increases can impact members’ enterprises too. Albert explains it’s almost impossible for people to prioritize saving when times are tough, or to spare the funds to invest money back into their businesses.

Strengthening resilience

To combat the hunger crisis, Albert’s team provide training on a range of sustainable farming techniques that improve soil quality as well as increasing yields.

“We tell our members there will always be things outside your sphere of influence, like supply chain volatility and weather changes. But there are things you can do to offset these – like crop diversification, or by using fertiliser that improves the soil instead of harming it. When you don’t know when the next rainfall will be, even something as simple as a water storage butt makes a difference. We teach people to adapt to their environment. Root crops like arrowroot contain more starch than maize and are easier to grow, so it might be a question of changing your dietary habits.”

They also focus on improving members’ financial resilience.

“We train people to set aside some of their income where possible, because savings are an important way of mitigating the impact of financial shocks. As we’ve seen during the pandemic, and now with the Ukraine crisis, this is vital. More recently, we have introduced our members to insurance. Only 3% of Kenyans have insurance,” Albert explains. “So we are working with providers to create new financial products that meet our members’ specific needs”

The team also encourage people to save in self-help groups. “When self-help groups are strong they can lend when things aren’t going well and, unlike some banks, don’t charge exorbitant rates of interest.”

Despite the challenging circumstances, Albert believes that the team at Hand in Hand Eastern Africa will continue to make a difference to the women they work with – and alleviate food insecurity.

“By giving women the tools they need to lift themselves and their families out of extreme poverty, we are able to strengthen their resilience so they can weather this global crisis.”

“The farmers we train will also have an important role to play in safeguarding food security within their communities, as well as restoring the soil so it remains productive for future generations.”


The Hand in Hand online auction is here!

That’s right, folks.

Starting today, you, your friends, your family, your friends’ families and your families’ friends – and your enemies – can bid on a huge range of super-cool items, from wine and original art to designer bags and wine to holidays, e-bikes and wine.

“Interesting,” you say. “But can I enter a raffle to win a stunning Orbit No. 1 diamond necklace from Swiss jewellers Montluc?”


And that’s not all. Every time you bid or buy a raffle ticket, you’ll be helping women in some of the most challenging places on Earth beat the odds and succeed as entrepreneurs, which is literally impossible to argue with.

So go ahead. Finish Start your Christmas shopping or treat yourself to a presumably well-earned gift. Then forward our auction site to every single person in your address book, twice.

Happy bidding!

Let’s do this

Hand in Hand Afghanistan: record expansion with UK aid from the British people

Hand in Hand Afghanistan is embarking on its biggest-ever expansion thanks to UK aid from the British people.

Funded by the UK government, the three-year, US $2.2 million grant aims to improve the livelihoods of 13,300 rural entrepreneurs in Sar-e Pol province. Some 9,500 microbusinesses and 13,300 jobs will be created.

“Now more than ever, government and civil society must work together for a safe, prosperous future in Afghanistan,” said Hand in Hand International CEO Josefine Lindänge. “This grant, our largest yet from a government partner, is a significant step in that direction.”

Hand in Hand is contributing an additional US $1 million to the project, bringing the overall budget to US $3.2 million. The funds come at a critical time. Last year, conflict killed 3,699 Afghan civilians and injured another 6,849 – a 22 percent jump from 2013, and the most since the UN began keeping records in 2009.

The causes of violence in Afghanistan are myriad and complex, but there is no doubt that poverty and joblessness play a crucial role. In a global survey conducted by the World Bank in 2011, 40 percent of insurgents interviewed said unemployment and idleness were their principle reasons for fighting. By providing business and skills training to thousands of Afghans, Hand in Hand and DFID are tackling poverty, and violence, at its roots.

For more information about the programme, please contact Programme Manager Agnes Svensson.

Worldwide media buzz for Hand in Hand member Frozan, 19

Late in March, Reuters profiled one of our members in Afghanistan: 19-year-old Frozan, who overturned convention and a lifetime of poverty to become the first young person in her village set up a beekeeping business.

Before long, Al Jazeera came knocking. Then the New York Post. Then BBC Persian, Russia’s Sputnik News and a whole host of others. When the dust settled a month later, Frozan had been featured by more than 100 media outlets worldwide, many in her native Afghanistan. It was, by some margin, our farthest-reaching media campaign yet.

The interest in her story, we believe, proves two things: one, our programmes are economically empowering young people in Afghanistan; two, the world is taking notice.

Thanks, Frozan, for sharing your success.

Read Frozan’s full story on the Reuters website

How efficient is Hand in Hand, really?

Founded by one of Europe’s best business minds, Hand in Hand has long put efficiency at the core of our work. But with a job creation model few others employ, benchmarking that efficiency has often been difficult.

Now, thanks to two new World Bank studies, that’s beginning to change. Published this year, both studies consider training programmes similar to ours – one in Kenya, the other in Togo – finding significant increases in profit in both cases.

Neither finds gains on par with Hand in Hand’s.

Study one, Kenya: Zero-sum gains?

Is one businesswoman’s gain another’s loss, or does a rising tide lift all boats? That, in effect, is what the World Bank set out to discover when it monitored an International Labour Organization (ILO) business training programme in Kenya broadly similar to Hand in Hand’s. With a sample size of 3,500 micro-enterprises, the randomised experiment measured the business incomes of ILO programme members versus their non-member neighbours, concluding that ”business training can help the overall market grow.” More importantly, for the purposes of this blog, it also discovered that monthly business incomes among programme members were 15 percent higher than among business owners that had not received the training.

Study two, Togo: The psychology of entrepreneurship

A second study, published in Science and featured in The Economist, considered another angle: psychology. Here, researchers from the World Bank, the National University of Singapore and Leuphana University in Germany partnered with the Government of Togo to follow three groups of small business owners who rarely kept books and almost never wrote business plans, earning an average of US $173 a month. The first group, a control group, received no training at all. The second group received training in conventional subjects such as accounting and financial management. The third group received training based on psychological research, designed to teach soft skills such as initiative and persistence.

Those skills, it turns out, are crucial: profits rose by an average of 30 percent among members of the third group. Perhaps more interesting, however, was another finding: the conventional training group saw no uplift at all.

Study three, Rwanda: Hand in Hand

So, how does Hand in Hand stack up?

In the ILO programme in Kenya, business profit was 15 percent higher for programme participants ($86) than non-participants ($75). In the World Bank’s partnership with the Government of Togo, monthly business profit was 30% higher for those that received the psychology base training ($224) compared to those that did not ($173).

And in Hand in Hand’s partnership with CARE in Rwanda, according to an independent study – the most recent, relevant research we have – monthly business incomes were 75 percent higher for those that received the enterprise training ($48) compared to those that did not ($29).

That’s more than double the World Bank’s programme in Togo, and five times the ILO programme in Kenya.

By the numbers

ILO, Kenya: 15% higher profit for enterprise trainees

World Bank, Togo: 30% higher profit for psychology-based training

Hand in Hand/CARE, Rwanda: 75% higher profit for enterprise trainees

Hand in Hand Country Manager Stephen Wambua was responsible for running our operation in Rwanda. He credits Hand in Hand’s dual-focus on hard and soft skills with the result.

“Yes, Hand in Hand teaches conventional business skills – our members would be lost without them,” says Stephen. “But our trainers’ capacity to inspire and motivate, along with mutual support among group members, is what makes our model work. It is, for lack of a better term, our ‘secret ingredient’.”

Hand in Hand will continue to seek out quality research to benchmark our programmes. And just as we always have, we’ll keep putting efficiency at the centre of our work.