Big firms spurred to improve as Vodafone helps women living in poverty in Africa

By Vicki Owen, Financial Mail On Sunday


Bright future: Jane Riu Rugalabamu and Katia Geurts

Bright future: Jane Riu Rugalabamu and Katia Geurts

Women living in poverty in Africa are reaping the benefits of projects backed by a mobile phone giant amid a boom in corporate social responsibility initiatives.

The Mabinti centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, takes on groups of 18 women who have had corrective surgery at a local hospital for the condition of obstetric fistula, which is a common complication of a long childbirth in poor areas.

Run by Katia Geurts, it educates them about vital health issues including HIV and it also teaches practical skills to enable them to make a living.

Jane Riu Rugalabamu, 34, is one of those who have been taught how to make handicrafts such as table cloths and Christmas decorations.

She said the surgery and lessons had transformed her life – she is no longer incontinent and now she can sell at craft fairs.

Support for the fistula hospital and Mabinti comes as controversies such as Starbucks’ tax avoidance raise the profile of companies’ efforts to improve their public standing.

The Vodafone Foundation, a charitable trust, is focused on eradicating fistula by hitting a target of treating 3,000 new fistula cases a year in Tanzania and working on prevention.

With £9.3 million funding from the Foundation and its partners, the hospital expects to become Africa’s biggest fistula centre. Andrew Dunnett,  chief executive of the Foundation, said it receives 12,000 requests  a year for funding.

‘We exist for a public benefit, not for shareholders,’ he said.  ‘If I think of shareholders’ interests, I am in breach of charity law.

‘I am a strong advocate of Foundations because they publish audited accounts and people can challenge the trustees  and how they invest.’

Meanwhile Business in the Community, a charity promoting responsible commercial practice, is planning on sending 600 managers to work in more than 200 deprived communities in England. The Big Lottery Fund has awarded up to £4.8 million for the scheme.


The comments below have not been moderated.

Vodafone have paid massive amounts of tax in the UK over the past 20 years and are now taking advantage of a tax loophole that is legal and needs to be dealt with by the HMRC. They are a massive contributor to the UK economy employing over 30000 people, contributing 1 in every 8 pounds to most pension pots in the uk through their share performance, bailing out C&W; and safeguarding another 8000 uk jobs, paying £6bn for the 3G spectrum, another rumoured £4bn for 4g ( these are taxes in themselves) and continuing to operate uk call centres to name a few. Lazy people don't appreciate this. Blame HMRC for the loophole and let's try to give credit just a little to a business that is a major uk success story.

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Very nice, if vodafone actually paid the correct level of corporation tax in the UK maybe we wouldn't have to lose so many nurses and close hospital wards.

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