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Fostering sustainable livelihoods for displaced persons in Western Uganda to improve self-esteem, confidence and financial security

Revolutionizing the field of education to improve healthcare, economic empowerment and community development for women and youth in Kanungu.

Photo of Susan Stasi
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Currently, thousands of refugees are fleeing from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) into the neighboring country of Uganda. They represent a portion of the millions of Congolese who have been displaced due to political instability and violence. Faced with life or death decisions, they must run away from home in search of sanctuary, which can be found just to the east in Uganda. The government of Uganda is especially sympathetic to the refugee cause due to its own history of tyranny that left almost 2 million displaced. Their Prime Minister explains his support by saying, “Today it is them, tomorrow, it could be any one of us”. While the country is setting a worldwide example with its welcoming policies, their humanitarianism comes at a cost. Conditions in communities that support refugees are grim. The district of Kanungu and other western regions lack resources, food, water and sanitation due to cuts in international donor support. The main problems we are addressing are the shortages in capacity and resources in these districts due to resettlement. We want asylum seekers to feel lifted up by their new communities. The government of Uganda supports the prosperity of refugees and so do we. Utilizing groundbreaking technology made through our partnerships with Santa Clara & Texas A&M Universities, Rose Academies has developed educational programs for Android tablet devices that work well in low-resource settings. Our apps address gaps in knowledge about sexual development, disease prevention and enterprise development. This easily accessible technology makes learning more interactive and engaging. We offer sustainable solutions by empowering the impoverished and oppressed with knowledge. We are educators because knowledge is the means to build bridges for a better tomorrow.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

We will work in the Kanungu district in Western Uganda. Uganda is home to more refugees than any other country in Africa thanks to its open door policy & commitment to protecting asylum seekers. Thousands are crossing the shared border between the DRC and Kanungu, overwhelming the district with need. Their refugee-hosting model is strained and needs assistance. The newly settled communities in Kanungu deserve livelihood, education and empowerment that gives them security & hope for the future.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

When the Congolese refugees cross the border into Uganda, their journey is only just beginning. The integration between newly settled Congolese and the current Ugandan residents must encourage the displaced to take a seat at the table. Our workshops and programs will empower young people from all backgrounds to work together on building character, skills and belief in their potential. We are all stronger when we work together as neighbors who share common values and ambitions.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Because menstruation is a major factor that prevents girls from being in school, we place a heavy focus on sexual development education to remove those barriers. Our reusable pad making classes teach sewing skills and provide a sustainable solution to monthly health management. And our Hedhi Help app helps students visualize the process of menstruation and reproductive health in a simple and accessible format. We teach boys and girls together to reduce the taboo & shame associated with feminine health. We want to inspire the next generation to want to learn. The vocational skills we are teaching can be carried with them wherever they go. By providing tangible and practical knowledge, we teach girls that they have more to offer than they have been led to believe. They can be mothers, but they can also be business owners or local leaders. When they feel empowered to see their own strength, they become changemakers. And that change breeds a cycle of hope for generations to come.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

People on the move deserve stability in as many aspects of life as possible. Rose Academies wants to develop community centers for teaching and togetherness to help refugees in Kanungu feel like they belong. Our vision for Kanungu, and eventually all of Uganda, is to see a harmony among refugees and natives. Our ideal measurable outcome would be the number of newly inspired educators in our villages of focus. We want to reach women and girls who will keep the momentum going like a domino effect that radiates knowledge from village to village. Change can also be measured in an increased number of women who earn their own income. We want women to go from homemakers to business owners. We want asylum seekers to learn knowledge and skills that they keep with them for the rest of their lives to inspire self-sufficiency. Rose Academies understands that we will know we have been successful once we are no longer needed.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

Our inspiration came from observing the power of teaching with tablets to instill students with a passion for learning. After several visits to Africa, we can see why students drop out of school. Their teaching methods are outdated and they aren’t excited to learn. The villagers don’t need newly built schools; they need a revitalized approach to education. When we brought tech for testing in Uganda last year, we realized tablets were the answer we had been looking for. The interactive graphics make learning fun & accessible. Instead of their traditional rote chalkboard learning, we show them in a format that allows them to engage with content and follow their curiosity. Even the teachers had questions; they themselves did not know all the information. At the end of the Hedhi Help lesson, we asked the kids to reflect. One girl stood up and said, “I learned that change is normal”. We can’t help but agree, and we will work hard to continue helping students come to that same conclusion.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Uganda, like much of Africa, follows a patriarchal structure where the man is the head of the household. Many families rely heavily on agriculture for food production and income. But only 27% of women own agricultural land, and just 4% of women access credit services from formal lenders. Due to the cultural traditions embedded in families, girls are viewed as homemakers who should help with domestic tasks. This results in a shocking 71% of girls who never transition to secondary school. Most kids have never had a formal education about sexual development, so it’s a lot of information to take in. Pictured above are some boys who were shocked when they finally learned about menstruation. Of the refugee population in Uganda, 61% are children below 18 years who require education services. There is a high demand for high quality education in these communities. Our educational programs on feminine health and vocational skills will be transformative for women and girls in rural areas.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

To set the villagers in Kanungu up for success, we have to be flexible and draw upon their strengths rather than going in with a strict agenda. We have designed our programs to fit in line with what will work best for their unique needs. In our experience, Ugandans are very resilient. They face challenges like a lack of electricity, food and water on a daily basis, yet they remain optimistic. Their enthusiasm to learn and improve their community is their most important asset. Rose not only provides educational materials and implements trainings, but we involve the community members every step of the way. Our programs are sustainable as we encourage community participation so that the community will continue to grow and develop long after we are gone. Studies indicate that programs initiated without community involvement will not succeed. We are educators. We empower the oppressed with knowledge so that communities will thrive and children will live.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Our partners have been instrumental to our success. Rose is proud to work with Uganda’s Ministry of Education in the implementation of our programs. We also have the United Nations on our side, who granted us Consultative Status as a stamp of approval on our efforts to achieve global goals. Our proximity to Santa Clara University’s Frugal Engineering Lab has led to innovations like our microfinance & sexual development teaching apps that are easy to use in workshops without internet access. We partner with Texas A&M University’s School of Public Health to research disease prevention and risk factors for the high prevalence of deafness and blindness in the Sub-Sahara. We are also partnering with the Girl Power Foundation in Uganda for a collaborative effort to train women and youth on feminine health. Rose Academies draws on domestic and international partnerships to maintain our trajectory of success in empowering with knowledge.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)

Group or Organization Name

Rose Academies

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Rose Academies is a nonprofit based in Santa Clara, CA. We work in rural Africa to teach about gender empowerment and community development. Our hands-on training model is revolutionizing the way we teach about reproductive health and economic enterprise. We are educators dedicated to sharing knowledge about healthcare and economic enterprise to the world’s most disadvantaged individuals. We collaborate with universities & key stakeholders to bring bright minds together in creating even brighter solutions. At Rose Academies, we meet people where they are. We know our model works because we have taught over 5,000 rural women and youth about reproductive health. We have opened 4 vocational centers to give over 1,000 villagers income generating skills. Working in Africa has shown us the inherent potential in vulnerable populations that is worth investing in. Our years of working experience have prepared us to make lasting changes within the refugee communities in Kanungu.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Santa Clara, California


Join the conversation:

Photo of Zulfiqar Deo

Susan Stasi Thanks for posting the project. I really like your approach. It is effective use of tech and takes into account its distributed nature. I also like the emphasis is away from fixed infrastructure with little regard to content they can access. Hope the project does well.

Photo of Susan Stasi

Hi Zulfiqar,

Thank you for your response. We are proud of our approach because we value sustainable solutions. And we want to make sure that the educational tools are accessible in rural village conditions. Thanks so much for your kind words about our project! If you would like to get involved, here is our website for more information on how to support Rose Academies:

Rose Academies

Photo of Zulfiqar Deo

Susan Stasi Thanks for the invite to stay in touch. I have sent over a LinkedIn invite - be great to network there. Personally, I feel this approach can be easily scaled and look forward to seeing you do well with it.

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