Zainab Ansell: My biggest achievement is sending people to Kilimanjaro

Zainab Ansell is a Tanzanian based business magnate, investor, philanthropist, humanitarian. She started ZARA Tours in 1987, organizing African safaris and climbs to Mount. Meru and Mount. Kilimanjaro.

Today, ZARA Tours are Tanzania’s No.1 Kilimanjaro outfitter and one of the biggest safari operators. Zainab also runs a hotel chain that consists of 9 properties. 7 under the Tanzanian wild-camps umbrella and two separate hotels.

In 2009 she launched Zara Charity, giving back to marginalized communities in Tanzania and making her footprint in the global movement for sustainable tourism development.

She has also launched Zara foundation for ecosystems preservation. Advocating for land and marine biodiversity conservation with her focus being on cleaning up the Indian Ocean.

I looked at the mountain and got inspired to sell it and safaris -@Zainabansell Click To Tweet

How did you manage to create a niche for yourself in a male-dominated industry?


I worked with Air Tanzania for 8 years before launching my own business. The beginning was tough, however, I was ambitious despite the harsh reality of inequality being a woman in a male-dominated society.

Getting the licenses and registration was not easy as the industry was aggressive and male-dominated. It took me a whole year to be able to start operating.  I started with a Travel agency, selling airline tickets as a non-IATA agent.

In 1986 I got my IATA registration marking the beginning of a promising era. I sold many airlines KLM, Lufthansa to mention a few. However, within three years I started to see a decline in the business. I looked at the mountain and got inspired to sell it and safaris.

Given the fact that technology was not as advanced I relied on word of mouth to market my business. I would even go to bus stations to solicit clients. The clients I would get would often refer other clients. It is that drive to go the extra mile for my clients that earned me my reputation.

I watched the business gradually progress in 1987, 88, 89 and here we are today as the No.1 Kilimanjaro outfitter and one of the biggest safari operators in East Africa.

What is your biggest achievement? 


My biggest achievement is being able to send people to Kilimanjaro, however, in the beginning, my biggest hurdle was accommodation.  I always visualized my business as a one-stop shop. In the year 2000, I was able to become that.

I opened up my very own hotel – Springlands Hotel.  This refined my product, allowing me to give my clients their best value for money. The hotel also serves as a base for Mount Kilimanjaro trekking.  

Zara became a one-stop shop and my business became better organized. The launch of spring lands hotel led me to further venture into the hospitality industry in order to support both Mountain trekking and Safaris.  

Today Zara properties include Springlands and the award-winning Tanzania Wild Camps hotel chain that consists of 7 facilities Located across Tanzania’s most classic safari hotspots; Highview Hotel Karatu, Highview Coffee Lodge, Serengeti Wild Camp, Ngorongoro Wild Camp, Serengeti – Ikoma Wild Camp, Serengeti Safari Lodge, Serengeti Wildebeest Camp.

You’ve managed to run your businesses for over 31 years, what has been your secret so far? 


I can not pinpoint one secret, however, I could sum it up as personalized services and teamwork.  I attribute a lot of my success to my family, my spouse, my children and my staff.

At Zara, we are a family. Happy staff and happy customers are our priority.

How have you been able to adapt to the different changes within the industry and also personnel changes and still manage to succeed? 


Change is a constant factor, Tanzania is a developing country, with very high taxation rates. It has a very competitive tourism sector with thousands of operators and an unpredictable political environment that changes with every regime.  

We have seen lots of different tourism ministers, however, through it all, we have managed to survive and also because we’ve been able to give back through Zara Charity.

How did you get accustomed to the new world of using digital marketing for your business? 


It’s not been easy, however being open-minded and having the right staff has simplified the transition for me.  I get educated people in the right places and I also learn and catch up with what’s trending.

Knowing what you know today, what would you have done differently during your career?


In the beginning, I did so much. In fact, I would everything myself.  Now I wish I would have delegated more.

What is the one motivation that gets you up every morning? 


I wake up at 5:15 am every morning, say a prayer and do 5 km walk.  After, that I am ready for the day. This routine keeps me motivated and eager to start the day ready for anything “bring it on!”.

It helps me sail smoothly and well before I know it the day is over and I thank God.

Talking about motivation, why was it important that you started Zara Charity? 


Over the years I have always given back to the community, I am humbled to have been able to help a lot of people.  I started Zara Charity in order to keep track of and formalize what I am doing.

We do a lot to empower the community through the charity.  During low season we focus a lot on the charity. We provide free education to a marginalized community, give money to women with no interest, started a porters society where we teach them about health, how to prevent HIV, and how to save their money.

The organization also opened up bank accounts for them and gave them health insurance. We have a center for marginalized maasai women where we financially empower them to make bead crafts which they sell to tourists.

Also, Zara Charity trains and provides opportunities for the youth in our hospitality division. All this is in efforts to positively impact the society we operate in.

As a successful woman with many businesses, what do you do to unwind and ensure that the next day you are still up and running?

I do a lot of meditation in the evenings, I spend time with my family this helps me switch off from the day. Unwinding can be challenging but despite the challenges, every day is an interesting opportunity to make a difference.

Which social media platform is your favorite? 

My favorite social media platforms are Linkedin and Instagram. Catch me on the gram @zainbAnsell.

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How Perseverance Hadebe is empowering special needs learners in Zimbabwe through education

Perseverance Hadebe is the dynamic headmistress of King George VI in Bulawayo. This school is a revolutionary school that for 60 years has continued to break new grounds by providing a sterling education for learners and children in Zimbabwe with disabilities from kindergarten to the fourth form.

She is also a pastor at Apostolic Church Of Pentecost, which was founded 68 years ago as one of the first Pentecostal churches in Zimbabwe. In this interview, we learn more about her passion for education. 


Where did you get your passion for special education?

During my training to become a teacher, I requested a post at Sir Humphrey Gibbs, a local special school. It was then that I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I find special needs learners very inspiring.

It is so satisfying to see someone who at face value seems incapable of so many things and watch them grow from strength to strength and exceed all expectations. I have always been drawn to the downtrodden, the unwanted and the unloved. 

At church as a pastor, I find myself reaching out to the disadvantaged there as well. I want to help them improve their lives and become successful in their own right.

What do you want people to understand about those who are different?

I want people first and foremost to look at them and see them as complete. They must be respected, loved and appreciated. We must look at them as equals and not assume we know better than them how things ought to be done. I would like people to give them a listening ear, really hear what they have to say, truly you’ll be amazed!


How do you keep the children of KGVI feeling empowered and confident in themselves?

We encourage and believe in them. We give them the opportunity to do various activities like drama and public speaking. In addition, we put a strong emphasis on how they should present themselves and how they should be groomed.

We even have slogans like- “Given an opportunity, what must we do?!” “We must take the shot!”

Why does KGVI have an inclusive policy?

We are an inclusive school. We have the physically challenged, deaf and non-disabled, with most of our non-disabled being vulnerable learners. Most of them have sad backgrounds and we feel they fit in extremely well here as the ethos of the school is one of respect and acceptance.

For example, I taught a little boy in kindergarten once who went home after his first day of school and asked for a ‘pram’. He didn’t realize his fellow pupils were disabled and in wheelchairs, he just wanted to fit in and be like his friends!

It would certainly be gratifying if the mainstream schools included children with special needs. However, it would need careful consideration and planning. Teachers and heads need to be well equipped to deal with the demands of special education. As children inherently lack prejudice, they can be taught to appreciate everyone from the beginning through inclusive education.

What setbacks have you faced while running the school? 

We have limited resources. A number of parents are struggling to pay school fees (primary is $92 a term and secondary it’s $102.) The demands of a special school are diverse and the failure to pay school fees severely affects the smooth running of the school.

From simple things like detergents to keep the toilets clean, to the specific education materials needed to support our learners, there is a lot that is needed!

Do you feel the government is supportive enough of special education?

To a great extent, the government is supportive. They pay teachers and a huge number of our auxiliary stuff for which we are grateful. I would suggest that they take some time to come here to give themselves the opportunity to be able to identify our other needs and to see how they can best continue to support us.

As citizens, we can also do more to be supportive and inclusive. There are lots to be done to help the school and so we can’t rely on the government alone. Everything from sponsoring a student, to buying school uniforms or even donating food for the pupils will be appreciated.

What do you want every child to leave KGVI believing about themselves?

Our motto is never to give up!  I want them to never give up on themselves; they must believe in themselves and know that they can do anything as long as they don’t give up. We make sure to equip them with various skills so they can earn a living.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the children?

I have learned that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God and that they are gifted in a manner which sometimes blows my mind. I remember once we had a brilliant student, she didn’t have her upper limbs so she used her foot for everything.

One time I walked into a fashion and fabrics class and she was threading a needle with her foot! I really saluted her that day. I was very impressed!


Ultimately what is your vision for KGVI? What do you want its legacy to be?

I would like us to expand to include a tertiary college.  This would not only be a crucial complement to what we already teach but would also provide necessary employment opportunities for many of our students. I would also like to partner with companies and organizations that can engage our students after they are done being educated here.

Name an African woman (past/present) whom you admire. Why?

My provincial education director, Mrs. Kiara. Starting out as a primary school teacher, I really respect how she rose through the ranks. She is my mentor and she has to lead us exceptionally in the province.

I also love Maureen Shana, co-founder of World of Life Fellowship Church. I like her creativity and the way she comes up with unique projects such as Woman Unlimited which is an organization that builds women to be who God intended them to be.

What do you think the world needs more of?

Without a doubt, exceptional female leadership! Women who lead with integrity, excellent morals, and humility.

What is your proudest moment as the head?

My proudest moment so far was when our own Liyana band won an Oscar in 2010 for the best short documentary! It was a sterling performance and a very special moment for me.


How do you balance your two vocations being a pastor and being headmistress of KGVI?

As a leader, I try to lead an integrated life. I don’t have a life as a pastor and another as the head of KGVI. What I do is to play both roles wherever I am. While I am heading KGVI I am doing pastoral work because I deal with people with unique needs and have to help them to the best of my ability.  

On the other side while as a pastor I draw from my leadership experiences at KGVI and apply them in assisting my church. I am grateful that God gives me the grace and wisdom to balance both roles with ease.

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Meet Oxfams Humanitarian Superwomen Making Local Change

While humanitarian work is often portrayed as “Westerners” coming to provide aid, it’s often “local” people who do a big part of the important field work. This is because they understand the context better. 

Here are three young women who are inspiring us with their humanitarian work. While working with Oxfam, they sometimes spend weeks working in remote areas to ensure aid is provided to vulnerable communities and families. 

In this interview, we learn more about Oxfam’s humanitarian superwomen who are working hard on the field to bring impact to their societies. 

Tell us about your job

Umulkhair: I am currently a Food Security Officer working for Oxfam in Somaliland. I love my job because besides delivering food and creating livelihoods to people in need, I get to change the way communities view Muslim Somali women.

Gloria: My first ambition was to become a doctor but I instead became a water and sanitation engineer. As a WASH coordinator for the Burundi Refugee Response Program in Tanzania, my work includes conducting topographical surveys in villages.

I also design and supervise the construction of water supply systems to ensure that people don’t get sick from sanitary issues. Finally, I am a leading advocate for HIV/AIDS and women’s rights in my community.

Aimeline: I joined Oxfam in 2011 and have since been working as a Public Health Engineer assistant in South Kivu, DRC.  I was inspired to join the humanitarian field so that I could save lives and make a difference in people’s lives. For the last 5 years, I’ve made an impact on building springs and waste latrines for communities.

Gloria Kafuria

As a local NGO worker,what makes you special?

Umulkhair: Despite all the challenges the country is facing, my work at Oxfam provides me with a platform to give hope to people in need. We try to show people that both the local and international NGO world is aware of their suffering and are trying the best to provide relief.

Gloria: It feels different and great to show your own people that it’s possible to make a real difference. More than that, I feel that as a Tanzanian and Swahili speaker, I can relate better to the problems for the host communities.

Umulkhair Mohamed

Have you faced any challenges in the humanitarian field?

Umulkhair: One challenge I’ve faced is the pastoralists lack of support and confidence for young women. However, though they often believe women should lead men when they see our achievements, they apologize for their judgment.

Gloria: I also encountered difficulties leading men as a young female engineer. Many times, it felt as though I was trying to prove myself. Luckily, I had support from Oxfam which places gender equality at the center.

Aimeline: Working in sensitive areas has been difficult. One of these difficulties I faced is the fear of the unpredictable. Recently, in my current zone of intervention, the Tanganyika region, there were ethnic conflicts leading to the displacement of nearly 600,000 people. Safety is always a concern.

Aimeline Elukesu

What is it like spending significant time away from home?

Umulkhair: As a young, Somali woman, it was difficult to enter the humanitarian field because we often spend many days away from our families in remote areas. Though my father supported me, other family members were critical of this lifestyle.

Gloria: It has been tough to see all family members together and you are the only one away. But knowing that I need to support our communities with food insecurities and emergencies has helped me persevere.

Aimeline Elukesu

How has this job shaped and inspired you?

Umulkhair: This job built my self-confidence and made me have a positive impact on people’s lives. Dealing with communities who don’t have confidence in young women has also made me more mature.

I also get very inspired by the people I meet on the field. Recently, I met two divorced women who had children but no source of income. After participating in an Oxfam training and receiving a start-up kit, they started their own shop. This helped them send their children to school.

Aimeline: A few victories here and there have truly inspired me to keep going. One of my first victories was when I mastered the operation of the gravity water supply and motor adduction. I had also learned how to build latrines that improved the protection of people against waterborne diseases such as Cholera or Typhoid fever.

Gloria Kafuria

Any advice for young women wanting to work with NGO’s?

Gloria: Working with these organizations starts with getting good grades. However, it’s important to work hard and deliver the best. You should also try and find support or guidance from women in the NGO-sector. Because of the gender imbalance in many African societies, it’s important that we support each other as women.

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