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Girls' Ombudswoman in every School

Hire, train, & place a female ombudswoman in every refugee camp school, tasked with enrolling & protecting girls.

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What problem does your innovation solve?

Girls' lack of access to school and/or family permission to attend school. Girls' dropout rates due to early marriage, lack of sanitary supplies, or burden of household tasks.

Explain your innovation.

Not yet implemented; just an idea borne from being w displaced persons and refugees in many E.Africa settings, and operating a nonprofit since 2008 that promotes girls' educ in SSudan and offers scholarships to young girls to high sch and higher educ. Girls would benefit from a local ADVOCATE enrolling them in sch, educating their parents, training cmty vols, resolving probs that arise, etc.

Who benefits?

Girls benefit, of course! Schooling develops girls' talents, delays early marriage, keeps girls healthier, sets the foundation for future employment, results in smaller and healthier families, and eventually lifts their own families up from poverty. Local communities benefit in the long run.

How is your innovation unique?

Mercy Beyond Borders has been supporting the only all-girl primary sch in South Sudan since 2008; and giving scholarships to its graduates (and others) all the way through higher educ, airing radio programs that promote girls' educ, etc. When war disrupts schooling and families move to camps, the girls can get left out. An OMBUDSWOMAN in each refugee camp sch could address that problem in many creative ways.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

I foresee 1 Ombudswoman per primary school, paid by UNICEF or other major funder. Each ombudswoman would in turn train other local refugee women to be volunteer Ambassadors in each camp block, going hut to hut to talk w parents and promote enrollment. At each sch, the Ombudswoman will "shepherd" the girls, encouraging them, counseling them, addressing health or hygiene probs -- and linking other NGOs with the girls for ldrshp training, scholarships, sports or drama or other clubs, career exploration, whatever. Yes, it's an investment but the longterm payoffs would be tremendous.

Tell us more about you.

I'm Sister Marilyn Lacey, MSW, founder and Exec Dir of the nonprofit, currently working with women and girls in South Sudan (and refugee camps in Uganda) and in Haiti. We have E.African and Haitian team members working in-country. We'd love to collaborate with other grps on an Ombudswoman project for girls' education.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

South Sudanese refugee Camps in the Adjumani region of northern Uganda.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Let's pilot this project in the Uluah I and II and Boroli Refugee Camps in Adjumani region, northern Uganda. Then evaluate, refine and expand to the larger camps in the same region. there are one million refugees in the area, so plenty of work to do in a relatively confined area. The process can be replicated among internally displaced populations inside S.Sudan, or other major refugee camps such as Kakuma, Kenya, or Dadaab in Kenya.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

MBB has had local staff working since 2009 in E.Equatoria, S.Sudan. We have placed students on scholarship in 5 States of S.Sudan, w schools, radio stations and local govt officials. We host leadership trainings for young women in S.Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. We've set up an alumnae network for our university grads (all female). We have 6 micro-ent groups of women refugees in Uluah and Boroli camps since 2016. Our support is private. We're exploring collaboration w Mothering Across Continents.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

I am a former teacher, also with a Master's in social work, who has been involved fulltime w refugees and migrants since 1981 in camps overseas, in domestic US resettlement, and since 2008 with Mercy Beyond Borders, the international NGO I founded. We focus on girls' education, women's economic development and advocacy for women's rights.

Innovation Maturity

  • Early Stage Innovation: I am exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

Mercy Beyond Borders is registered as a nonprofit in the US (Calif) and in Uganda. The main office is in Santa Clara, CA.


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Photo of Ovonyoli Wanjiku

I love this. Its very practical because communities can only depend on the individuals within for their solutions.

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