Women's IT Sector Enterprises

Case Study No. 11


Kalomo Bwacha Women's ICT Club in Zambia

 

Case Study Authors

Edwin Zulu ezulucamp@yahoo.com

Kutoma J. Wakunuma k.wakunuma@coventry.ac.uk

 

Enterprise History

Kalomo Bwacha Women's Club was formed in 2000 in order to support women in their small-scale enterprises as well as to shed more light on how marginalised women were in Kalomo. It was formed by a group of tenten women from different backgrounds who came together with a view to supporting each other and other women within and around the surrounding villages. The club includes women who are nurses, teachers, secretaries, seasoned businesswomen and housewives. Some are retired and some are still employed. They started a small-scale enterprise, which included tailoring, craftwork such as the creation of reed mats, knitting, sewing tablecloths, cooking and baking. The idea was to cater for community events such as weddings, traditional ceremonies and other parties. This initiative prompted various women's clubs to affiliate to the Bwacha Women's Club (BWC) through a yearly subscription. BWC members also visit the affiliated clubs to share, exchange and learn with them.

 

The ICT project was initially started through a local enterprise support agency ELIF Business Solutions as part of an initiative supported by the International Telecommunications Union. In October 2004 the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) provided US$6,000 for the women's club to purchase ICT equipment. Following this a local businessman gave the club free use of a building. Previously, the women had operated from their homes where they would meet once or twice a month. The ICT equipment and premises have opened new doors for the club which has changed its name to Kalomo Bwacha Women's ICT Club.

 

With the introduction of the ICT enterprise the first of its kind in Kalomo the club has expanded its business and increased its income. The women also benefit from increased interaction, contact and communication at local, regional and international levels. They, and the community as a whole, are enthusiastic because positive changes are obvious. Communication is easier, the enterprise is easily approachable and is not solely about business but also has a community feel and there is a lot of support from local private businesses as well as the public sector. For example the country's electricity supplier is supporting the women by giving them concessional electricity rates. The enterprise is also a meeting place where lively discussions are held and members update each other on latest developments that may be of interest to the community. Local digital content is being created, developed, used and promoted.

 

Enterprise Profile

The enterprise provides email and telephone services; secretarial services; basic Internet training and browsing; and desktop publishing services such as the creation of calendars, brochures and cards using digital photography for government, public and private institutions, members of women's clubs and individuals. They use a landline, a mobile phone, two PCs, a dialup Internet connection, scanner, printer and digital camera. Software includes Windows XP and Corel Draw.

 

There are ten core women members, only one of whom is paid, the rest working on a voluntary, part-time basis. The full-time employee works from 8.00am to 5.00pm, sees to the daily running of the club, types for the clients, operates the Internet, answers queries and so on.

 

The other members look for income-generating projects and recruit new members. They visit Kalomo villages, teaching and sensitising villagers, particularly women, on issues that affect them such as HIV/AIDS and poverty alleviation. They take digital photos, upload these onto their computers and make prints which they then use to distribute to other communities, sometimes in the form of a poster or a calendar with an educational message. They particularly promote women's initiatives and highlight the plight of women in various communities. These visits help others to realise that they too can advertise their goods and services and learn from each other.

 

The club also generates income from affiliated clubs, which contribute a small annual fee. They distribute seed to their affiliated clubs who, once they have harvested it, pay them a fee. The seed may be maize seed, beans or any other that is expected to do well during that particular season. All this is at a concessional rate for the affiliated members. The club also holds community events to raise awareness and funds. The end of March will see an open market and a beauty competition, both organised by the club. ICTs play a major part in that participants will be encouraged to keep in touch via email and goods will be advertised on a web site, using digital photos. The club also hopes to create a database.

 

Enterprise Performance

Total sales in 2004 amounted to some US$1,000 and the enterprise broke even. Work included the delivery of five IT short courses. In 2005, monthly expenditure was around US$ 120. This includes one salary of US$52, telephone costs (US$25) and electricity (US$12.50). Monthly income has risen to about US$170. The only subsidy is the rent-free accommodation, until October next year at least, and the concessional electricity rate.

 

Main Success Factors

1.      Initial funding facilitated by, and technical and administrative advisory support offered by the local enterprise support agency, ELIF Business Solutions.

2.      Continuous publicity and marketing of the club's progress by the agency

3.      Members commitment and hard work. Increased networking, contact and communication. The snowball effect of word-of-mouth recommendation.

 

Main Benefits for Women

1.      New equipment, which has enabled them to generate new business ventures and increased recognition within and outside their community. An example of such recognition comes from the inception event for the ICT component where leaders of the community were present and a government official was guest of honour. In addition, there is the linkage effect of more women's clubs wanting to affiliate.

2.      New training and acquisition of knowledge. Two women were trained by the support agency in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. They were given basic computer training including familiarisation with Windows and other related applications, Internet browsing, and how to write and send emails. They then went back to Kalomo to teach the other women. Some of the members who did not receive this training have used Windows applications before in their jobs as secretaries, so they too impart the knowledge they have to other members.

3.      Increased networking with the outside world including increased knowledge sharing, better access to external support, increased development opportunities and more development information opportunities.

 

Main Negative Impacts or Risks

1.      Problems maintaining equipment. For example they ran out of printer toner for about three weeks thus losing some valuable business. Since they intend to buy a photocopier to meet local demand, a problem such as lack of toner would prove to be a major hindrance to further business development.

2.      Limited funding while also experiencing slow business as few are accessing the services.

3.      Lack of ongoing training. Ever-changing IT advancement while the team remain at low skill levels. The group also need more guidance and training in several other areas such as how to advertise their business for outsiders who pass through their area. The club is advantageously situated, just behind a busy road, which goes to one of Zambia's great tourist attractions, the Victoria Falls. Tourists tend to want to use Internet facilities but the club has not yet come up with a poster to attract and capture such potential clients. They also need basic business management training.

 

Good Practice in Management

1.      Management and growth through effective networking with other rural women's groups. Establishing local networks and partnership with public and private sectors and NGOs as a way of increasing business.

2.      Managing through volunteers keeps costs down. The group also keeps good records of all phone use and are strict about usage. For example there are no free calls for members, just access at a cheaper rate than for non-members.

3.      They sit down and discuss the way forward together and consider how they can improve on their enterprise. Each member's contribution receives full attention and consideration.

 

Main Challenges

1.      Maintenance of equipment.

2.      Lack of continued further training.

3.      Limited funding and high ICT equipment costs and taxes.

4.      High poverty among most people in the community.

 

Case Photograph

 

Case Details

Author Data Sources/Role: Project Advisory Role/No Direct Role (two authors)

Region: Southern Africa Start Date: 2003 Submission Date: March 2005


The "Women's ICT-Based Enterprise for Development" project is coordinated by the University of Manchester's Institute for Development Policy and Management. The project is funded by the UK Department for International Development's Knowledge and Research programme.

 

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 http://www.womenictenterprise.org/kalomo.htm September 2005