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Change the Equation: Empower the Girls!

CAI empowers girls in Kenyan refugee camps to be leaders, create ally networks, and use arts-based campaigns to improve SRHR outcomes.

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What specific problem(s) are you trying to address?

Of the 15,000 adolescent girls at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, 30% have at least one child by the time they are 18. While preventative SRHR services exist, they remain out of reach to most adolescent girls who typically lack the knowledge and personal agency to make informed decisions in their lives. Scarce opportunities exist to develop leadership skills, learn advocacy tools and be part of a supportive network, all of which are required to safely challenge and shift entrenched cultural norms that undermine girls’ control of their bodies and lives. Without an approach that educates, builds personal agency, develops a network of allies and shifts cultural norms that are barriers, SRHR services will remain elusive to adolescent girls.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address?

Given the prevalence and normalization of gender-based violence, shifting the mindset of boys, parents, teachers, and community leaders regarding gender equity and SRHR are important to prevent backlash, ensure more safety and create an ecosystem where girls can thrive. Based on user feedback and our experience involving multiple stakeholders, we have ideas on how that will take shape, but we need additional feedback from these constituencies.

Explain Your Idea

CAI’s Leadership, Empowerment, and Advocacy Program will develop leadership, build supportive networks and apply creative advocacy tools that result in girls having greater agency and trusted community allies that enable them to access SRHR services. CAI trainings use creative methodologies to develop personal agency and self-expression; deconstruct problems; refine strategies for action; foster ally-ship and collaboration; and facilitate inclusive solution generation. Mentors and girls will emerge equipped as SRHR peer educators, able to implement creative advocacy campaigns that inform, shift cultural norms, build unity and garner support. Mentors and girls will form school clubs and implement advocacy campaigns using plays, traditional music and film to share information about SRHR and open up community dialogue. The clubs will provide emotional support, logistical coordination of campaigns and community events. They will also serve as a conduit to SRHR services through ongoing SRHR education; community mapping activities will help to identify SRHR clinics and allies throughout the camp; and field trips to tour the clinics will serve as a bridge until girls can safely and confidently go themselves. To shift entrenched gender norms and increase community support and safety for girls and mentors, CAI will 1) get early buy-in from participants’ parents and school leadership and 2) provide a series of gender equality workshops for parents, teachers and adolescent boys.

Name the three most important ways that your idea will address your identified problem(s).

This project will help improve the dissemination of SRHR information and use of services in refugee camps in Kenya by: 1. Building leadership and facilitation skills such as personal agency and self-expression; ability to deconstruct problems; refine strategies for action; foster ally-ship and collaboration; and facilitate inclusive solution generation to empower girls and enable them to mobilize others in support 2. Creating supportive ally-network through workshops and community events that increase support for girls among parents, teachers and boys. 3. Challenging cultural norms; shifting attitudes; and changing behaviors that prevent girls from accessing SRHR services through community education and creative advocacy.

How is your idea unique?

CAI powerfully combines a distinct creative methodology with an integral approach to development which addresses problems at the individual, collective and systems level. We educate and empower girls on the individual level to increase their knowledge of SRHR issues and act as leaders; we teach them how to leverage their collective power through ally-networks, peer mobilization and education; and we help them to challenge systems through creative advocacy campaigns. Our methods challenge cultural norms and systemic barriers and create a supportive ecosystem for the girls’ leadership to take root and flourish. Art is a powerful tool that effectively educates and mobilizes people, transcends language barriers, inspires hope and possibility and creates spaces for collaboration and leadership development. Our creative methodologies allow groups to dissect taboo subjects without shame, heal and build trust, embody new roles, and tackle complex SRHR material with greater facility.

What are some outstanding concerns or questions that you have regarding your idea?

While we have adjusted our idea to include ongoing adult mentorship and targeted workshops for parents, teachers and boys, we still seek the best leverage points to shift deeply entrenched gender norms and ensure more safety and support for the girls. We have identified key partners who provide SRHR education but are still clarifying the level of engagement for stakeholders such as adolescent boys, community elders, teachers and International Rescue Committee, which provides health services.

Who are your end users?

There are 15,000 adolescent girls (ages 12-17) in Kakuma. Some have lived in refugee camps their whole lives, but most are from Sudan, Somalia, or Ethiopia. In the first year, we will train 10 adults in mentorship skills and 25 selected girls from 5 schools in leadership and peer education. They will go back to form school clubs, recruit 125 more girls to join, share what they’ve learned and reach thousands (including girls who do not attend school) through creative advocacy campaigns about girls’ rights and SRHR. We will provide supplementary workshops for adolescent boys, parents and teachers. After we pilot and refine the model, we will scale out to implement the program at Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya and other camps in East Africa.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Kenya

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

  • Prolonged displacement

Tell us more about the emergency setting that you intend to implement in

Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya and was created in 1992 after the arrival of the Sudanese “Lost Boys.” Today, it is home 181,983 Sudanese, Ethiopian, and Somalian refugees. Replication is planned for Dadaab and is home to 242,998 refugees; 96% are Somalian. Social and cultural norms will affect participation of girls, and it will be important to have buy-in from local leadership so participants are less likely to experience backlash. The girls are also likely to have experienced trauma.

What is your organization's name?

Creative Action Institute

Tell us more about you.

Creative Action Institute (CAI) works around the world, including in Kenya, to empower girls to use arts and creativity to be change agents who take a leadership role in their own lives, shift social and cultural norms that may prevent them from taking advantage of services, advocate for their rights and the rights of others. CAI is seeking a local collaborator who already works to provide SRHR services in the refugee camps so we can test the impact creative leadership training and public art campaigns have on SRHR outcomes.

Organizational Characteristics

  • Women-led organization
  • International/global organization

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • Still in planning phase and does not exist yet

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • Yes, for more than a year.

Organization Location

CAI is registered in the US and has a staff member based in Kenya. SAVIC and FilmAid are team members and are registered in Kenya. The responses regarding registration and staffing reflect the team.

What is your organizational status?

  • Registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

What is the maturity of your innovation?

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


How has your idea changed based on feedback?

A prototype workshop with 11 Kakuma girls and interviews with a school principal and partner staff helped to clarify our methodology and revealed the importance of expanding our reach to the wider community. It became clear that school is one of the safer places for girls so we will use them as a training hub. The 25 girls who receive CAI’s intensive training will form 5 school clubs for mentorship, ongoing SRHR education and a space to develop public art campaigns that disseminate information about SRHR and girls’ rights. CAI will identify and train 2 adult mentors, including a SRH provider and a teacher, to support each club. Due to user feedback, we will take a more inclusive approach with workshops that also educate parents, teachers and boys about gender equality. While this is not the thrust of this project, it is essential to shift norms that devalue girls. Due to high security risks at Dadaab, we will pilot and refine our model first at Kakuma and then scale out.

Who will implement this idea?

CAI’s African Regional Coordinator will devote 10 hours a week for project design, coordination and implementation, plus monthly on-site facilitation and support in Kakuma. This position is filled by a Kenyan woman who has deep experience with leadership training, SRHR, curriculum development, working in refugee camps, and working with adolescent girls. CAI’s Education Director and Programs Director will spend a combined 8 hours a week on design, monitoring and evaluation. SAVIC, an SRHR organization based in Kakuma, is partnering to provide SRH education and mentorship with each school club and coordination of arts-based peer-to-peer workshops and community dialogue events with girls, boys and parents. FilmAid is partnering to support in logistics, video documentation and recruitment.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

CAI’s senior team undertakes a review process with discussion and input from internal staff and leaders of our partner organizations. We employ a learning-based approach that allows for continuous reflection and improvement, and as a small organization are able to make adjustments to our course when improved methods emerge. Should we uncover new strategies that suggest a change in approach, we would present to our program team and board of directors to get full buy-in before foundational shifts are made.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

On an individual level, Kakuma girls reported that they confront daily harassment, humiliation and discouragement. Most of them struggle with low self-esteem and a lack of support to attend school or participate in extracurricular activities. They are responsible for time-intensive household chores which limits their ability to study or engage in leadership development. On a systems level, they reported that they are unaware of or have little access to preventative SRH services. They feel that they would be judged or shamed by health practitioners and so they only utilize SRH services after they become pregnant. They also face traditional practices such as early child marriage as FGM, as well as the normalization of gender-based violence such as sexual harassment and rape.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

IMPACT: By 2022, we have trained and mentored 1,200 adolescent girls in Kenyan refugee camps to be leaders and peer educators who increase the utilization of preventative SRHR services among 37,000 adolescent girls in the camps. QUESTION: How do we ensure deep local buy-in and ownership to allow us to expand and leave behind thriving and sustainable programs so we achieve our 2025 vision of replicating this model in 15 refugee camps in East Africa, home to 112,000 adolescent girls.

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

Amplify’s human-centered design mindset is deeply resonant with CAI’s participatory approach and belief in the creative capacity of every individual. Most funders implicitly encourage a static program design, deviation from which is discouraged. Amplify encourages learning through the embrace of failure and iterative cycles to refine our programs in a variety of cultural contexts and conflict settings. As a result, learning can happen more quickly and programs have greater impact.

Do you intend to implement your Amplify idea in refugee camps / temporary settlements?

  • We aim to implement our Amplify idea in a refugee camp / temporary settlement.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Less than 6 months

How many of your organizations’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Between 5-10 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000 USD

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Business Model Support


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Hi Louisa,

An important reminder, Refinement Phase closes this Thursday, October 26 at 11:30pm PST.

We can only consider complete submissions, so please make sure that you have reviewed the Feedback and Refinement Phase Checklists and answered all of the questions on the platform. Note that we added one more multiple choice question to the end of the form.

If you're having trouble figuring out how to edit your idea, please refer to this guidance:

Best of luck!

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