The chronic shortage of potable water at a local Igusi Clinic in Zimbabwe so touched Lumbie Mlambo that she felt the situation warranted urgent intervention. And in 2016, she founded JB Dondolo, a social enterprise entity with the aim of removing a range of obstacles that make it difficult for women and girls to access clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Mlambo is a graduate from Indiana University South Bend and Texas Woman’s University.
Going for weeks without water
During one chance visit, she was surprised when the staff asked her for clean water. As she enquired she was told that sometimes the staff including patients can go without water for weeks or even months. It was an incredible and a scary thought as she could not imagine women and girls going for weeks on end without accessing this vital natural resource. Most countries including in Africa are experiencing severe droughts as a direct outcome of the climate change, making water a scarce commodity and thereby inaccessible to ordinary communities.
The formation of JB Dondolo was a way in which Mlambo felt she could concretely help address the situation and positively impact the lives of ordinary women and girls. Not only does her company focus on women and girls to access water but it also targets under-served and impoverished communities. The idea is to assist these vulnerable groups to overcome poverty, access economic opportunities and development and promote gender equity. In most communities, girls are forced to walk long kilometres to collect water and this impact on their education.
To reach more communities, Mlambo says they have teamed up with science and technology institutions to adopt a scientific approach in providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene to millions of people in rural communities. “To ensure inclusion, we’re committed to empowering women and girls to get them out of the cycle of poverty, create possibilities for economic growth, and advance gender parity.
We want to boost wellness, lower infant mortality, and offer women and girls the time they missed going on long water-collection journeys. In our vision of the future, digitization is pivotal to ensure access to essential natural resources will not be a barrier to attaining a better and more fair life,” says Mlambo.
Creating employment opportunities
To date JB Dondolo has employed 10 people with diverse backgrounds and experience in technology, private industry, public sector, academia, and non-profits. They are all passionate about improving and changing the living conditions which disadvantages women and girls particularly in poor communities. Mlambo claims her company is customer-centric, passion-driven, results-driven, and “have a ‘Think-Big’ innovative mindset which builds upon the company’s mission and vision”.
Following parents’ farming footsteps
She says she owes her inclination to farming to her parents who were small scale farmers in rural Matabeleland in Zimbabwe. “Growing up under their guidance I sort of picked up some of those habits and eventually became a social entrepreneur while I was employed fulltime at a financial institution. I’m glad I got to witness entrepreneurship through my parents at an early age… The beauty of my company’s name is that it serves as a constant reminder why I started it in the first place, especially when the going gets tough. I always go back to the drawing board and say, “Why did I start JB Dondolo? What is the purpose? Am I serving my mission and vision?” she says.
Mlambo has received a number of accolades for her initiatives for its focus on gender equality and promotion of access to clean water. She is the Global Goals Ambassador, and in 2019 she received the UN Global Leadership Award for her work with JB Dondolo on Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG #6). She says she received training and mentorship from two global business icons in Alibaba and Tony Elumelu Foundation and ensures that she shares the wisdom she gained from interacting with these business experts with other budding entrepreneurs in the sector.