The Popular Village Tailor

A beautiful story of, FUNDI NGUO MAARUFU WA KIJIJI (in English)

By Johnny Mwakalinga.

Fundi nguo maarufu wa kijiji are the suahel (Swahili) words which can be translated as follows: fundi nguo means “A tailor”, maarufu means “popular”, and kijiji means “village”, so a combination of the words gives in English one translation: “The popular Village Tailor”.  From a mere house girl of a school head teacher, to a street coconut fruits seller, now as a popular village tailor, Ms. Hawa really deserves admiration, as she passed through several difficult and challenging ways to achieve success!

Hawa in her shop

Hawa, is a suahel name which means, “Ave” in English. Hawa is a lady now living at Miembe saba street, in Hembeti village since 2004, when she was at the age of 16. She is staying about four kilometers away from Tukaone farmland. Her father had passed away when she was just 4 years old, but her mother had worked as a cook for school children until 2007, when she too bitterly passed away due to a sudden illness. Her mother left without leaving anything useful to support the poor lady, only a single rented room with very cheap household items, such as a bed, an analog TV, a charcoal cooker, and a half an acre coconut tree farm. Hawa was the only child in the family.

Tukaone Projects Manager, Johnny Mwakalinga in Hawa’s shop

I got to know Hawa for the first time when I passed at her tailoring mart one weekend, that was on 4th of November 2018, when I was just returning back from visiting our wonderful Tukaone farms, cycling on my “tiger sign trademarked” bike, which I rented from a village bike hiring service. I was very interested in the lady to see her sewing clothes in a big modern tailoring shop and with the beautiful ladies traditional dresses that I thought I could buy for my daughter and wife. I was welcomed with a test to sew a dress but I couldn’t, instead I just decided to sit back on one of the sewing machines and enjoy the feeling of being in that lovely, local sewing shop! Hawa told me in her suahel words, “Karibu sana, nunua nguo kwa familia yako”. Before living at Hembeti, Hawa was living in another town called Mikumi (near Mikumi National park), about 5 hours away from Hembeti if travelling by a public bus (Daladala), doing her primary school education there.

It started in 2005, when her mother who was living at Hembeti as a cook for school children, when she was sent good news from the Head teacher of Hembeti primary school, known as Mr. Rasheed, who was needing a girl for a house work. It was very good news for Hawa as she said to me, “I had so much longed to collect monies so I could further my education, join a nursing course, become a nurse, marrying a nice man and then take care of family.”  In 2005, she started a job as the head teacher’s house worker, taking care of childrens meals, sending them to school, and generally providing family meals and house cleanliness. House cleanliness and sending children to school were very tiring duties for her. This life was not easy for her, as she was being paid a very low wage at the end of the month. She would ask her mother to keep for her the 18,000.00 Tanzanian shillings she earned monthly [approximately $7.71]. She worked there until 2007, when one day evening she heard from her boss that her mother was very sick and unable to speak!  Oh poor Hawa had run as fast as her legs could carry her, in order to take care of her sick fallen mother. But as she approached her mom`s bed she found her unable to move, and she already passed away. Hawa said to herself with tears running down her cheeks and crying out, “my mom is gone, And my dreams are gone!” That was the beginning of a new life, and Hawa decided to quit the housework job.

Her life changed, Hawa became a farmer and spent a long time working on her mother`s coconut tree farm. As the trees were still young, she had to take care of the young coconut trees until after more than 3 years when the coconuts were ready to be harvested, beginning in 2010. The land at Hembeti is very good also for growing coconut trees. She started harvesting coconuts, making them into coconut fruits (husks removed away). The people at Hembeti very much like eating coconut meat with its juice as it is very useful in cleaning urine and helps regulating blood pressure. So, she always took her wheelbarrow loaded with about 20 to 30 coconuts and selling them out in streets, shouting in her suahel words, “kula madafuu, kula madafuu”, meaning “eat coconut fruits, eat coconut fruits”, and children would shout in return in the words, and walk after her. One coconut fruit would give her 500.00 Tshs, so for thirty fruits she used to get 15,000.00 per day [$6.43 US]. Her life was quite good and improved. As the farm keeping activities, together with the fruit selling, became more tiring and complex, one early morning Hawa decided to go out looking for a man who would assist her with taking care of the coconuts farm, this man was called Mr. Karim. After about two years of working together, it happened that the two fell in love with each other. They were fortunate to have one baby boy in 2012 who was given a name of, Zawadi, that is “Gift” in english, believing it to be a gift to her after longtime loneliness. Hawa stopped selling coconut fruits, after delivery of the new baby, and the father of Zawadi, then took over the wheelbarrow and went on selling the fruits. He did a very good business and could buy the family needs of meals and baby care.

When Zawadi became one and a half year, Hawa started again going out pushing her wheelbarrow selling fruits around the village. But every day she got back home from her business of selling coconut fruits, she used to think a lot and asked herself, “for how long should I go on selling coconut fruits, children shouting and walking behind me, with most of my dreams unachieved!?” Her dream was to become a nurse and take care of her family. Her life went on this way until when one day, the leadership of Hembeti village went out announcing for a meeting to be convened and that all village members were supposed to attend as there was an urgent message from a certain Organization called, The UN Women, cooperating with the Government of Tanzania, seeking to identify the needy girls to be supported for various vocational studies.

So, the popular village drummer was ordered by the village boss (chairman), to fetch and carry his big drum, to play it (beat it) around the whole village announcing the meeting.  His big traditional drum was made out of a wood and covered with a cow skin on the top. Normally a drum is played with the drummer saying words to explain the intended event. This is a traditional way, and the beating of a drum helps to attract people`s attention the same way as the modern advertisement through music being played with a man in the car announcing. So, after the meeting, Hawa was the only luckiest lady to be chosen and was given an opportunity to begin her professional tailoring course with Tanzania vocational education training Authority – VETA KIHONDA, in Morogoro, as she was very good in mathematics and her handwriting attracted many readers! So, it was in 2014 when she started her short tailoring course, which she completed in July 2014. Hawa returned back to Hembeti village at the end of July 2014, and joined the village life again.

Back to her family, Mr. Karim received Hawa with great pleasure! He whispered to his lady one evening, “Hawa, when you were away studying, I have been trying to save some money out of our coconuts selling business, and was able to raise about T.shs 95,000.00 [$40.71 US] per month, and now I have T.shs 570,000.00 cash [$244.26 US], for you to go renting a room, buy your sewing machine and other needs for your new tailoring Job!” Hawa jumped over Mr. Karim shoulders with great pleasure and could not believe what her ears could hear, until when an old khaki envelope, with soil dusts on it, a bit heavy, was handled over to her, humbly. Hawa rented a small old office room for her sewing business, and bought whatever she wanted to keep the mart running. Many parents in the village would give her orders to sew school uniforms for their children, and she designed clothes for wedding ceremonies, and most of ladies fashions. She soon became very popular, and made many clients around the village.  One year later, Hawa decided to start building a new house for her family. Construction for the new house was completed in 2017, which took about two hard years to complete.

Hawa was not able to fulfill her dreams of becoming a nurse, but now with her exceptional sewing skills, has become a very popular tailor in the village, and really created her own loyal customers. She has more plans to buy a small piece of land, and start erecting her own building and would call the business, Hawa Fashions Mart, Ltd”, and hopes that she can help offer training to more other needy girls in the community. She will hire an accountant, and open a business bank account with The Community Rural Development Bank, CRDB Bank in Mvomero. She needs to raise more money before she can be able to start construction of her new tailoring mart in the village. Her son, Zawadi, is now 7 years old and Hawa would pay everything he needs for schooling out of her tailoring business. 

Johnny Mwakalinga with daughter sharing a coconut

Tukaone Director Amina sipping coconut

 ***Everything in this world, is so wonderful****

By Johnny Mwakalinga.

[Edited for clarity – JT]

Walk Around the World, LLC and Tukaone Projects Ltd., are cooperating to tell the stories of local villagers and businesses in and around Hembeti, Tanzania, where Tukaone Projects has its rice and maize farm and assists with local economic and educational development in the region.

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