A future burning bright
in Mozambique

Alice's story

When her father and older brother died in mining accidents Alice Mangane was suddenly left head of her household and took on the burden of looking after her five siblings and mother. With VSO supported help she became a successful businesswoman. 

Despite the country's surging economic growth, over half of Mozambique’s population still live below the poverty line. Men are tempted by the opportunity to work in the South African mines. However, it’s a dangerous job with risks like TB, HIV/AIDS or accidental death being commonplace. In that case, their families are suddenly left without a regular income and face utter desperation.

Alice’s family were homeless and in extreme poverty when her miner father and brother died. Despite being the youngest sibling, she took on the burden of supporting everyone. Things started changing after AMIMO - a project supporting migrant miners and their families – offered her an income-generation workshop. Now a successful businesswoman, Alice is putting herself through university and all her dependents in school. 


When Alice’s father passed away eight years ago, life changed for her family almost overnight. They were living in South Africa whilst he was working as a miner. The job was highly dangerous, and he died in hospital six months after an accident at work. With no breadwinner, the family were forced to return to Mozambique with only the possessions they could carry. Tragedy struck again when her elder brother, another miner, died of tuberculosis leaving his children without a father. 

She says. "We had some really hard times. We would have to ask neighbours for work to get enough money to send the children to school. The hardest moment was after we first returned. We had nothing and had to sleep under the trees." 

A burning business

Despite being the youngest sibling, Alice took on the responsibility to provide for everyone by selling tomatoes, onions and cabbages for a meagre 200 meticals a day [£3.80]. It wasn’t enough to support her two children, mother, four older siblings including a disabled brother, along with several nieces and nephews. When AMIMO, the VSO-supported organisation supporting migrant miners and their family, started running income-generating activity workshops she jumped at the opportunity. The programme is called Phoning Out Poverty and Aids, and teaches mining widows an array of sessions in investment, business management and basic money skills. 

She says, “It helped me a lot. It motivated women like me to move on and think of something bigger. It taught us how to run a business and manage our daily activities. I believed that I could be successful.”

Inspired, Alice researched other business opportunities and invested in charcoal because she saw the strong returns it could bring. Her new venture paid off.

I am very proud of myself especially when I look at my life compared to what it was. Now if I see something I just go for it. My business has given me some sort of power to do the things I want to do.

A degree in success

Alice's profits increased to 5,000 meticals a week [£96]. Her clients come from all over the area, and her shop has transformed their life. Now, all the children she looks after can go to school and she also has built a house to accommodate everyone. Most impressively, Alice has decided to fund her own university education. Every day she leaves her home in Moamba and heads to night classes in Education Management at the university near Maputo, Mozambique’s capital.

She says, "I am very proud of myself especially when I look at my life compared to what it was. Now if I see something I just go for it. My business has given me some sort of power to do the things I want to do."

Help get more Women in Power

Please ask your MP to write to Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening MP, asking her to ensure that the UK government strongly pushes for the Sustainable Development Goals to include a target on women’s participation and influence in public life, as part of a robust gender goal. Write to your MP.

The above article first published on vso.org.uk in 2015.