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.”

Twenty years empowering women to fight poverty

Hand in Hand began in 2003; a single NGO founded by Swedish businessman, Percy Barnevik and development expert Dr Kalpana Sankar, with the goal of eradicating poverty in rural Tamil Nadu, India.

Then, as it does now, Hand in Hand operated in places where opportunities for formal employment were non-existent, with most people subsisting on under $2.15 a day. At its core was the simple premise: that local communities hold the keys to their own economic transformation.

As Percy Barnevik put it: “Our model puts people’s destinies in their own hands.”

Today, by investing in entrepreneurs’ skills and supporting them to access business loans and formal markets, the global Hand in Hand network has created 4.3 million enterprises and 6.2m jobs – lifting 19m people above the poverty line.

Investing in women’s power and potential

From the start, Hand in Hand recognised the pivotal role of women and placed them at the heart of its programming. That’s because, when women earn and control their own incomes, they channel their resources back into education, housing, nutritious food for their children and healthcare.

Two decades ago, this approach put us at the forefront of a sea-change in international development. Today, it’s widely acknowledged that empowering women is one of the most effective strategies for poverty alleviation.

Listening to entrepreneurs

In the last two decades, the world has changed dramatically. Who, twenty years ago, could have imagined the extent to which climate change, soil erosion and digital technology would affect the way we live? And who could have predicted that, in many countries, women would be losing, not gaining, hard won rights and freedoms.

What hasn’t changed is Hand in Hand’s founding principle – that entrepreneurs, particularly women, must be in the driving seat. And so, over the years, we have adapted our model in response to the evolving challenges they face.

Our programmes include:

  • working with women farmers to improve soil health, increasing yields and incomes
  • giving women entrepreneurs the digital and business skills they need to compete in markets that are, increasingly, online
  • tackling restrictive social norms and attitudes that hold women back by engaging directly with men and community leaders – so women have the power to make decisions and run a business on their own terms.

The world may have changed – but our mission, to enable women in the world’s toughest places to increase their incomes, and become a force for change in their communities, has not. If you’d like to find out more about Hand in Hand and our plans for the future, please contact me directly on darndt@hihinternational.org

An update on Hand in Hand’s operations in Afghanistan

As you will know, the de-facto authorities banned women from working in NGOs on 24 December. In response to the ban, Hand in Hand Afghanistan, alongside other national and international NGOs, temporarily paused operations, working with Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development (ACBAR) and the UN to call for the ban to be reversed.

Over the last year, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has become more severe, with the World Food Programme (WFP) estimating acute malnutrition is above emergency thresholds in 25 out of 34 provinces, and almost half of children under 5 requiring life-saving nutrition support in the next 12 months. To meet the staggering levels of need, Hand in Hand, like the majority of NGOs operating in Afghanistan, is seeking practical concessions to enable us to continue delivering vital development and humanitarian assistance to women, men and their families, for example via sectoral exceptions.

Hand in Hand Afghanistan has over 12 years experience working with vulnerable communities in some of the most remote regions of the country. Through these longstanding links we have been able to find local solutions that allow us to directly reach women and men with livelihoods training and, increasingly, vital humanitarian aid, while protecting the safety of our staff and the people we support.


Visa and Hand in Hand’s entrepreneur training communities boosts incomes in Nairobi’s most deprived communities


Visa and Hand in Hand’s entrepreneur training communities boosts incomes in Nairobi’s most deprived communities: Kenya Micro-Enterprise Success Programme, Endline report by 60DB
Members saw an average income uplift of USD $156 per month
Hand in Hand’s Kenya Micro-Enterprise Success Programme (KMES) project, funded by Visa Inc., has resulted in entrepreneurs typically increasing their incomes by USD $156 per month, according to a report by 60DB.
The project is the first of its kind to target existing small business owners as well as first-time entrepreneurs. Delivered in Nairobi’s informal settlements, which the UN describes as “some of the most dense, unsanitary and insecure slums in the world,” the project aimed to boost local economies, create jobs, and lift families out of poverty.
The three-year programme provided 8,200 start-up entrepreneurs (6,560 of them women) living below the poverty line with the core business training they needed to start their own micro enterprises. It also provided advanced training to 1,600 people (1,280 of them women) who already owned and operated small businesses in the area, as part of its ‘accelerator’ cohort.
The report found:
– Members are now more resilient, and report improved ability to meet financial needs, with 91% and 94% of start-up and accelerator members respectively able to come up with the funds to cover an emergency.
– Start-up members increased their profitability by an average of 15%, earning an additional USD $150 a month. Accelerator members boosted their businesses’ profits by an average of 95%, earning an additional USD $192 a month.

– Women in both cohorts are now more involved in joint decision-making with their spouses. 54% of women in the start-up cohort and 56% of women in the accelerator cohort make joint decisions with their spouse when it comes to matters regarding health, visiting friends and family and large purchases.
– Members continue to see changes in their quality of life a year after the Hand in Hand training. 97% of start-up members and 95% of accelerator members say their quality of life has improved because of the Hand in Hand training still a year later.

Download the report

Hand in Hand’s statement on the ban on women NGO workers in Afghanistan

Following a letter issued by the Taliban’s Ministry of Economy on Saturday 24 December 2022, all national and international non-governmental organisations working in Afghanistan were instructed to immediately stop women from working. The Ministry has warned that they will revoke the operating licenses of any organisations that do not comply with these new restrictions.

Women staff play an essential role in NGO activities, providing humanitarian and development services, in order to respect traditional and religious customs. This exclusion of women will impact on communities in emergency food distribution, health services, basic education, livelihood training, protection services, and disability services.

Our response

In the immediate term, Hand in Hand Afghanistan, like many other Afghan NGOs, will be suspending its regular field activities and requesting only male members of staff work from the offices, with female members of staff working from home.

Hand in Hand Afghanistan is working with the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development (ACBAR), which represents 183 National and International Humanitarian and Development Organisations. Collectively, we are in urgent discussions with the Ministry of Economy to withdraw their suspension letter and engage in open discussions to find a constructive and durable way forward.

We will keep you updated as the situation changes. If you have any questions please contact Amalia Johnsson, Director of Programmes at Hand in Hand International on ajohnsson@hihinternational.org.


Boeing launches new project to fight poverty and tackle the stereotypes that hold women back

Boeing and Hand in Hand are launching a new project in Arusha Region, Tanzania to support women to beat the odds and succeed as entrepreneurs, lifting 600 families above the poverty line. The project will work closely with women, men and with the wider community to challenge traditional attitudes towards women’s roles that prevent women from earning and controlling their own incomes, and from having a say at home or in their communities.

Arusha Region has some of the highest levels of poverty in the country. Record droughts in the country have resulted in increased food insecurity, which is particularly acute in rural areas like Arusha where most people depend on what they can grow to feed their families. Tanzanian women earn, on average, a third of what men do. They are also expected to be solely responsible for domestic work and childcare, leaving little time to earn an income.

This project will give women the skills and confidence to start their own businesses, as well as working with their husbands, fathers, brothers and male community leaders to shift cultural expectations around what a woman’s role should be.

The project is just a part of Boeing’s commitment to transforming the lives of women and young people in rural Tanzania. Working with Hand in Hand, they expect to create 4,000 jobs for women and young people by 2025, lifting 10,000 people out of poverty.

Jane Sabuni, CEO at Hand in Hand Tanzania, said: “Women can play a crucial role in helping households escape poverty but many are constrained from earning an income by longstanding cultural norms. By working with men, we show them that when women are able to work outside the home they can contribute to the family finances and everyone benefits.”

Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President of Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), said: “We know when women are given the skills and confidence they need to become leaders, whole communities benefit. Boeing’s partnership with Hand in Hand is just one of the ways we are working to tackle gender inequality and help women reach their full potential.”

Hand in Hand CEO, Dorothea Arndt, said: “By investing in women’s skills and potential, Boeing is transforming the lives of thousands of Tanzanian families, and we are enormously grateful for their ongoing support.”

Giving women the confidence to lead: Boeing project transforms lives in rural Tanzania  

A two-year project in Arusha Region, Tanzania that gives women the skills and confidence they need to launch their own enterprises has lifted more than 1,600 people out of poverty, as well as giving 542 women vital leadership skills.

The scheme was delivered by Hand in Hand East Africa and funded by Boeing.

In rural Arusha, the majority of the women we work with live below the poverty line. Because of the training, women participants’ average monthly wage increased from USD 1.53 to USD 45.20.

One of the most important parts of the programme is the leadership skills component, which gives women the confidence to speak up and make their voices heard. After the training, 86 percent of the women we asked said they are now able to make decisions for themselves both at home and within their businesses, an increase of almost 30 percent. Many of these women are now also stepping up to take on leadership roles within their communities.

The project is just a part of Boeing’s commitment to transforming the lives of women and young people in rural Tanzania. Working with Hand in Hand, they expect to train more than 4,000 women and young people by 2025 creating 4,000 jobs and lifting 10,000 people out of poverty.

Jane Sabuni, Tanzania Country Manager for Hand in Hand Eastern Africa, said: “As literacy in the area is low, our trainers use oral storytelling techniques to teach leadership skills. These skills don’t just help women succeed in business, they give them the confidence to make have their say when it comes to household spending, their children’s education, and the issues in the community that matter to them.”

Hand in Hand CEO, Dorothea Arndt, said: “When women earn and control their own incomes we see a reduction in household poverty and vulnerability to financial shocks. By investing in women’s skills and potential Boeing is transforming the lives of thousands of Tanzanian families, and we are enormously grateful for their ongoing support.”

Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President of Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), said: “At Boeing, we are committed to building better communities worldwide through focused investment that help break poverty cycles. Empowering women can bring paradigm shifts towards economic growth. We’re proud of our five year old partnership with Hand in Hand.”

Hand in Hand and The Coca Cola Foundation partner for cleaner Nairobi streets

The project will help create 525 micro recycling businesses over two years

Hand in Hand International is excited to announce The Coca-Cola Foundation has committed US $150,000 toward ‘Women in Waste’ a two-year project to help solve the plastic waste crisis and economically empower women in Nairobi, Kenya. The initiative will help create 525 micro-recycling businesses that will clear and recycle tonnes of plastic rubbish left on the streets of Nairobi’s informal settlements.

Hand in Hand will give 750 people (who, on average live on US $2 per day) the business and technical training they need to create or, in some cases, enhance their recycling businesses. With Hand in Hand’s help these waste entrepreneurs will have access to the credit they need to begin collecting, sorting as well as compressing and baling plastic waste to sell on to private and government waste contractors.

Importantly, 80 percent of those 750 people will be women. But, it’s not just about economic equality. We know that when women earn – and decide how they spend it – it reduces poverty for everyone. More children in school, and more families with access to healthcare.

Dorothea Arndt, Hand in Hand International CEO, said, “Programs that improve the world we live in and empower wonderful and inspiring women are the lifeblood of what we do. Like The Coca-Cola Foundation, we hold empowering women at our core.”

The Coca-Cola Foundation’s partnership with Hand in Hand is just one of the ways the Foundation is working to empower women across the globe. By the time the project completes in September 2024, the 525 waste enterprises will support hundreds of jobs which, based on similar programs operated by Hand in Hand in Nairobi, could increase daily incomes by 30 percent.

Saadia Madsbjerg, President of The Coca-Cola Foundation, said, “We are proud to use our resources to fund these types of programs. Since 1984, The Coca-Cola Foundation has committed itself to supporting sustainable community programs. With this particular program, 80% of the beneficiaries of this grant will be women, who will have a better chance at improving their livelihoods. As such, we will not only have a cleaner Nairobi, but we will also have a more economically empowered one, with more women actively making a positive difference in their settlements and communities.”

Nairobi’s informal settlements are home to some 2.5 million people (60% of the city’s population). Because these are informal settlements there is no infrastructure and rubbish from all over the city is dumped on their streets.
Nicole, Hand in Hand graduate and plastic recycling entrepreneur, Nairobi, said: “We realized there was no garbage holding site…and the garbage collectors were not doing their work. We decided to do something (about the garbage) that will also benefit the community.”


Visa’s project to fight poverty through job creation boosts small business owners’ profits by 45 percentage points 

A project in Kenya that tackles poverty by supporting people to set up and run their own businesses has delivered unprecedented results – with businesses enrolled in the ‘acceleration’ component of the scheme typically increasing profits by 45 percentage points. 

The three-year project, Kenya Micro-Enterprise Success Programme (KMES), delivered by Hand in Hand and funded by Visa Inc., is reaching 10,200 people, mainly women, in some of the world’s most deprived areas.  When women can earn their own incomes and decide how to spend it, whole communities flourish – with more children in school and more families with access to healthcare. 

During the life of the project, Hand in Hand is providing provide mentoring, specialist support and training to 8,600 people in Kwangware, Kiambu, Kitengala and Kasarani to start their own micro-enterprises from scratch – as part of the ‘start up’ cohort. 

A further 1,600 existing small businesses owners are taking part in the ‘acceleration’ component of the programme – helping people scale up their businesses to reach larger markets. This creates more strong, resilient, local businesses, with the potential to create jobs within the community.

But, just months after the project began, Kenya was hit by its first wave of coronavirus cases, and the country locked down. For Kenyans, the pandemic wasn’t just a health crisis, it was an economic crisis as well – devastating livelihoods and plunging millions below the poverty line.   

Despite this – the project has already achieved remarkable success, particularly for the ‘accelerator’ cohort of the scheme. 

During the Covid-19 crisis, most of the small business owners’ takings fell. However, thanks to the business and financial efficiency training they’d received from Hand in Hand, programme members were able to act quickly to reduce their operating costs during lockdown. These cost-saving initiatives proved to be sustainable over the longer term as well. On average, members in this group saw their profits increase by an incredible 45 percentage points  in just six months. 

Programme members in both groups also learned how to use social media and e-commerce – selling goods and services on Facebook and online marketplaces like Jumia. They were supported to access new value chains.

For businesses to expand, loans are crucial. However, it can be difficult for people to obtain credit from traditional financial institutions, such as banks, if they don’t have any credit history or have never held a bank account. To overcome these barriers, Hand in Hand is working closely with local banks to help project members gain access to loans and credit, so they can invest in staff, equipment and stock. 

Corine Mbiaketcham, Visa’s Vice President and General Manager for East Africa said, “At Visa, we are committed to empowering and supporting women entrepreneurs, because it impacts our community as a whole. We partner to create a brighter future for generations to come. Our partnership with Hand in Hand is one of the crucial ones for us to achieve this. We are pleased with the impact that the program has had on the women-owned business in Kawangware, Kiambu, Kitengela and Kasarani.

Dorothea Arndt, CEO at Hand in Hand International, said: “When Covid hit, no one knew what to expect – our hope was simply that members didn’t lose money. Instead, the ‘survival tactics’ people employed to reduce their overheads during the long months of lockdown led to long-term, sustainable reductions in business costs –  and, in the case of the more established businesses, an incredible 45 percentage points average rise in profits. 

“During the pandemic many small entrepreneurs in East Africa experienced a credit crunch – thanks to our partnership with Visa, many of our members were able to expand their access to credit instead.”

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