s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 10 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

Petaluman founded ‘Kurandza’ to help African women succeed

X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

Though Mozambique is thousands of miles away from Petaluma, Elisabetta Colabianchi found a way to create a thriving bond with women in the African community that remains strong despite the distance.

The 29-year-old Petaluman has traveled the globe, but found herself drawn to the southeast African country where she was stationed for three years with the Peace Corps. In the small village of Guijá, she served as a community health volunteer working with HIV-positive pregnant women to educate them about how to prevent the transmission of the virus to their children and encourage them to keep on track with treatments.

Despite their desperate need for care, she found that many women didn’t return to the hospital on a regular basis because they couldn’t afford transportation. HIV and AIDS pose a major public health concern to the country, with an estimated 1.5 million of the more than 25.83 million population living with HIV, according to 2014 data from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS.

Working with Percina Miocha, a 27-year-old Mozambique native and community activist who Colabianchi kindled a friendship with, she tried to scheme up a sustainable way to help the women, most of whom also had no education or financial independence.

Colabianchi, who spent parts of her childhood in Petaluma before studying biology, language and peace and justice studies at the University of California, San Diego and global affairs at New York University and working with various nonprofits, said she always valued giving back, and found herself compelled to empower the women she’d grown to know personally.

“I’ve always liked volunteering and I’ve always felt good about doing it,” Colabianchi said. “When I was in the Peace Corps, I loved it. I felt like it was a good fit. Before, I wanted to work for the United Nations and change the world, but then I thought ‘what if I focus on one group or village and really help them?’”

They decided to create a sewing collective, and after interviewing community members and seeking grant funding, they selected a dozen dedicated women to participate in the collective, housed in a workshop they built from sticks and mud. The effort gave the women a chance to generate an income by selling goods locally while learning about marketing, managing finances and health literacy.

After laying the groundwork, such as training and securing donations of bicycles for the women to get to work, Colabianchi launched “Kurandza,” a social enterprise with an online marketplace to showcase the women’s creations, after returning to Petaluma in 2014. Speaking in her native language with Colabianchi translating, Miocha said that “kurandza” which means “to love” in Changana, the local language, encompasses the essence of the mission.

“The organization is intended to encompass a harmony and union and love, and we needed to show these values,” Miocha said during her inaugural visit to the U.S., an effort funded through an online campaign to give her an opportunity to learn English and promote the organization by sharing her story and organizing trunk shows while traveling across the country.

Kurandza showcases accessories made from “capulana” fabric, a cloth closely woven into Mozambique’s culture, with the proceeds channeled into paying the women a sustainable salary. Through the business, the women have not only been able to get to the hospital for routine treatment, but have also earned enough to improve their homes and send their children to school, Colabianchi said.

She’s now in the process of filing for nonprofit status for the organization, which she says has seen increasing success.

Miocha, who acts as the program director in Mozambique, smiled broadly as she said her new income has allowed her to buy her 2-year-old daughter diapers and other necessities, and will pave the way for her to go to preschool. Miocha, who was the first girl in her village to gradate high school, also hopes that she can use her paychecks to help her study accounting or medicine at a university.

In upcoming months, Colabianchi and Miocha hope to fundraise to expand the program to encompass high school scholarships, health education, and support more entrepreneurship classes for women, who can become leaders through sharing their skills. The organization has also funded the creation of a convenience store in the community, with hopes to give women the tools to open their own small businesses to generate additional funds to channel back into the community.

Though getting the enterprise off the ground has been challenging, Colabianchi said it’s worth it to see the positive impact on the lives of the women involved.

“In the U.S., we’re pretty ambitious about the future — we look to the future and have goals,” Colabianchi said “Sometimes it’s hard for those women day to day … they can’t really dream of wanting to do things. With this organization, they can dream big.”

For more information about how to make a donation to benefit educational, health and vocational skills programs, to find ways to get involved or to view the marketplace, visit www.kurandza.com.

(Contact Hannah Beausang at hannah.beausang@arguscourier.com. On Twitter @hannahbeausang.)