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Economically Empowering Refugee Girls and Women in Nairobi, Kenya [Updated: 9/29]

This project will provide economic empowerment and case management support to refugee women living in Nairobi, Kenya.

Photo of Jessica Brown

Written by

EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Our proposed idea will employ our expertise and knowledge to expand our programs to financially empower refugee women in Nairobi and to provide for their basic needs. The project will provide refugee women with economic support and stability through loans, financial literacy and vocational training, as well as with case management services to ensure their basic needs are met.
Specifically, this project aims to provide:
• Economic Empowerment– Participants will be provided with financial skills trainings, including savings, budgeting, and business management skills; vocational training based on their interests, including tailoring, hair dressing, and computer literacy; and microloans and repayable grants combined with support to initiate and run their own businesses.
• Case Management– To ensure the women are able to realize their potential and are empowered to earn an income, their basic needs must be made a priority. We will link participants to medical and psychosocial care, provide each with food, material, and monetary support. Caring for basic needs will reduce anxiety and depression, ensuring individuals have the ability to maximize their financial and vocational skills.

WHO BENEFITS?

The targeted beneficiaries are the most vulnerable refugee women in Nairobi. To qualify, the individual must be a SGBV survivor, a single elderly refugee woman raising young children, a single young refugee mother who has been through violence and trauma, or a young refugee woman turning 18 with no family. The project will work within our existing Women's Ambassador Groups that were established by Heshima Kenya in 2011 and includes nearly 200 women from the refugee community in Nairobi.

PROTOTYPE

In 2014, we received a 6-month grant from UN Women to economically empower refugee women in Nairobi to reduce their exposure to violence and abuse. Their entrepreneurial successes would then empower them to proactively participate in the general economic improvement of their communities.
This project supported 62 refugee women and girls with seed grants and financial literacy training to enable them to engage in business activities that would both boost their income and reduce their vulnerabilities and risk for gender based violence. Some participants had reported the need to rely on survival sex work in the past; this project allowed them to earn an income through their businesses and quit the sex work industry.
Beneficiaries developed business proposals, enacted business plans, and eventually expanded and diversified their successful ventures. We worked with these women at every step, providing additional in-depth training as needed, follow-up support and advice, and case management support to assist with personal, medical, and social roadblocks to success. Businesses reflected the individual needs and interests of the women; they invested in the sale and supply of clothing, food stuffs, jewelry, perfumes, etc.
Participants reported a 30% increase in income, leading to increased self-confidence, the ability to provide for their families, stronger negotiation skills, and decreased violence in homes.
Given the success of this pilot, we wish to expand the project.

FEEDBACK

Beneficiaries who participated in the pilot/prototype reported feeling empowered to engage in entrepreneurship activities and are now contributing positively to their households and communities. Participants reported that they have seen their life change from being dependent on others to becoming the breadwinners of their families. Many noted that they can now meet their daily expenses easily, including buying food, paying house rent, school expenditures, medical bills, etc. They would have struggled to pay for these expenses if they had not received the grants from Heshima Kenya. One participant said, “I was sick for several days and I was able to pay for medicine with profits of my hard work. My business continues to grow as I save more in chamas (savings groups).” Beneficiaries reported they no longer engaged in survival sex work and had the knowledge and confidence to deal with sexual and gender based violence issues in their community by seeking appropriate health care and reporting to the relevant authorities.
The project has contributed to gender empowerment as the women reported that they felt competent to engage in community activities as members of the community who were equal to the men and not subordinates. The project also enhanced community relations between the refugees and the host communities, acting as a possible source of generating employment for both the local communities and the refugees. The project also enhanced credit ratings of the women.

HOW IS THIS IDEA DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOUR ORGANIZATION (OR OTHER ORGANIZATIONS) IS ALREADY DOING?

In Nairobi, there are very few programs seeking to economically empower refugees and none that mainly focus on tackling gender inequality by specifically catering to the most vulnerable refugee women. This proposed idea affords SGBV survivors and other extremely vulnerable women the opportunity to overcome the trauma and difficulties they have faced through case management support and further reduce their vulnerabilities through economic empowerment. This will also lead to increased confidence and the ability to take on leadership responsibilities in the community. By providing grants to women who have already established a rapport with us, we distinguish ourselves from other organizations.

HOW WOULD YOU USE AMPLIFY FUNDING AND DESIGN SUPPORT?

The previous project included an end-of-project evaluation where conductors compiled recommendations for the next phase, including best practices and challenges. Recommendations that we hope to implement include a mentorship/support program, increased seed grants, inclusion of a business case manager and expanded financial and vocational training. We plan to utilize these suggestions, but also, due to changing circumstances, to conduct a current needs-assessment to help the project succeed. The funds will support additional case management staff to support the women, funding of the repayable grants, materials for financial literacy courses, and basic needs support (food, clothing, etc.).

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF THE CHALLENGE?

Refugees are faced with a multitude of limitations: economic, educational, social and cultural. Often due to cultural conditions, women in particular lack education and have very limited opportunities in their new host countries. Most refugee women, particularly vulnerable women, cannot raise capital to start income-generating activities and, if they do, their basic needs eat into the capital, causing their business to collapse. Our project provides the needed funds to start a business and combines this with financial literacy and support from our staff to ensure business strength. In addition, case management support provides for basic needs to ensure women are able to succeed.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS FROM THE AMPLIFY TEAM

Our Unique Program:
We are the first organization in Kenya devoted to protecting this refugee population. Our program operates holistically and prioritizes the immediate needs of the women, ensuring protection and treatment for long-term success. We also provide basic material needs so initial income can be reinvested into business and used to repay loans. We work with women who are currently in our Women’s Ambassador Groups, giving us the advantage of an established rapport with loan recipients. (For more on the WAGs, see response below to Amplify question).

Prototypes, Feedback, Needs Assessments:
The Feedback section (above) summarizes the evaluations, stories, and recommendations we gathered after our 6-month prototype program. Review participants included beneficiaries as well as staff.
Looking forward, Needs Assessments will give us a baseline for what our Women’s Ambassador Groups identify as most important in the ever-shifting political and cultural situation in Nairobi. We want to prioritize early-stage programming: language courses, case management support, food, supplies, etc. We also will review the feedback we received at the end of the 6-month program to see if anything should be updated.

Case Management and Holistic Support:
We will improve our holistic support to expand case management services to all women who will receive our grants. Participants will be assessed when the project starts to determine which services they most need. Each woman will be provided with a range of services focused for SGBV survivors, including referral/accompaniment to medical and psychosocial services, home visits for material needs (i.e. food, furniture, clothing, rent), and follow up services to ensure all needs are being met. We recognize that our support for these issues creates a stable base for women as they begin and run their businesses.
Each participant will also have a specific case manager who will mentor and conduct assessments about behavior, leadership skills, conflict resolution skills, mental and physical health at specific points throughout the program. This contributes additional value to the caseworker’s efficacy and to the overall success for each individual beneficiary.

SKILL SHARE (optional)

We would specifically like feedback on:
- Methods to support refugees’ businesses in fragile economies for refugees where they often face discrimination. How have other groups addressed these challenges?
- How to improve safety and security in xenophobic communities?
- We are also seeking potential partners we may connect with for vocational training opportunities and potential business options.

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

Heshima Kenya was founded in 2008 to close protection gaps and to establish a safe community for the young women we empower. Today, we are proud of the many successes of our girls and young women, of our staff, and of our organization overall. We look forward to expanding this project.

IS THIS AN IDEA THAT YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION WOULD LIKE TO TAKE FORWARD?

  • Yes, and we are implementing/operating partners of UNICEF or UNHCR.
View more

Attachments (3)

PrototypeQuestions.pdf

Prototype exercise, based on our pilot grant program.

User experience map.pdf

User experience map for the project

168 comments

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Photo of Lilias Makashini
Team

This is a very good and practical idea. Keep up the good work! It really takes someone with a good heart to see the pain in others and choose to do something about it. And I particularly love the idea that it has targeted refugee women and is empowering them to make better decisions for their families. If only the world could become a better place so that we eradicate terms like 'refugee'! Great Job!

Photo of Rahul Savani
Team

hello
This is an amazing idea-- I am particularly impressed with your holistic approach, which recognizes that empowerment is not just about handing out loans, but about helping these women address their very real, very pressing medical/psychosocial needs, and providing the education and tools necessary to help these women build sustainable businesses.

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thanks Rahul - that's exactly it. We know the many challenges vulnerable refugee women are facing, and therefore know that we need to offer more support, beyond monetary and even finance training. This model will help to understand what the largest support needs are and uncover the best ways to support these to truly lead to long-term success. Stay tuned for findings!

Photo of Tracy Lê
Team

Hi, This is an excellent idea!! Hopefully, this idea can be applied wider not only in Nairobi but also in any place where has refugee women. I think the best value of this idea is to transfer knowledge within refugee community and to educate young refugee girls and women. As we all know knowledge is strength, so that the self-confidence will be improved if they are guided to prepare necessary and basic information. This is a realistic idea! Congratulations!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thank you so much for your support and insight, Tracy! We would love to create a model that can be replicated in other refugee communities. And we very much agree, that education is key to success and empowerment. Our plan is to provide the refugee women we serve with education, resources, and support systems to become empowered long-term. Stay tuned for outcomes on what we find!

Photo of Jack Huang
Team

Very impressive! I love this idea and how it can improves refugee live.

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thank you for your support, Jack!

Photo of Paroma Bhattacharya
Team

I love the idea of this women-focused micro-entrepreneur incubator and I think that empowering the women in the household will lead to the holistic development of the refugee families going forward. And I am glad to see that you have also thought of equipping the women with the life skills and services that are necessary for their own personal well-being and development, which in turn will lead to their professional development. I had thoughts on 4 main things:

1) Ensuring that the micro-businesses sustain in the future - A lot of micro-businesses die out without the right market linkages and business mentoring support to the micro-entrepreneur. So your case manager can work with the woman to set business milestones, connect to relevant partner organizations, provide the necessary linkages and hand-hold the business till it is out of the 'danger' zone.
2) Impacting other non-entrepreneur women too - Not all women might want to start their own micro-business but might want to work as an employee of a micro-business. So the next phase of this support program, could be to equip the women entrepreneurs to recruit women workers for their business, thereby growing the business potential and providing livelihoods to more refugee women.
3) Starting businesses that fill relevant community gaps - To answer your question in the skill share section, one way to combat discrimination could be to create refugee micro-entrepreneurs whose businesses fill relevant gaps in the communities around them. If people see these women as solution providers and problem solvers who are helping their communities, then they might be more accepting and respectful towards these women. This would require a good community problem mapping phase in the initial part of this women-support program (pre-business phase, as an ideation phase).
4) Showcasing the products, businesses and impact storytelling - Another way to support their business and make people more accepting of them is to have a powerful impact storytelling strategy. Perhaps through your own online product marketplace (building on what Alexander said earlier), a tie-up with newspapers, effective social media campaigns, etc.

I hope these suggestions help and all the best for the challenge! I'm rooting for you:)

Best,
Paroma.

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Dear Paroma,

Thank you so much for your support and for your insightful comments and suggestions. I wanted to focus on your thoughts below:
1. The issue of ensuring the business sustains over time is a great one. We are still in touch with the women we provided loans to through our UN Women pilot and are planning to incorporate these women in our research phase. This way we can learn what helped the women who are still successful able to remain so long-term, and understand when and why the other women faced challenges. Their feedback will help us understand how we can develop a more supportive program at the outset and what we can provide in regards to ongoing support.
2. That’s a great point regarding empowering women outside of entrepreneurship! I am happy to report that once we have designed and launched our full loan project in early 2016, we plan to also design a program for the population you mention: women who want to earn an income, but are not interested in running their own businesses. For this aspect, we are considering providing financial training, savings incentives, vocational training and links to formal employment. I love your idea of utilizing successful women-owned businesses to employ other women. In fact, we may end up using a model like this for apprenticeship- to help less experienced women learn more about running a business.
3. This is a great point about filling gaps, and I think it serves 2 main purposes: 1. It encourages host communities to value the business acumen and goods provided by refugees, hence decreasing xenophobia and 2. It avoids over saturating markets. We will absolutely consider how to conduct a market analysis before women create and pitch their business plans.
4. I love your idea for storytelling about the success of this project. These campaigns have shown such success in the past – it's absolutely something we would love to incorporate down the road.
Thank you again, Paroma – please stay tuned and feel free to weigh in with any additional questions or comments!

Photo of Paroma Bhattacharya
Team

Thank you for your detailed response! I'm very excited about your project and particularly think points 2 and 3, if executed, can be very powerful in context of the root problem you are trying to solve. Will stay tuned to further updates and happy to help with any inputs (I work as a Social Entrepreneur Coach). All the best:)

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thanks again Paroma! Stay tuned for details and feel free to look through our website for more info and to sign up for our e-newsletter to stay up to date on our progress! www.heshimakenya.org

Photo of Ben Hawkins
Team

As has no doubt been said a few times by now, this is a great idea. It's focused - key assumptions have been tested and the idea works. I think having a base line that is constantly reviewed and individual case managers will help this grow and remain relevant.
Is there a level at which success is deemed to be achieved and support no longer needed?

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thanks so much Ben! And yes - that's a great question. Currently, the micro-grant is a one time grant that the recipient can pay back over time. Once we officially roll out the project, we will have the details on the repayment terms. We are using feedback from our previous loan pilot to determine the appropriate amount that allows the recipient to become economically independent, while still allowing them to repay the grant in full. Beyond this, providing the case management support is also a service that will be time-limited. In this initial research and testing phase we will determine what are the best supports to help women both in the short-term (i.e. emergency grants to deal with unforeseen expenses, like family illness) and in the long-term (what resources might they build, like a savings account, that will assist them if a family member gets sick years from now?). This project will truly aim to equip them with the skills and resources for long-term empowerment. Thank you for your question and support!

Photo of Sam Schneidman
Team

This is a great idea: it's actionable, practical, and is follows similar micro-finance models, while allowing for the unique situations refugees face. I saw the power of micro-finance to empower marginalized groups when working for the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Similar support is going to be needed, here, and, as the Grameen Bank did through professional staff deployed in the field, I like that your idea uses staff support to ensure success.

One area that is worth thinking about is how your idea can continue to help refugees the systemic discrimination they face in the economy, in education, and within the government. Typically this is because of their outsider status, with entrenched groups using prejudice as a way to marginalize refugees - often this isn't as much a product of outright hatred, as it is because of a lack of understanding and familiarity. I would encourage you to build an advisory council or construct your support staff with members of entrenched communities that are likely to marginalize refugees. Such an approach will contribute to a cross-cultural understanding, provide an inclusive approach to community-building (refugees often lack community), and gives entrenched groups skin in the game.

Should you be interested in further discussing this idea, I'd love to connect. I've spent time in micro-finance, understand how it works, and have built community networks as a political organizer.

Overall, great idea, and I wish it every chance for success!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Sam -
Thank you so much for your support and great suggestions. I'd love to connect to tell you more about our organization's broader work with the community in Nairobi, and also consider how we may utilize this type of advocacy and awareness building specifically within the context of the project. Additionally, as we conduct our initial research before launching the prototype for this project, I am spending time researching similar micro-finance projects used to empower marginalized groups, so I'd love to hear more about the work with the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Let me know the best way to connect, and perhaps we can set up a time to chat. Thank you again!

Photo of Daphne Chen
Team

This is an amazing idea-- I am particularly impressed with your holistic approach, which recognizes that empowerment is not just about handing out loans, but about helping these women address their very real, very pressing medical/psychosocial needs, and providing the education and tools necessary to help these women build sustainable businesses.

In response to your question about helping these women weather economic uncertainty, I think the answer to this lies most with financial literacy-- 1) helping them build a basic understanding of economic volatility and its causes, and how to anticipate it, and 2) helping them build defensive mechanisms to help buffer against "dry" episodes, in the form of savings, proper demand forecasting, pipeline development, diversification, etc. Of course developing further value-added vocational skills is also a good idea, and it sounds like you are providing the resources for higher-complexity activities like programming, etc. Out of personal curiosity, I am wondering what financial literacy tools you are using.

One question I have for you, is what (if any) are your plans to engage the wider community to reduce discrimination and break down some of the barriers that face these women as they seek to do business? Community outreach might not be in your core mission, but perhaps you could partner with an organization that could help bring awareness and empathy to the challenges facing your grantees?

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thanks so much for this wonderful comment and your insightful comments, Daphne. You are exactly right in that some of the barriers for economic success for refugee women include lack of resources, but also a lack of potential to plan for long-term shocks to their business (such as building up savings). We've just returned from the bootcamp training and are planning to begin testing models to help understand what types of programmatic support we can provide in addition to grants and loans that will lend to long term empowerment.
You are also correct that hostility from xenophobic communities present challenges to success as well. While not a part of the project that we pitched for Amplify, Heshima Kenya does have an advocacy and outreach arm that seeks to work with the larger refugee and Kenyan community to provide information about the vulnerabilities of refugees. Our advocacy officer also working on the taskforce responsible for updating recommendations for the Kenyan Refugee Bill, a crucial piece of legislation in regards to refugee rights in Kenya. You may read more about this work on our website. www.heshimakenya.org. Thank you again!

Photo of Peter Meredith
Team

Great project. I'm looking forward to reading updates.

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thanks so much, Peter! we've just returned from the boot camp training, and are planning to get started on our prototype soon. We look forward to sharing updates!

Photo of Lyn Evans
Team

This is a wonderful idea, and very inspiring. I was wondering if any of the past participants had grouped together to form a partnership, or co-operative? (apart from the already established textile work making beautiful scarves). I think Emily hinted at this in a previous post, and peer support may give more stability to the fledgling businesses and offer some flexibility for the young mum's work hours. Establishing a co-operative would perhaps need more business training, but could result in a stronger business model too.
Lyn

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

That's a great idea Lyn - thank you so much for that input! The loan program has only been piloted once thus far, so no co-operatives have officially formed yet, but I think this is something to definitely consider as we begin to work on program design. Thank you again!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Hi Alexander -
Thank you so much for passing along those links! As you may know, part of our project includes the Maisha Collective (http://www.heshimakenya.org/maisha-collective-overview.php), where our refugee girls learn how to hand dye scarves that are sold for a profit. The girls earn a stipend from this, along with business acumen skills, to help them invest in their futures. Here in our Chicago headquarters, we focus on marketing the scarves, and these are wonderful suggestions on unique platforms to do so. My team and I will explore these options right away. Thank you again for the great connections!

Photo of Alexander Cheung
Team

Love the vision of empowering women. What if the initiative could connect some of these women with individuals in other countries who would love to market their products? A few companies that already do something similar is The Bulan Project (http://shop.bulanproject.com/) and Blockshop Textiles (http://www.blockshoptextiles.com/), as they use artisan craftswomen to manufacture designs that match first world tastes (the designs are typically a hybrid of sorts; a westernization of local designs that make them more accessible and modern). It would be great to see resources flowing globally to make their businesses and employment a sustainable success.

Photo of Alexander Cheung
Team

Yet another example: http://shoptribealive.com/blog/

Photo of Manaal AS-Bam
Team

Heshima Kenya provides holistic support to its beneficiaries and that is why it is unique and successful. The program provides shelter, education, vocational training, case management support, and advocacy to participants and their children.

Photo of Osop Abdi
Team

In early 2013, Heshima Kenya formally registered our Girls' Empowerment Program (GEP) with the Ministry of Education as an Adult Education Center. This certification allows us to teach a nationally certified curriculum designed to address interrupted education for young adult learners. Unlike the formal school setting, it also provides certification to refugees without documentation. To date over 100 of our young girls and women have been issued with a literacy certificate.

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thank you Osop! Just one more example of how Heshima Kenya has worked to adapt our programs to meet the needs of those we are serving in the strongest possible way. We realized that formal schooling was not an option for many of our girls, but also recognized the importance of receiving the official literacy certificate, so we worked to adapt our programs. Thank you Osop!

Photo of Dun
Team

For the few months have worked with Heshima Kenya, have seen a program that focuses on children and empowering them to be independent, SELF SUPPORT IS THE BEST SUPPORT I CAN SAY. The girls come in with lots of trauma and the program assists them on how to cope with it and move forward with their lives.

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thanks so much Dun! We completely agree with you that educating and supporting those who have been through trauma is the best strategy for long-term success. The girls and women we serve are incredibly resilient - given the right resources and support, they can transform their own lives and the lives of those around them.

Photo of Agnes Olusese
Team

This initiative will transform so many lives.

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thank you Agnes - we agree!

Photo of Manaal AS-Bam
Team

Heshima Kenya will empower and educate more girls through this amazing initiative.

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thank you Manal - we know the need exists - Heshima Kenya is working hard to serve the girls and women in need!

Photo of Madison Gee
Team

Congratulations on being selected as one of the top ideas! I am so proud to see how this idea has successfully progressed throughout the OpenIdeo challenge. Good luck!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thank you, Madison! We feel so fortunate to have made it this far and can't wait to share updates with our supporters.

Photo of Norman Maungu
Team

Creative, practical and life changing. this initiative will change the lives of many

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thank you Norman! We agree that this is both a practical program and one that can (and has) changed lives. We appreciate your support!

Photo of Christine Veit
Team

Congratulations on your success!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thank you Christine for your support!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

We were so fortunate to participate in this challenge and are thrilled to have been accepted as one of the top ideas! The open platform format of the challenge really helped us to consider the best ways to prototype our idea, giving us ideas of what to focus on prior to the boot camp this fall.

We previously piloted our grant program with a 6 month grant from UN Women. Throughout and after this project, we listened closely to the needs of the girls and young women. We used this feedback to create the current project, most importantly including a case management component to help care for the participants medical and psychosocial needs, in order to ensure greater economic success. Thanks to the feedback from the OpenIdeo community, we have planned 3 additional needs assessments to help us prototype our project:

1. Conduct a basic needs assessment of 50-100 women we are currently working with through our Women Ambassador Groups regarding the repayable grant program and case management services.

2. Select the strongest leaders from this groups (5-10 women) and engage them as consultants and thought partners on the project design moving forward. They will help us revise feedback, design the project and address challenges. We feel this idea is key - we would like this project to be driven by the needs of the women we are serving.

3. Consult with other NGOs in the field for feedback - we will convene and receive feedback from 3-5 of our current NGO partners to incorporate any suggestions and challenges that they foresee.

It is very important for us to consult with the project users so they are truly involved in design and updates to ensure their needs are met. In the pilot project, we supported the women to design their own business plans based on their talents, interests and their community needs (i.e. hair dressing, clothing store, soap making, etc) to ensure they had a voice, giving the business endeavors a greater chance for success. We found that this was vital to the project and thus were encouraged to bring this same work method to the design and implementation process.

Does anyone in the community have additional thoughts on how to prepare for boot camp? Thanks so much for your support!

Photo of Megan Sidhu
Team

Congratulations on making it into the Top Ideas! I am really excited to hear about how this project progresses. I am curious about the feedback that you are looking to receive from partner organizations, do you work with any partners that have had similar programs? Good luck!

Photo of Leah Lamb
Team

Jessica~ are you familiar with the work of the woman's earth alliance? they have an incredibly strong network and aligned with what you are up to. Would be a great network to plug into if you aren't already: http://www.womensearthalliance.org/

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

That's a great organization, Leah - thanks so much for passing that along!

Photo of AMPLIFY Team
Team

Congratulations on making it to the Refugee Education Challenge Refinement List, Jessica! We like that you are working to build women’s empowerment through education and holistic support. We’d like to get a better understanding of what you are envisioning expanding within your program. Are you planning on improving the case management and holistic support? What resources might you use to inform the needs of women in this context? How is your program different than other capacity building initiatives in this space?

We’re also interested in what you might prototype in order to understand how your organization might best support refugees? We’d love to see you test some of your assumptions of the needs of the women and understand how you might use that information to engage them further in your program. You may find these prototyping resources helpful: http://ideo.pn/Amplify_Prototype, as well as our User Experience Map http://ideo.pn/UX_Map. Great to see you in the challenge!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thank you! We have answered these in the profile above. Please let me know if you have any further questions!

Photo of AMPLIFY Team
Team

Hi Jessica,

Thanks so much for your answers! We do have some more questions for you! Could you tell us a little more about your Women's Ambassador Groups? Who is in them, how do they work? What feedback did you get from the formal evaluation (or is that what you shared in the 'Feedback' section?). What are you hoping to learn from the needs assessment? Lastly, what are your thoughts on what case management would look like? I see that you have a user experience map (thank you!) - maybe you could create a second one that shows what the interaction with a case worker might look like? We've increased the character limit on answers to our questions, but if you need more space, feel free to post your response here (and let us know that you ran out of characters)?

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Jessica, we'd also love for you to flesh out what your team is planning to prototype with an Experience Map: http://bit.ly/1NbVu8o The Experience Map will help describe how a user will interact with this idea in a human-centered way. e.g. what would the user journey for your proposed financial and vocational training look like?

Also, it'd be helpful to indicate any updates in the idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 5/24" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thank you so much for highlighting these details. You will find the answers to most of the questions above, but would like to explain a bit more about our Women’s Ambassador Groups here.

Women’s Ambassador Groups are a part of our Community Outreach program that facilitate monthly meetings, organize adult education courses (basic arithmetic, English, and Kiswahili), and disseminate information about GBV/SEA, human rights and protection, and community resources. There are presently 5 groups (125 women) mobilized in the neighborhoods who are empowered to strengthen community networks through life skills certifications, literacy courses, and micro-loans. The women in the WAGs are initially reached through our trainings, pamphlet distribution, or word of mouth. There are also 6 girls Junior Ambassadors, graduates of the Girls Empowerment Program, who lead human rights workshops and foster a network of girls and women supporting each other in the community. These groups also refer vulnerable girls in the communities back to the services we provide at Heshima Kenya like our Girls Empowerment Program and Safehouse.

I hope this helps you get a fuller picture of who we are helping and what we hope to accomplish with this program. Please let us know if there are any further questions we can answer or components we can clarify!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thanks so much for your input Shane! We have attached our user experience map above (under attachments) - unless you mean a different type of map (the link you provide leads to something else). Please review and let us know if there are any questions, or another type of template we can fill in. Also, next week we will receive another user map that highlights the case management experience. Once we have completed all updates to our profile, we plan to change the title to reflect. Thank you again and please let me know if you have any additional questions!

Photo of AMPLIFY Team
Team

This is very helpful, thank you!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Great! And we have just added our second user experience map detailing case management. Please let us know your thoughts. Thank you!

Photo of AMPLIFY Team
Team

Great, thank you for sharing! So would case management start with frequent visits that reduce as women become better connected to the resources in their communities?

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Our Case Management Team will evaluate each woman at the start of the program to best determine her needs (medical, psychosocial, daily living) and to establish a schedule that will best support her as she starts up her entrepreneurial opportunity. As the program advances, the case managers will adjust visits according to each woman's progress. Our hope is that as the women become more finiancially literate and confident, there will naturally be a reduction in direct case management oversight; however, we do not want to preclude situations where individual women would need greater or longer or different support that we can still provide. Our goal is their success as strong, valued, empowered members of the community and the case management component of our project is key to that as it is individualized as well as adaptable.

Photo of AMPLIFY Team
Team

Thanks so much!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Absolutely - and please let us know if you have any additional questions at all. We are so grateful to be a part of this unique, informative challenge!

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We will - and thank YOU guys for participating! Out of curiosity, what part have you found most informative? :)

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We found the open, public dialogue to be very useful and informative. It was great to have a chance to invite our network to provide input and questions, as well as receive insightful questions and thoughts from the larger Amplify and OpenIDEO community. This gave us some new insight and challenged us to fully think through and report out all of our thoughts on the project. We look forward to the next steps!

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Are you currently working with any other non-profit that focuses on this mission?
I know of an organization called Global Press Institute that offers women
the opportunity to be self sufficient by teaching them to be journalists
and paying them a living wage. They have trained and employed women from
across 26 developing countries. Perhaps some of the girls at Heshima could
benefit from this program and that Heshima could collaborate with GPI. I
don't know if this could go anywhere, but their link is below if you would
like to find out some more information about them.

http://globalpressinstitute.org/

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Thanks so much for that suggestion, Madison! We are happy to check out GPI. Currently, we work with various refugee-serving organizations, child advocacy organizations, women's rights groups, and SGBV prevention programs. We are the Child Protection Implementing Partner of the UNHCR, receiving children refugee referrals for case managemnt. We also work with and receive referrals from our network of urban partners, including Jesuit Refugee Services, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Refuge Point, IOM, Médecins Sans Frontières-France, the International Rescue Committee, Center for Victims of Torture, Refugee Consortium of Kenya, Kituo cha Sheria, and the British, American, and Canadian Embassies. We also receive frequent referrals from the Kenyan Children’s Department and village chiefs based in the communities where Heshima Kenya conducts focused outreach. We are also actively engaged in facilitating the exchange of information and services among partner organizations to eliminate duplication of services while building upon existing programs for support. We also work with other NGOs in Nairobi to receive referrals and partner on educational programs.

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Great work! This partnerships are very important Jessica. As a South Sudanese refugee who grew up in Nairobi, I would like to highlight the work of Sr. Luise-Agonia Radlmeier in educating refugees in Nairobi since the early 90's. Because of Sr. Luise, so many refugees like myself attended Kenyan schools. I later attended a United World College (UWC) in Wales because I went through the Kenyan Educational system and sorta acced both the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and the Kenyan Certificate for Secondaty Education (KCSE). It would be a great partnership if HK and Sr. Luise partnered to discuss ways to improve education for refugees both young and old.

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Hi Flora- thanks so much for sharing your story - what a wonderful connection to share! I love your suggestion of partnering with Sr. Luise to also work with older women, not just girls enrolled in school. I am going to pass this connection along to the team on the ground and have them get in touch. Thank you so much for your support!

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That's wonderful Jessica, glad to hear that potential partnership! FYI - Sr. Luise has worked with vulnerable children, both boys and girls plus older women and men too. Many of them are now grown and can share success stories of formal education. Thank you!

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This is impactful!

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Heshima Kenya is one of the most grass roots, inspirational organizations in Africa. Addressing needs on such an individual basis and serving those who have experienced the utmost tramatic and unimaginable experiences, Heshima Kenya not only provides the counseling needed by these women and their children but the essential elements such as education and trade skills as to be able to be successful in their communities and in their futures. It truly does take a village and Heshima Kenya has recognized this and embodied the true spirit of giving.

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Thanks so much for those supportive words, Amy! You are exactly right - our goals include serving each and every person in regards to their unique needs, vulnerabilities and traumas. We also recognize that for each individual to become truly empowered, basic counseling and medical are crucial to help them overcome the traumas experienced. The women we serve as so impressive - strong, resilient and motivated - it's truly an honor to work with them every single day. Thank you again!

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This is a wonderful project! Well planned & thought out! I wish you all best in the success of it!!

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Hi Mohini -
Thanks for your support!

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Hi Jessica, I'm happy to share some of my experience in MF. Essentially HK should develop a list of (1) social impact parameters for qualification, and (2) social impact metrics to be measured and reported post intervention. My recommendation is to keep the scope tight in terms of expected impact or theory of change, since MF is just a tool and not a panacea. Some common metrics include the % increase in sales and/or income, hrs of financial literacy received, any improvement in housing infrastructure -- for example, have they gone from a dirt floor in the home to tile, or access to clean water/electricity, school attendance for kids in the household, asset acquisition -- tools, livestock, land, etc. You also should define how frequently the indicators will be measured, in a way that it makes sense for the given use of the loan. For example, if the loan is for buying a cow and sell milk, then you need to take into account the milk production cycle -- both for repayment schedule and impact metrics. Alisa knows that I am happy to chat further about this. Let me know if you have any questions.

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Hi Andrea - thanks so much for these great suggestions regarding M&E! I love your thoughts regarding measuring specific impact - these are great ideas what will really help us demonstrate change in the lives of those this project will serve. We would be happy to work more closely with you as we finalize our M&E plan. Thank you again for this!

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I love everything about this empowering, sustainable, and healing project!

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Thanks for your support and encouragment, Ann!

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What other holistic therapeutic ways can you help empower refugee communities in Nairobi, Kenya?

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Thanks for your question, Christine! As we mentioned, Heshima Kenya provides education, life-skills training, shelter and case management for all of the girls we are currently serving. In addition, our advocacy team is working closely with Nairobi's refugee taskforce to draft policy recommendations for the refugee bill, which is being reviewed by the Kenyan government. We strive to ensure that refugees are safe and secure, with a priority on human rights, within Nairobi. Thanks for your support!

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This is truely an outstanding project. Well done Heshima Kenya:)) I love the fact that they are reaching out to these womsn with a long term view of helping them not only sustain themselves but also helping them re - integrate back into society.

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Payal, You touch on one of the key components of this project: long-term support! Our programming at Heshima Kenya always focuses on the whole person. With this repayable grants program for entrepreneurial women, we will be able to support them and their businesses for 18 months, allowing for multiple cycles of repayment, the encountering and solving of any unforseeable hurdles, and the overall case management and daily life support that are essential to women starting their own businesses. In addition, the case management support provided will help with long-term healing, not just a one time grant investment, but a true, long-term investment in the entire individual's well-being.

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What an important project and valuable work! Good luck with this mission and I wish for it all the support it needs to continue partnering with these amazing women !

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Thanks, Erin! The young women of Heshima Kenya really are amazing and we can't wait to provde them even more support on the path to their self-sufficiency and self-confidence.

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Such dedication to ensuring that young refugee women and girls have the opportunity to build new futures in a holistic way. The Maisha Collective is a sure fire way of ensuring not only creative know-how (an excellent avenue for healing) but also sustainability of this initiative. Kudos to the Heshima Kenya team!

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PK, we're so glad to hear your praise of the work of the Maisha Collective. We plan for some of the graduates of that program will take part in this initiative as well. In the prototype, 12 Maisha students started their own successful businesses, putting their skills adn financial literacy to great use in their communities.

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This program is an outstanding example of how organizations can and should help people not just with support and care but also to help themselves. An excellent idea!

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Thanks, Zubin. We are proud to be the first and only organization in Nairobi providing a lifeline for vulnerable refugee girls that addresses their needs holistically, rather than as discrete educational, vocation, emotional, and physical components. At every level, we strive to provide a pathway to confidence and self- sufficiency that allows young women to become leaders and advocates in their own right.

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This project is doing great work!

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Thanks for your support, Jaclyn!

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I've been hearing a lot lately about the economic and social benefits that communities see when more of their female population enters into the workforce, especially in developing countries. Have you seen this already from the pilot program? What are your thoughts?

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Emily- you are spot on! Our sources tell us (http://www.womendeliver.org/knowledge-center/facts-figures/invest-in-women-it-pays/)
- Girls and women spend 90% of their earned income on their families, while men spend only 30-40%
- Eliminating barriers to employment for girls and women could raise labor productivity by 25% in some countries
- Closing the gender gap in agriculture could lift 100-150 million people out of hunger
- Growing evidence shows that corporations led by women are more focused on sustainability
Women who earn are shown to make great strides indeed!

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The description says that a component of the project will focus on vocational training, which occupations will you be teaching the women? Will the instructors be Kenyans or Western volunteers?

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Beauclarine, thanks for the great question. Our Team in Nairobi is comprised of local professionals and local certified educators who have committed years of their lives to supporting vulnerable young women. You can read all about them here http://www.heshimakenya.org/staff.php Our vocational training will focus on financial literacy and the basics of running a business, the women will also have the option to enroll in vocational courses in catering, hair dressing, computer skills and mobile
phone. The actual businesses will be determined by the interests of the young women and the needs they see in their own neighborhoods In our prototype, women invested in a range of goods and services to sell, from clothing to perfume to hair styling and many diversified their businesses as time went on and community demands were identified.

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I love the way that Heshima Kenya really focuses on individuals--personalized care is so much more effective than just throwing money at the government. And as people have already said, women are the key to development, so working to empower them is so important! I'm wondering if Heshima Kenya will follow up with these women in the future, just to see how they have utilized the skills that HK has given them. I would be interested to see what long-run effects it has on not only the women themselves, but also on their children and their communities. All in all, a wonderful idea!

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Thank you for your support, Emily! Our Case Management team works with the women continuously throughout the process, engaging in a holistic approach to ensure they receive the support they need to establish a successful business and healthy life. In terms of long-run effects, our trial program with UN Women showed that the independence of these women not only empowered them to take control of themselves and their families, but also strengthened the ties of refugees with their host community. We can only imagine what other great things would come from a permanent economic empowerment program - and that's why we're here!

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I know that in other parts of the world--I'm thinking of India in particular--self-help groups have been wonderful tools for women to save money, brainstorm business ventures, and gain both economic and social support from their peers. Is Heshima Kenya encouraging anything like this with the women in Kenya, or, to your knowledge, is the financial literacy and vocational training effective enough on its own?

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Thanks so much Emily and what a great question! We are currently working with our team in Kenya on a a reporting and evaluation plan for the women that we serve. We plan to track where they live, work, and their livelihood opportunities after they exit our program. We also plan to track larger impact - such as confidence, empowerment, and any benefits or challenges their families are facing. Please stay tuned to Heshima Kenya for future results!

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What an inspiring plan. Empowering women & girls has been proven as the key to broad-based economic AND social growth. Kudos!

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Thanks for your words of support, Culture Lab!

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I didn't know you guys were running a pilot microfinance initiative! This is an excellent complement to the other programs in order to empower women well beyond after they have received direct services from HK. I was a microfnance investor for a few years, and also financed low income/disadvantaged women and their enterprises in LatAm. I would be interested to know if the small loans given to the women are actually loans (to be repaid plus small interest) and what is the selection criteria for disbursement. Similarly, it would be portant to track metrics such as PAR 30. If the funds are not loans but grants, are they refundable grants (repaid but w/o interest), and what is the term for repayment. This is so exciting, best of luck!!

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Andrea, Thank you for the great questions. They really speak to the importance of this issue of financial literacy and stability for the young women we support. When we prototyped this program last year through UN Women, we saw such pronounced success, not only in economic outcomes, but also in business confidence. We look forward to great improvements in the lives of the women we will be able to support through OpenIDEO. We are specifically distributing repayable grants, as the women repay, but without interest. In order to be selected, a woman must be enrolled in our Women's Ambassador Group, and be considered vulnerable: an SGBV survivor, a single elderly refugee woman raising young children, a single young refugee mother who has been through violence and trauma, or a young refugee woman turning 18 with no family. Grants will be dispersed 6 months into the project (6 months of case management support and financial training) and the women will have 1 year after that to repay. Thanks again for your questions and support!

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Andrea - we also wanted to follow up to ask about your experience in Microfinance. We'd love to hear a little bit about lessons learned - what worked well and what needed improvement, especially when working with disadvantaged women. Do you have any specific recommendations on tracking metrics? Thanks so much!

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Develop an awareness campaign in tandem with the actual program to market the notion that refugees are self-reliant (hence not a burden on society or the social system), capable and trustworthy contributing members of their communities (ergo they do not pose a security threat), while adding to (and growing) their regional economies.

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Thanks so much for your support and wonderful suggestion, R. Raddatz! We do have a strong advocacy team that works with a refugee taskforce in Nairobi to help improve the political and cultural climate for refugees in Kenya. Do you have any ideas or examples of marketing campaigns that you would recommend? We'd love to learn more!

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What a great program!! Keep up the wonderful work you do for women.

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Thanks so much Jana!

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I found out about your organization from Kelly Souders a few years ago. I am creating an endowment fund in my mother's name that is run through the school of nursing at the University of Kansas. The nursing supervisor is looking to expand into area of Africa to train schools, hospitals and organizations about basic health care practices. Our fund would allow a local representative to train in Kansas City for a few months about public health practices and then return and teach others in her organization. They would prefer some nursing training but will also train representatives to teach in clinics and hospitals. Is this something your organization would be interested in? Let me know and I'll contact my supervisor.

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Marguerite, What a wonderful way to honor your mother! The health and wellness of the girls, young women, and children in our programs are always a priority. In our life skills training courses, we include modules that cover HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention as well as reproductive health, health and hygiene, and child development. Our Case Management Program also provides participants with funds to access medical and menthal health assistance through our network of partner clinics and hospitals. Your nursing program sounds like a wonderful opportunity. We will be in touch if any of our staff have the availability to travel to Kansas City. Thank you for this wonderful suggestion and for the amazing work you are doing!

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This is fantastic! I've seen so many bright and incredible Kenyan women unable to break out of the cycle of turning to harmful ways to make money in order to survive. I'm excited that this will give so many women hope and a possibility of a life that truly benefits and fulfills them. I can definitely dig this idea. Tumaini!

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Sierra, we love sharing your enthusiasm! We feel it is so important to provide these young women with that emotional and social support. Some participants in our prototype project specifically reported that they were nervous at the beginning of the process and fearful of starting new businesses, but by the end, 100% of that group expressed confidence in their abilities and was successful.

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I'm most impressed that you took into account the end-of-projection evaluation recommendations as well as a current needs-assessment to make this an even stronger project. Thank you for connecting and educating us on an issue that touches ALL citizens around the world!

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Sandy, Thanks so much for recognizing the importance of seeing the project all the way through. We have listened closely to the needs of the girls and young women with whom we have worked in the past so that we can make sure to assist these new women in our program even more strongly and enable them to be even more successful.

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The work being done by HK is important on so many levels (empowerment of women, individual confidence and skill building, protecting a vulnerable refugee population and offering the chance for individuals to break away from risky/dangerous survival strategies. Many of the comments I've read represent my sentiments, but I'd also like to add my appreciation for the fact that HK gives help with "no strings attached" regarding religious disciplining or apostlizing sometimes found with other organizations that attempt to help populations in need. Helping for the sole sake of helping another human being regardless of their past, present or future religious affiliation is another important aspect of why I respect and admire HK and all they do.

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Bill, Thanks for your support. We work with girls and young women from all over the region, particularly from Somalia, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, and Burundi. We strive to support the needs of all of our participants equally and without judgement from the moment they enter our programs to the ongoing social and financial support we provide afterwards.

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Love love love your work! Empowering Women is THE KEY to changing the world! Kudos to all of you!

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Thanks, Susan! We couldn't agree more. With the support from OpenIDEO, we look forward to empowering even more young women to change their lives and become strong, impactful members of their communities.

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Hi Jessica,

What a valuable organization to all these women. Have you considered expanding to include a broader range of women in addition to those with a refugee background? Would that be compatible with your mission?

What do you hear from the women who have gone through your program about what worked well for them and what they wish would have been different?

One little admin thing - you might consider putting the website link in the 'Explain Your Idea' section, http://www.heshimakenya.org/index.php

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Hi Trevor -
Thanks so much for these great questions! Currently, we are a refugee- serving organization. We are currently hiring a small number of women from the community to assist with our Maisha Collective, our income generating project, however the specific project we are proposing would focus on refugee women for this time. As we grow in years to come, we would consider how to expand our services to help additional vulnerable women -which may mean other (non-refugee) women in Nairobi, or possibly even expanding to refugee camps. This work would be driven by the need of individuals in Nairobi.

Our past pilot project, which allowed us to provide financial training and repayable grants to refugee women over a 6 month period, demonstrated a great success. Women reported they often needed to engage in survival sex from time to time to make ends meet; with their own businesses, they were able to rely on this income to take care of their needs. Women also reported increased confidence, and more participation in their communities. One need they reported was medical and psychosocial services, particularly those who were SGBV survivors, and basic needs at the start of the program - such as food, clothing and material goods. Hence, we are including this component with the proposed project. Thank you for your questions, and the great suggestion (link now included). Please don't hesitate to reach out with any other thoughts. We appreciate your support!

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So many amazing things happening! Keep it up!

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Thanks for your support, Alysa!

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Looks very interesting. Hopefully some good can come out of it.

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Thanks Marty - we've seen so many positive results already, we are really looking forward to the possibility of expanding to serve more women!

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Hi Jessica. Thanks for sharing your work here! I have some questions. Is offering loans a new aspect of your work, specific for this Idea? How do women find out about your programs? Do trainers hail from host and refugee communities?
      You mention many positive outcomes. Very exciting! Do you anticipate a need to support the women after the program ends, financially, or with continued access to services ? One participant mentions that she belongs to a chama. Are these groups organized within the program? Is there any organization of peer support groups so that overtime women can assist each after the formal program ends? Have you considered a mentoring program, graduates mentoring new program participants?
     What are some challenges that have been encountered in this work? Are there any cultural barriers to psychosocial support? Has language been a barrier?
     Great work. Looking forward to learning more!

     Jessica - I am adding on here after rediscovering your great Research Post. It answered some of my questions so I edited the comment and am linking it here for others to learn from - https://openideo.com/challenge/refugee-education/research/the-girls-empowerment-project/comments#!c-e19f05a951bdd407dfeddc17be372d58
     The Research Post gives a great description of the sequence of events that girls and young women go through in their program - from the 7 month education and vocational program onto the entrepreneurship training and membership in the business collective, Maisha. I asked above about mentoring. I wonder if it might be interesting for young women to mentor adult women you plan to enroll in your new program, as they have developed skills that they can share. Might up- mentoring in this way facilitate bridging the groups, bringing new social opportunities to girls and young women who are alone in the city, fostering relationships with older women and their families, as well as sharing learned skills?

     Thanks again for sharing this comprehensive women's development and empowerment program!

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HI Bettina -
I wanted to paste the response you just posted on our other page:
"Thanks for your reply to my comment below Jessica. I just came upon it now.
 I was looking at your organization and your profile after I commented on your Idea Post and found this research post. (I had not remembered that I posted a comment here a month ago.)
There is a lot of good info here and actually some of it answered the questions I asked on the comment on your Idea Post. Maybe link this Research Post to your Idea Post so others can learn from it as well?

Is there a website for the curriculum - "Financial Education for Adolescent Girls"? (I work with teens as a physician and like to gather tools to share with colleagues and as well as tips to share with youth and families.)"

Thanks for that suggestion! Per Bettina's suggestion, please link through here - https://openideo.com/challenge/refugee-education/research/the-girls-empowerment-project#c-e19f05a951bdd407dfeddc17be372d58 to read more about our full programming. And to answer your last question - we do not currently have a link for our financial education resources online. We will be sure to keep you posted if that becomes available. Thanks again!

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Funny - I just edited my above comment and added that link! We must have crossed paths virtually!

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I really enjoyed reading this article and learning about what your group is doing to help empower women!

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Thanks so much Vaishali - we appreciate your support!

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Wow! I love the focus on empowering women. Keep up the good work!

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Thank you so much for your kind words of support, Elena!

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I've seen Heshima Kenya in action in Nairobi and the work they are doing is truly amazing. These girls are given 'opportunity' and are truly grateful for what Heshima provides them.

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Daphne - We are so happy you had the chance to see our work firsthand and understand the impact we are able to make on these girls' lives. Thank you for your continued support of Heshima Kenya's work!

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What a great way to support and empower women and offer them a path to success and independence. This will have a lasting effect on these women, their families and their communities. Keep up the good work!

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Thank you for your kind words, Jill! Our holistic programs are designed to do just that - have a long-lasting effect on those that we serve. We appreciate your support!

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What a fantastic cause- keep on going!

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Thank you, Monica! We appreciate your support!

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Financial inclusion for the poor is a exemplary way to include collaborate for development. Take a look at Mama Maji! A New Orleans based non-profit that works in Kenya as well. Using water as a platform for women's empowerment. When women don't have to collect water once it is more readily available and clean in their communities, their time opens up to start business and lead initiatives like these women. https://mamamaji.wordpress.com/

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Great point, Julia - thanks so much for your support!

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Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

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Thank you! We are thrilled and honored - thank you OpenIDEO!

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One aspect of this project that struck me as particularly powerful is its success in bringing women out of dangerous situations and giving them the emotional support and practical skills to seek out other ways of providing for themselves. Hope is an incredibly powerful motivator, and Heshima Kenya clearly recognizes that.

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Anju, You are right about hope. One way that we build hope at Heshima is through the Community Outreach work that our Ambassadors do. They reach out in their own communities to educate, support, and empower other women. It's truly incredible, and we are humbled everyday, by the amazing strength and resilience our women demonstrate. They truly are heroes!

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The emphasis here on competence and confidence is so important! It is one thing to provide women with the skills they need to run a business; it is something else completely to be able to offer them the emotional and financial support required to get out and actually just do it, particularly in environments where they may face discrimination for their nationality, their gender, or both. Keep up the good, hard work, Heshima Kenya!

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Thanks so much for pointing that out, Caroline! You are spot on - our prototype showed us the women were incredibly successful with the loans, and very much needed the financial literacy support that came with it, but that they also really needed emotional support in the form of case management to help them with all of their needs, so they could dedicate their energies towards their business. We are hoping this program will help provide that comprehensive support to ensure long-term empowerment. Thank you again!

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The empowerment of Woman is one of the most important tools to reduce poverty worldwide. Time and time again, statistics show that offering a woman education and empowering her with a vocational skill will not only bring self sufficiency and the ability to direct her own future, it also improves the lives of her children, family and the community in which she lives. Heshima Kenya's work is incredibly important. Their holistic approach to the 'whole women' is rare, yet so necessary if we are ever to change the paradigm for women. In Kenya especially as refugee camps overflow and women are exposed to sexual violence and discrimination, the work of Heshima Kenya and their unique approach is more important now than ever. Thank you to all at HK for your dedication and passion to making real and positive change in the lives of refugee women.

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Sue - thank you so much for your kind and passionate words! Heshima Kenya absolutely knows the power of investing in women to tackle poverty worldwide. We're so glad you are a supporter! And we truly do believe it's essential to take into account the whole woman. From the educational opportunities of our Girls' Empowerment Program, to our Safe House, a transitional shelter for girls and young women who have experienced, or who are at continued risk for homelessness, gender-based violence, and other human rights and protection issues, to the Maisha Collective and the girls' beautiful textiles, we do our best to support every aspect of their lives.

Photo of Madeleine Swanstrom
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This is a such a great idea! I remember reading somewhere that women are more likely to invest extra money into their families and communities, so empowering women is so important. Keep up the great work!

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Madeleine - you're exactly right! Research shows that girls and women spend 90% of their earned income on their families, while men spend only 30-40%. In the past, women in our program have not only expanded their successful businesses, but also diversified their products and services, contributing in an even broader way to their communities. They also have reported the relief at having the extra income to be able to support themselves and their families when they have fallen ill. We hope to be able to support more women in similar ways through this new grant program. Thanks for your support!

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This project seems like it will have a great impact long term. I love how sustainable it is and how it really puts the power into the women's hands, allowing them to claim ownership for their success!

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Alex, We're glad you agree with us that empowering young women and providing them with a range of skills to make them successful is the best way we can help the refugee community in Kenya. Thanks for your support!

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This project seems very innovative! Giving these women the power to provide for themselves will make a huge impact on their self esteem, lives, and community. How does Heshima Kenya gain the trust of sex workers and persuade them to leave their occupation? What makes HK different than other organizations targeting refugee women?

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Thanks for your insightful questions, Beauclarine! The connections between Heshima Kenya and the community in Nairobi is key. We actually have a growing Community Outreach Program that generates awareness about gender-based violence prevention and human rights in Nairobi's refugee communities. We have so far supported the creation of 5 Women’s Ambassador Groups that strengthen community networks through life skills certification, literacy courses, and workshops. They share information about wpmen's rights and increase the visibility of our work. Many of the young women we supported during the prototype admitted to sex work in the reporting phase - they stated they were proud to have a small business and not have to rely on sex work to earn an income. These women had a built in trust with Heshima Kenya as we've been working with the women's groups in the community since 2010. We are unique in that we are the first and only organization in Kenya that protects and empowers this uniquely vulnerable population. After nearly 23 years of refugee crisis in Kenya, we are proud to have redefined how models of protection best work for this population.

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Several years ago my family visited the Heshima Kenya safe house in Nairobi while traveling through Kenya. We saw first hand how the Heshima girls live in a nurturing environment with the wonderful Heshima Kenya staff to support them. The positive energy we experienced, coupled with the incredible Heshima Kenya mission, was truly transformative. My family is honored to volunteer our time and resources to support this magnificent organization. Congratulations to Heshima Kenya!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Scott, We can't thank you enough for committing some of your own time and energy to the girls at Heshima Kenya! We're so glad you got to see first-hand the many different ways we are supporting a community of young refugee women in Kenya. This really is such an important program for these young women. Thanks again!

Photo of Chinaza Okeke
Team

This organization has such a good idea! It's important to not only help these women, but to help them to provide for themselves after their training. The effect of all this would last long after this program.

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thanks, Chinaza! That's exactly the goal. With the support from OpenIDEO, we are enthusiastic about the success of these young women who have such great ideas for businesses that will help both themselves and their communities flourish.

Photo of Madison Gee
Team

As a current intern for Heshima Kenya, I can say that so far it has been a beautiful experience to see how Heshima Kenya's ideas and efforts have had the power to completely transform the lives of these young women. I was particularly drawn to this organization because of it's unique holistic approach. It is important to meet a person's most basic needs, but to then give that person the power to be self-sufficient through education and vocational training is incredible. I think maintaining/strengthening relationships within the community is really important in supporting the lives and businesses of the girls once they have completed the program. I think keeping local community groups engaged with Heshima Kenya's programs and keeping communication open between outside communities and the Heshima team in Nairobi is key in ensuring the success of the girls' business endeavors and even their safety in xenophobic communities. I am really enjoying being a part of the Heshima Kenya team, and look forward to seeing all the ways in which this organization continues to grow and prosper!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Madison, Thanks so much! We are so happy you are on board! As you know, our holistic approach is really at the core of our philophophy of support. What is so exciting about this grant program is that it will provide not only the financial component of starting a new business, but also the community support, whether it be in the form of medical assistance, transportation assistance, food baskets, or even family and legal support. A great holistic package designed to truly transform lives.

Photo of Emily Snider
Team

I absolutely love the sense of empowerment this project brings to the refugee women & girls! It sounds like improving safety in xenophobic communities comes as an extension of the stability and autonomy that the microloans give, which makes a more harmonious place for both the host community and the refugee. I hope to see you guys in the final stage!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thanks, Emily. Safety is always a key concern for refugee communities, particularly in Kenya. One of the benefits of our Case Management Program is that it allows us to maintain strong community connections with the young women and we can meet not only their medical, but also their mental health needs. We do home visits and offer financial advice to help them stay successful.

Photo of Jill Rasmussen
Team

Through respect and compassion, Heshima Kenya's programs help young refugee women to develop skills that build confidence and a belief that they are a valuable part of their community. In a learning environment that also meets their basic needs, the young women are free to focus on mastering new skills that enable them to gain independence, care for their children, and rebuild their lives. This approach has shown tremendous success and with expanded resources, the organization is well positioned to increase the number of women it serves.

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Jill - Your kind words for our efforts are much appreciated! We really are able to focus on the entrire community through our holistic approach. We are supporting these young women not just for themsleves, but for their children and their future families and neighbors. When they are enrolled in our basic education and life skills training courses, they are not only gaining necessary education, but discovering that they are part of the supportive Heshima Kenya community where their children are cared for in our Early Childhood Development Program and their economic needs are anticipated in our vocational training tailoring program. When they leave Heshima, whether as graduates or because they have found new homes or opportunities, we anticipate that they will bring their new skills and confidences to their communities and become leaders in their own right.

Photo of Vestine Umubyeyi
Team

Hello Jessica,
I like this idea very much because I can imagine how powerful it is to build families' economy. By empowering women, you are providing food for families and sending kids to school. I can imagine how life can be hard for a refugee to stay in Nairobi and how the loans that you will offer will booster their economic situation. I hope one day we will see Heshima Kenya operating in Kakuma. Thank you!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Hi Vestine - Thanks so much for these words of support! You know, as do we, that when girls and women earn an income, they spend 90% on their families, while men spend only 30-40%. And we agree that life is tough for refugees for so many reasons, hence the need for our holistic services that not only empower refugee women, but heal and protect them as well.

Photo of Chris Gordon
Team

Heshima does such important work - the only organization in Kenya to serve refugee women and girls. Unfortunately the need is great for these services. The Maisha Collection scarves are high quality, beautiful pieces of art! Fabulous gift idea...

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Chris, Thanks for that first-hand feedback on the beautiful scarves the women in Maisha Collective make. From dyeing and tailoring to financial literacy, the young women in the Collective are putting all the skills to use that will make them more independent and successful when they graduate and start their own businesses.

Photo of Christine Veit
Team

This looks like an amazing initiative! Everything looks extremely organized, thought-out and supportive toward refugee women in Kenya. Great work!!! How do you see this organization growing in the future and what would be the next steps?

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Christine, We are so grateful for your enthuisiastic support! We are growing and expanding past even our own expectations. In the last year, we enrolled nearly double the number of expected girls into our Girls' Empowerment Program and have become an offical partner of the UNHCR. That means we are rapidly expanding our facilities and our faculty to keep up with the needs of our particiapnts. From adding teachers to to expanding the distribution of our Maisha Collective textiles, we are excited to be able support more and more women and girls in the refugee communities in Kenya.

Photo of Anna Maitland
Team

I spent a very short period interning for Heshima Kenya in 2011. This organization was amazing then - an inspiration that has continued to motivate my own understanding of change and positive engagement with difficult and flawed circumstance. Seeing how Heshima Kenya continues to grow with diversification of projects and ideas while continuing to maintain the the focus and dedication to each young woman that comes through the doors is truly wonderful. I look forward to seeing how the organization continues to grow in the coming years!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Anna, Thanks so much for continuing to follow and support us! Since 2011 we have been able to expand so many of our resources and help so many more girls and young women. In the last year alone, we have supported over 150 students in our Girls' Empowerment Program and provided vocational training to 35 young women who are acquiring a range of skills to support themselves, their families, and their communities when they graduate. Through this project, we can add one more layer of financial support and stability to our holistic approach to their successes.

Photo of Diane Sabato
Team

Have you considered working with community colleges to help provide entrepreneurship and vocational training? It's what we do! There is a national community college group for entrepreneurship education - www.nacce.com that would be a great place for you to connect to colleges with entrepreneurship programs that HK could collaborate with.

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Team

Congrats on making it to the Refinement Phase Jessica! We would love it if you can take some time to answer the new Refinement questions that we've added to your original idea submission form. To answer the new questions, hit the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post. Scroll down to the entry fields of the new Refinement questions. Hit Save when you are done editing.

Also, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 5/11" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

Photo of Jessica Brown
Team

Thanks so much for the great questions, Shane and Sean! Heshima Kenya has been in operation since 2008, providing holistic services, including education and vocational training, to refugee girls who have lost their families. As we all know, education is crucial to empowerment; however, our young women are extremely traumatized upon entry so require this holistic care and case management support to provide for all of their needs, ensuring they are supported and can begin to learn. Our girls are assessed by our case management team at entry, and then linked with any services they may need including, shelter, food and material goods, medical care, psychosocial care, care for their children, assistance with documentation, etc. In 2013, we received a grant from UN Women to also provide microloans to the some of the girls we are serving, and to refugee women in Nairobi who were involved through our community outreach. This was extremely successful - recipients reported earning an income made them more empowered at home, allowed them to exit sex work, and gave them more confidence. The feedback they gave also noted the need for additional support, such as case management - links to medical care, psychosocial care, assistance with refugee documentation. This project is a duplication of that pilot plus the case management portion to fully support the women receiving the loans, so they have more of an opportunity to heal, grow, earn an income and become empowered. Does that answer your question? Please let me know what other information I can provide. Thank you again!

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Jessica, thanks for the idea contribution! To echo Sean's comment, it'd be great if you can you help clarify what part of this idea is new and untested, and which aspect of this idea is an existing initiative from your organization? In this challenge, we're keen on uncovering new innovations around refugee education. We welcome ideas in all stages of development. This will help us better understand how we can support your current efforts!

Photo of Sean Hewens
Team

Hi Jessica -- Would this idea be something new or different from what your organization is already doing? Or just an expansion of an existing program?