From a Survivor of a Brutal Attack to Business Owner: Mariam’s Story of Resilience

Dec 14, 2023 | Stories

We’re Committed to Supporting Tanzania’s Most Vulnerable

Through mentorship, networking, and sponsorship, Business Innovations is committed to helping the locals in the Siha District of Tanzania come together and flourish. We pride ourselves on fostering genuine connections for the most vulnerable in Tanzania’s Siha District.

We partner with Ubora Tanzania, a US-based non-profit organization focused on helping the residents of Tanzania’s Siha District achieve long-term sustainability and economic development. Ubora’s Siha Leadership School (SLS) is consistently rated as one of the top ten education programs in Tanzania.

But SLS had a growing problem– without business connections, its well-educated graduates were still struggling to find jobs.

In response to the unemployment problem for its graduates, two businessmen from Ubora reached out to our founder, Alf, asking him to help them start the process of integrating the local business community with SLS graduates. Alf agreed, and that was the beginning of our work to help support not only recent graduates but also local business owners like Mariam.

Getting to Know Mariam

Mariam was born with albinism, which puts her in great danger in Tanzania. Because of regional folklore, some people with albinism have been targeted, attacked, and even killed for their body parts, which are sold to witch doctors who use them to concoct potions said to bring prosperity to relationships, life, and business. Because of the lingering beliefs embedded in Tanzanian society, many albino children end up living in safe houses, separated from their families.

Mariam lost both of her arms after falling victim to one of these attacks in 2008. Mariam can even recall the horrifying moments as they took her arms. She remembers turning over and catching sight of one of her attackers, a neighbor who had lived near her for over a decade. She’d watched his face as he cut her hands off and handed them to another attacker.

Luckily, Mariam survived the horrifying attack and received medical care and government help to o help support her. Over the years, she has shared her story in interviews, receiving support from both not-for-profits and the local community.

Mariam Gets Her Arms Back

Mariam remembers feeling like she could do little else but sit idle and sleep in the aftermath of the attack. For years, Mariam lived in fear. Her confidence vanished, along with the belief that she was capable of accomplishing anything or caring for herself.

Eventually, an American-Canadian non-profit organization stepped in to give Mariam a new lease on life. They had Mariam flown to Canada and fitted with prosthetic arms. When she returned, she enrolled in weaving classes and started the process of rebuilding her life. In 2017, she got her first weaving machine and began to make the clothes she now sells today, which have helped support her, her family, and her growing confidence in herself.

Alf Meets Mariam

Mariam met Alf when she was attending a two-day business fundamentals conference he was helping lead. She’d recently run into supply-chain issues and wasn’t able to get the yarn to continue making her sweaters. She’d lost two employees and was ready to shut down her business before her sister convinced her to attend the conference, where she learned about seasonality in business. It gave her the hope to persevere and she signed up for an onsite consultation with Alf and the team. After the conference, Alf and other business consultants visited Mariam’s home and workshop, where they learned about her inspiring story of resilience.

During their visit, Alf discovered she could make 2,000 sweaters a year and watched a demonstration showing how she expertly worked her weaving machine using her prosthetic arms. He was amazed at her strength. However, while looking over the sweaters, the team noticed the sweaters were missing labels, and uncovered a major problem with Mariam’s business- there was no way to identify her work should someone want to buy one of her sweaters. She needed labels for her sweaters. The team felt compelled to intervene and provide a little help that would enable Mariam to grow her business. Alf reached out to a business contact in Tanzania, told them the story, and, within weeks, the factory sent her 2000 labels designed with the brand Business Innovations helped her create.

Mariam Improves Her Business

With Alf’s help and business connections, Mariam secured labels for her knitwear business, enabling her to brand and market her business, which is essential to scaling any small company. Alf even sent Mariam’s information back to Business Innovation’s art department and created a custom design for Mariam, including her phone number on the label.

As Mariam puts it, “I believe that through these labels I will be able to access the market and marketing. When people see my sweaters, they will know who is making them and how to get them through my number. Thank you for making them, and I’m so happy.”

For Mariam, making labels is a simple yet essential part of marketing her company. Now that her excellent weaving can be recognized, her business may finally get the credit it deserves; it may even grow to the point where she could employ a SLS intern herself.

Finding Her Tomorrow

Today, Mariam’s business is expanding, and she is finding new ways to grow. She’s recently been in touch with Alf to let him know that she’s exhausted her initial supply of 2,000 labels and was sent an additional 5,000 labels to use for the coming year.

Our clients play a vital role in helping us provide this level of sponsorship to these deserving individuals. This is part of your story as much as it is ours. Thank you.

We’re so excited to see Mariam’s next chapter. Mariam’s continued resilience and grit are an inspiration to us here at Business Innovations. It’s stories like Mariam’s that make us proud to provide support to Tanzanians striving toward a better tomorrow. You go, Mariam!