African Women

The women we work with achieve extraordinary things. Their stories of overcoming adversity are inspiring, and their commitment in the face of challenges is moving.

These are their stories


Ruwayda –or Mama Maryam as most people know her— manages Zanzibar’s House of Hope. Here she shares her journey raising a daughter with hydrocephalus.

Born and raised on the island, Mama Maryam stresses the project’s role in aiding parents, highlighting its impact on families dealing with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. She also reflects on her challenges as a working mother and the pivotal role of women in Zanzibar. 

Committed to NED’s work, hers is a story of unwavering love and determination.


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Mama Tatu

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Mama Maryam’s Tale: Balancing Love, Work, and Community Support

For Maryam

My name is Ruwayda, but most people call me Mama Maryam. I am proud to be the Manager of the House of Hope in Zanzibar since early 2023. I was born and raised on this beautiful island. As a mother, I understand the challenges of caring for a child with special needs. My daughter, Maryam, who is now 2 years and 7 months old, has a severe form of hydrocephalus.

Having Maryam has completely changed my life. My priorities have shifted, and I have gained an immeasurable amount of patience and love that I never dreamed I could give. My daughter has taught me to have hope. That’s why I feel privileged to be part of a team that provides much needed support to parents in need.

I joined this project because it allows us to bring joy to parents and children. It is a great feeling to be a helping hand. Raising and living with a child with special needs requires courage and patience. I hope we continue to help others, even through small acts of kindness.

At House of Hope, we start each day by getting to know the parents who are staying with us and ensuring our staff provides them with everything they need. While every day is important, some days are exceptional. For example, if a child’s condition suddenly changes and a mother is panicked and unsure of what to do, our team work together to provide immediate support and comfort. We are trained to handle these situations, even though we do not have a nurse on staff.

At House of Hope, we priotize the safety and well-being of our guests. Our coordinated programs provide comfort and hope to many parents and children living with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (SBH). With your support, we can expand our reach and impact even more lives in the future. With enough funding, we can organise additional outreach programs in Pemba and Unguja to raise public awareness and provide CIC training.
As a mother of a child with special needs, I feel the challenges of balancing work and personal life. It can be demanding and lead to sudden interruptions in my work schedule. However, I have learnt from the best mentor I have ever had: my mother.
As a single mother, she raised six children with strength, hard work, and ambition. She is a woman who would move mountains for us.

In Zanzibar, women play a central role in the family, despite being considered somewhat inferior to men. They are instrumental in bringing up the family. Most of the parents raising children with SPH are women. Unfortunately, many of these women end up abandoned by their partners. Most of these women come from very poor families and need both financial and emotional support.

Working with NED is a dream come true for me as I have always wanted to contribute to the Zanzibar community. NED plays a crucial role in saving the lives of Zanzibari people who cannot afford the cost of surgery. Some have lost hope. But with continued support, we can make a lasting difference to their lives.

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