An interview with Elisabetta, founder of Kurandza
First off, let's tell people a little bit about your brand, Kurandza. What are three things you want people to know about your brand and what you do?
1. Kurandza is a social enterprise that empowers women in Mozambique through education and entrepreneurship.
2. We work primarily with HIV-positive women, and we teach them skills that will help them earn an income and pay for transport to reach the hospital every month to stay on treatment.
3. We believe in a greater purpose, that every woman can make a difference in the world when they take risks to find their strengths and lead a fulfilled life.
And what's the specific impact you're working for?
Kurandza’s impact is measured through many factors like the number of women employed, level of income of our women, number of children in school, and number of small businesses created. Overall, our impact is creating sustainable change through the development of leaders in our community in Mozambique.
Can you talk a bit about what the situation in Mozambique looks like for women?
There aren’t many opportunities for women to get ahead in Mozambique. Their main role is to get married, have children, take care of the family and farm. Little by little women are beginning to get an education and join the workforce – there is still a long way to go!
Tell us about an experience that totally blew your mind.
The whole experience of being a namesake in Mozambique was incredible! In their culture, when you name a baby, you become the same person as the baby that you named. I named our Country Director Percina’s baby, Lindsey Brianna, and now I’m a member of her family! Percina’s mom calls me her granddaughter and her sisters and brothers are my aunts and uncles. Percina always tells me how much Lindsey acts like me because she loves people, smiles a lot, is curious about learning, and never forgets someone’s name after she meets them! As a Westerner, it was a difficult concept to grasp in the beginning! It’s an amazing experience and an honor.
What's a memory you have from Mozambique that lights you up inside and helps you feel like it's worth all the effort? Because getting a brand off the ground takes a LOT of work (we know!)!
It does take a lot of work to get off the ground, and it’s worth it! In August 2015, we built a small convenience store with a family in Mozambique. Percina organized everything in Mozambique while I fundraised in the US. I was so impressed by the way that she took charge and was able to help the family start this store – from helping with bookkeeping, procuring materials and helping with the building logistics, she took the lead. When I see our women becoming empowered leaders in their community, passing on the skills that they were taught to more people, it shows me that all this hard work is paying off!
Any personal stories from the women in your programs you want to share?
Percina just came to the US for the first time! She had never been out of Africa before, and it’s been her dream to visit the states! She had an amazing time here and it gave her the confidence to reach her dreams and to dream even bigger!
Another impact story we have is from Gina, one of the women of Kurandza. Her husband works as a miner in South Africa, and because of miner strikes he was out of work for almost a year. During this time Gina was the sole provider for her family (she has 6 kids!!). Because of her work with Kurandza, she was able to continue paying the tuition for her daughter to study in a technical program in the north of the country, while paying for all of the household expenses.
What are some things you find really beautiful about the culture?
The hospitality and generosity of this culture is so inspiring to me. Whenever I come visit Mozambique, I’m greeted at the side of the road with a wheelbarrow to transport my luggage on the dirt road to the house! I still stay with my host mom I had during the Peace Corps. Everytime I come, she clears out the bedroom for me with a bed and table, and all the children stay in the living room and sleep on straw mats at night. If I offer to sleep in the living room, they won’t let me. They don’t feel like they need to be hospitable; they do it because they want to – they find joy in being hospitable to others.
Something else that I thought was really touching was when I would compliment someone on their sweater, earrings, sandals, anything! They would take them off and give them to me. The people who did this didn’t give me the item because they had an extra one at home or because they themselves didn’t love the item. They wanted me to enjoy it – these types of experiences taught me a lot about generosity and living life to the fullest.
Can you share some of your favorite Mozambique words?
Even though Portuguese is the national language, there are about 26 local languages throughout the country. In our village, the local language is Changana, and I love the words lixile (lee-shee-lay), which means “good morning” (literally “it rose” referring to the sun); xiluva (shee-loo-vuh), which means “flower”; and nakurandza (nah-koo-rand-zuh), which means “I love you”.
What do you see as the biggest need in the communities you work with?
The biggest need is education. When community members have access to education, they can make educated decisions about their health, their family and their future. They can get a job or use entrepreneurship to start their own business. It helps people acquire the skill of learning, time management, follow through and ambition – all skills and traits that we sometimes take for granted, even though they are very important in living a meaningful and fulfilled life.
Any thoughts on some things our readers can do to participate in the change?
There are so many ways to participate in the change, and they all involve learning more and taking action! bonJOY readers can learn more about our organization and purchase one of our items, donate to our educational programs, or host a trunk show to support our women in Mozambique. If you’re in college, you can become an intern or campus representative! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!
What's next for Kurandza? Anything you're really excited about or something new you're trying?
Kurandza is deepening our community programs in Mozambique. Our women are becoming leaders in the village where they live – transferring skills and knowledge to other community members. We are also starting community entrepreneurship courses and high school scholarships! We will be fundraising to work with more women who will be able to gain life skills and a source of income to save up to start their own small local businesses, boosting local commerce and creating jobs.
If someone purchases a Kurandza piece, what is one thing you’d like to them to think of when they wear it?
When you wear a Kurandza piece, know that you are providing employment and opportunity to women in Mozambique. You’re being part of a movement that’s impacting lives!