British International Investment
8 March 2017

How a company we’re invested in supports gender equality

On International Women’s Day 2017, watch this short film to see how a Tanzanian business we invest in supports gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

Empowering women benefits everyone. When a woman works, she invests 90 per cent of her income back into her family, compared to 35 per cent for men. And its importance to sustainable development is reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

Quality jobs are needed in developing countries to turn this vision into a reality. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, only around 20 per cent of working women have formal jobs, which pay a wage or salary – while more than 35 per cent of working men are employed in the formal sector. Women also earn, on average, two-thirds less than their male colleagues.

How Chemi & Cotex supports women’s empowerment

Chemi & Cotex, is a Tanzanian company we invest in that manufactures Whitedent – the country’s leading brand of toothpaste. The business highly values a balanced workforce highly, underlined by the fact half its employees are women.

When discussing the company’s approach to employment, Suresh Sivaraman, the Country Sales Manager, said: “Jobs have to be jobs. It can’t be jobs for women or jobs for men – it can’t be gender biased.”

The company believes in giving people the opportunity to build their careers. All of the women who head up its sales branches joined the company in more junior roles and were able to develop their skills within the business. The latest addition to the management team is a young woman who joined the business four years ago and is now the head of a sales branch.

Stellah’s story

Stellah Obongo developed her career with Whitedent. She began working for the company as a Merchandising Assistant 13 years ago and is now a Branch Manager in the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam.

Stellah has been able to juggle the demands of a career with being a single mother, and the security of having a job has meant she has been able to pay her son’s school fees. She takes great pride in the way she has risen through the ranks at Whitedent. She said: “I’m proud of my job. Business is in my blood; it is my passion.”

And, according to Suresh, she is a great inspiration to women in Tanzania: “Her career has shown this organisation believes in enabling people, coaching them and giving them progression‚Ķ We need to create more Stellahs.”

How we’re invested in Chemi & Cotex

To address the lack of commercial capital available for businesses in East Africa, in 2012, we invested US$15m in a fund set up by Catalyst Principal Partners. The fund provides much needed investment to help businesses in the region to grow.

Catalyst is invested in Chemi & Cotex. When we invest, we offer more than money to help a business flourish. Our Environment and Social team is working with Catalyst to ensure the Chemi & Cotex factory in Dar es Salaam meets the highest standards of health and safety.

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