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Transition Home Program for young women in need to achieve their goal of independent living: from survival mode to prosperity

We provide a home and basic needs to young women who don’t have safe places to stay to successfully transition into independent adulthood.

Photo of Taru Niskanen
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

While there are many foster homes and safe places for orphans or abused children to go to in South Africa, these structures are not available for the many young women in need. Before the co-founder of Her Voice started the organization she worked with teenage girls in a group home in Stellenbosch, SA. She saw them ‘transitioned out’ within a few months of finishing high school, but with very little practical support or preparation to be out on their own. Two falling pregnant within 6 months of living ‘on their own’, because they ended up staying with boyfriends. In response to this, the support group of young mothers began in biweekly workshops, calling themselves Her Voice, representing the regaining of a woman’s confidence after a hard fall. The workshops were put in place because the concept of the transition home would take a lot more time and resources, but the ladies needed support right then. What does a young woman do, just out of high school with no family or safe place to stay? A roof over their heads and food in their stomach become the main need, leaving them in survival mode without any capacity to think forward about their futures. By taking these girls out of survival mode we help them become financially stable and self-sufficient to prosper in any ways they dream to. In sum, we offer small, highly individualized, young adult program for independent adulthood. Our proposed project includes building three houses, providing a home to six girls at a time. Our housing solution is a low cost, sustainable, rapidly deployable and dignified house. All building components are carefully chosen for their performance and efficiency and can be easily customized with local interior and exterior finishes. The estimated budget for building the homes and running the transition home program for 2,5 years is $250k: - site preparation work $3k (2 months) - production and assembly of the 3 homes $200k (4 months) - running the program $47k (30 months)

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The direct beneficiaries are six to 10 women in need for ages 18-25 from low-income, challenging backgrounds in Kayamandi and the greater Stellenbosch area in South Africa. These girls are either orphan or do not have a safe home to stay in due to difficult family situations. They are not yet ready to sustain themselves without support and mentoring. The project taps into their potential, supporting them to accomplish their studies or work trajectory of their choice.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

The transition home project is based on the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all solution but that individual goals and aspirations of the participating girls need to be taken into consideration. The program offers on-going mentoring in an organized environment to encourage independent living skills and to build self-esteem. Also, financial management is one of the important life skills learned. For example, while sponsors provide the basic living costs, the girls are required to contribute a small percentage of their income toward rent, groceries and savings. Providing day-to-day support in the Transition Homes and giving the young women further exposure to the opportunities available (education/work) will be a bridge for them to cross out of their challenging circumstances and become a part of that bigger picture that initially seemed so far away.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Her Voice, a public benefit organization, is a group of mothers from Kayamandi & the greater Stellenbosch area gathering to support one another in all areas of life: Stichting AFS is a design practice based in The Netherlands, with the mission to enhance the built environment of disadvantaged communities. We are currently registered as a foundation but in a transition to become a for-profit Social Enterprise:

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.
  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Kayamandi literally means “nice home” in the Xhosa language, which is one of the official local languages of South Africa. Contradictorily, a nice home is but a dream to many young girls in Kayamandi and the broader Stellenbosch area. Inspired by personal experience of working with teenage girls in a group home, Her Voice co-founder saw the urgent need for a transition program in Kayamandi.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Whilst the Apartheid era in South Africa ended politically in the early 1990’s, the resulting spatial segregation of communities unfortunately is a continuous challenge. The geographical (both natural and man-made) barriers are still making it difficult for people to access decent employment and housing opportunities, which has exasperated the informal settlement dilemma faced by most municipalities within South Africa. By taking the young women in need out of survival mode and providing their basic needs we help them become financially stable and self-sufficient to prosper in whatever ways they dream to. The houses used for this proposed project are from innovative materials and have sustainable features such as solar panels, rainwater harvesting and biogas toilets.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Two women from the Her Voice team have been committed to this project for about 2 years now, walking a road with the ladies. Her Voice is deeply rooted in their local community, with a group of local mothers who support one another in all areas of life, including attending regular workshops to earn points to buy tangible items for themselves and their children to relieve the stress of the day to day so they can focus on their futures. At the same time, there are other members of the community who are able take the sponsoring role. Stichting AFS consist of 5 individuals who are committed to human-centered design as defined by the user rather than a solution imposed by the producer. This process includes ongoing dialogue with the community and other stakeholders to get real-time feedback that can be addressed quickly and incorporated in the design as appropriate.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

In contrast to young people in rural areas, those of the Kayamandi community have an advantage of growing up in a developed city, Stellenbosch, with an university and work opportunities. Many have the drive and the work ethic to succeed but are hindered by personal family circumstances around finances, difficult or violent relationships, pregnancy, lack of support, or simply an inability to access the resources available due to a lack of knowledge.

Geographic Focus

Kayamandi informal settlement in Stellenbosch, in South Africa.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

36 months as follows: 2 months - site preparation work 4 months - production, transportation and assembly of the houses 30 months - operating the transition home programme Please see attached timeline for more details

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dima Boulad

Hello Taru Niskanen ! Congrats on submitting your idea to the challenge. I would be interested to hear more (maybe showing it visually through a timeline?) on the lifecycle of one woman entering the program, and the different stages she has to go through. Is there a way she will gain skills, and maybe "graduate" after a year and half? What is the experience she will go through, and how will you measure success at the end of the cycle?
How can the women be actors and co-designers of the program, rather than only being receivers?
It would be interesting to also walk us through different personas that will be considered for the project, and what might be their hopes and fears about the future. This can perhaps inform your program. Hope this helps at this stage!

Photo of Taru Niskanen

Thank you for your comment! We've now attached a user experience map to show one example, a story of one girl who participated in our pilot program (late 2016 - early 2018). I hope this map helps to understand the process better. One important thing to keep in mind is that the story of each participating girl will be different, since we indeed co-design the program based on individual dreams and life circumstances.

Another important thing is that the Transition Home program is an aspect of a bigger project, which includes participation in other activities of Her Voice and being part of the bigger group of the women of Her Voice. The Transition Home program does not simply end when a girl moves out but she will have built a strong supportive network of 'family' and friends.

To provide more details, we have also attached a 'Transition home requirements' document that was developed for the pilot.

Photo of Taru Niskanen

In regard to measuring success:

With the process of creating the individual contracts the ladies are required to define 6 goals and deadlines that are revisited once a term. The achievement of these goals, along with their followthrough on their financial commitments and what they agree to through the contract is how we measure their growth and achievement as they
are going through the program.

The final ‘success’ is for the young lady to be moving out of our home into her own place, completely self-sufficient financially, knowing what her goals and dreams are.

Photo of Luz Gallo

Hey Taru,
I agree with Dima. I would love to hear how would it be the experience of this women while living in this space. There are some programs in Asia that are meant to help girls scape from abusive families or unwanted mariages through an elaborate line of action and support actors. Have you consider yours?

Photo of Taru Niskanen

Hello Luz, thanks for your comment as well! I believe I've provided the answer already in my reply to Dima. Indeed, the activities of Her Voice, including the Transition Home program, is about building a strong supportive network of 'family' and friends.