Business School Topics
- Page 1
UWA Business School
Two entrepreneurial students from The University of Western Australia have delivered a short course in business skills to disadvantaged women in Kenya.
The students were in Kenya as part of the Out of the Box Taxi Service Hire project that the UWA Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team is managing on behalf of Perth-based charity Be Kids. The project will provide start-up finance and training to allow 12 women from the Korogocho slum in Kenya to operate their own taxi hire business.
Over 14 days, the Kenyan women embraced what they named "Mama Shujaa" school, meaning "super women" or "warrior women" in Swahili. The school's lessons, delivered by Holly Ransom, UWA student and chair of Young UN Women Perth, and UWA Business School student Calvin Coyles, covered leadership skills, goal setting, teamwork, negotiation, and long-term business planning.
Holly and Calvin began the course with the notion of goal setting. ‘This was a concept that these women had never seen before,' explained Holly. ‘Yet when we asked them: "What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?" you just should have seen them write non-stop and then proudly share their goals with the group. It was absolutely beautiful.
‘They told us how they wanted to learn to drive so they could afford for each of their women's group to send their kids to school and have their kids in uniforms, and so they could afford power to the study centre.'
The women then drew their shared dreams and goals on vision boards. Amazingly, every group included a Mama Shujaa school to help other women, as well as a place where they were able to donate back to the community and help other women like them once they are wealthy women (earning over $2 AUD per day).
‘When we sat down with each group and broke down the cost of everything on their vision boards - the sum total of what they believe is the perfect life - it absolutely broke our hearts that the most expensive of those vision boards could be achieved with two dollars a day,' said Holly. ‘The cheapest vision board required one dollar a day.
‘At the same time as our hearts are breaking though, we are excited by how realistic a prospect it is that we can help these women achieve everything they've ever wanted for both themselves and their families.'
The lessons in ‘hard' business skills included games of monopoly, in addition to role-plays around negotiation. ‘The concept of buying in groups and thinking long-term was an incredible challenge for women who are forced to think only about how they are going to survive today,' said Calvin. ‘However, it wasn't long before they were paying rent, buying property and calculating profits - all concepts that are completely foreign to these women.
‘When it came to negotiation, one group created a whole boardroom, introduced themselves as business women, and were very formal in their negotiation, none of which I had instructed - they just invented the whole thing themselves.'
While Holly and Calvin were teaching business skills, they learnt just as much from the women themselves. ‘To say our trip through Korogocho was eye-opening would be a giant understatement,' said Holly. ‘Though we have both seen poverty before, the sensory overload of life on the slums was quite extraordinary- the broken down mud houses, the stench of sewerage and loose farm animals, the overwhelming amount of rubbish and much, much more.
‘These women are working about 16 hours per day for about $1-2 AUD. They start at about 5:30 in the morning doing washing for about 50 shillings (70 cents) then they come home at about 1:30 in the afternoon and make bread or sell vegetables, which might get them more money or not. Most don't have power, and areas of 10 homes share a bathroom and toilet that flows into a waterway across the doorsteps of all the homes.
‘It is fundamentally wrong that more than 1.4 billion people (70% of them women) are living like this. Righting this wrong is one of the challenges of our generation and the incredible power of education and the social and economic empowerment of women have never been as clear to me as they are now.'
The Mama Shujaa school is part of SIFE UWA's first international project, and its success has encouraged the SIFE team to broaden its work in Africa and amongst the grateful women of the Korogocho slum.
‘At the end of the final class the women surprised us by bursting into the most beautiful and passionate song we've heard from them yet, singing songs of praise to Cal and I and presenting us with the most beautiful gifts,' recalled Holly. ‘We were bombarded with tearful farewells, hugs and requests for photos for long after class ended and the sun was edging beneath the horizon by the time we could finally bring ourselves to pack up. These women, who have so little, have so wholeheartedly embraced what we've come here to teach and this is only just the beginning.'
SIFE UWA's Uhuru project has been selected as one of the semi-finalists in the International Dell Social Innovation Competition. More information is available at: www.dellsocialinnovationcompetition.com.
The SIFE UWA team currently has a portfolio of seven projects, which include educating high school students, assisting family businesses, and working with Indigenous communities. It is advised by Assistant Professor Doina Olaru and Dr. Donella Caspersz, from the UWA Business School. For more information on SIFE UWA, or to learn how to get involved, visit http://www.business.uwa.edu.au/students/sife.
Director, External Relations
UWA Business School
T: +618 6488 8171
M: 0419 950 027
UWA Business School
T: +618 6488 1346
- Page 1