Girls Academy for Conscious Change

 
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Girls in a mindful moment
Girls in a mindful moment

Dear Friends and Supporters:

We are so pleased to share final feedback from three teams of young women who worked hard to create lasting change in their communities throughout 2014.  Their work was possible thanks to the partnership between Global Grassroots of Kigali and Komera based in Rwinkwavu. 

Each of three teams has reported back with final results of their work.  These teams of girls, like girls before them, grew in confidence and compassion as a part of their own personal transformation, while helping create long lasting shifts in their communities, as shared here:

1. The venture, Step Forward (Terimbere), led by a team of eight young women with the mission to reduce poverty among women and youth through offering workshops on family planning and starting a livestock program, helped by:

  • training 42 community members about how to create jobs (and of those members 15 couples started a land circle that contributes Rwandan francs each week toward buying goats)
  • assisting seven couples to breed goats who then used these acquired skills to save money;
  • sensitizing ten couples who learned about family planning (new cases of unwanted pregnancies decreased by 15%).

2. The Young Women's Vision Team, Izina ry’Umushinga, had a the mission to reduce the number of street girls that do not attend school through educating/sensitizing children about the importance of education and advocating for their rights.

The team carried out:
- training of children's rights
- raising awareness of the importance of children’s education and
- six girl students were supported with school fees, school materials and a follow-up coaching program.

In doing so the team achieved these outcome goals:

  • 40% of trained households on the importance of children have sent the children to school equally.
  • the six girls that the team ensured would attend school represent a 45% increase in girl attendance.

Success story:
“I have been on the street for 3 years before meeting the Vision Team.  I was not feeling interested to go back to school, as I dropped out after only one year of my primary school. I was hopeless for my future life. But now, I am eligible to plan and think for my future plan”. I can think of what I want to become at the end of my studies,” said Isabella.


3. The young women's venture,"Those to be Seen, " Indangamirwa
selected and then supported five of the most vulnerable children from their community, Nkondo cellule, to help reduce the number of street children in their commiunity, and turn them to students attending school.

Their achievements:

  • Five children are now attending the school regularly and live either with their families, extended families or in home-stays.
  • 30% of new parents (6 out of 20 parents) now send their children to school.
  • 60% of parents now converse with their children and respect their rights in terms of allowing them to pursue school

One example of success:  This team worked with a young girl who had dropped out from school after Primary one because her mother was very poor, HIV Positive, and chronically sick. This child used to spend her days around the Rwinkwavu Hospital collecting discarded food.  The team helped her return to school.  According to one of the team members, "the best point is that through Global Grassroots’ skills, we found a partner who will sponsor her up to secondary school."

By sharing these final results, we are now ready to formally close this project.  We are grateful to our followers and all of you who have offered financial support to these young women. Thank you, very much.  

You are welcome at this point to consider following and supporting:

- Global Grassroots girls who are engaging in similar training and community work in Uganda: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/young-women-conscious-change-uganda/.  
Or alternatively: - the Komera Global Run which supports the education and empowerment of girls: 
https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/komera-global-run/ 

Rosine leads a mindfulness practice
Rosine leads a mindfulness practice
Students reviewing their work
Students reviewing their work
Sharing
Sharing

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Proud student with Global Grassroots team
Proud student with Global Grassroots team

This month we are happy to report on progress made by three young women teams formed from Global Grassroots' Girls Academy for Conscious Change, held in partnership with the Komera Project based in Rwinkwavu, eastern Rwanda.  The advances these young women have made in their villages is a reflection of their hard work, skills learned, and relationships built with teachers and leaders in their communities.

"Indangamirwa": Working with Street Children
This team of young women has a mission to reduce the number of street children through providing school material to vulnerable children, training parents on the importance of the girls and children’s rights, and training children on the importance of education through drama. The team reports that they started their work by training 20 community members on the importance of education, children rights and the value of equal opportunity for both girls and boys. The group zeroed in on supporting five vulnerable children and took them to school and provided school materials they need to remain at school.  Once a week during the team’s vacation period, they tutor the children to support their performance in class.  Their home visits allow the girls to follow up with the children regularly and monitor the relationship between the children and their parents. Finally, the girls purchased a goat as an income-generating tool.  When it gave birth to three kids, the offspring were sold and the profits used to buy more school materials. The group says that they have developed confidence in collaborating with adult stakeholders, especially children’s parents. They state, “Experience and skills from Global Grassroots were the best tools that took us beyond our personal limits and allowed us to teach our community.” Their final phase of operations will involve hosting two drama performances to encourage parents and children to have open conversations. 

"Vision": Reducing the Number of Girls on the Street
This team of 6 young women worked with girls who never had a chance to attend school.  The team holds workshops on the importance of education, have provided school materials to the six most vulnerable children so that they can continue their schooling, have conducted advocacy for their rights, and are using drama to mobilize and educate their relatives on the importance of sending both girls and boys to school. Over the last three months they have performed one play and have reached over fifteen households to help educate parents on the importance of education and children’s rights.  The result: two drop-outs returned to school resulted from our program. They have five children enrolled in different schools who are acting as advocates to eliminate violence against children by sharing their personal testimonials.  Their next steps involve organizing a vacation tutoring session for their beneficiaries to prepare for the national exams. The team shares, “We have developed confidence from learning Global Grassroots’ skills, which has allowed us to reach out to our community freely. The breathwork has been the best tool to use in making the best decisions. We have learnt a lot from Global Grassroots such as financial management, conscious behavior and techniques to use in inviting the presence of our consciousness in whatever we do, how to do a diagnostic of our social issue, research and evaluation.” 

"Step Forward": Family Planning Training
Step Forward is working to reduce poverty among women and youth by providing family planning training, offering financial skills workshops and initiating a livestock program. In the last three months, this team of eight high school girls, visited the 20 women trained in their family planning workshops, noting that 8 women participated in using family planning for the first time. The team created a savings and loan circle for these mostly-illiterate women to save money so that the women could help each other buy domesticated animals. So far, the women have been able to purchase seven goats and they are expecting six more goats to be distributed in October. Based on a request from these women, the team will return to teach land circle members about financial management with the goal that they can expand their business and keep up the social mission of visits to encourage family planning. They will also continue their home visits to encourage women to use birth control to limit family size.  The team shares in their latest report, “We thank Global Grassroots for funding and assistance. We have learnt a lot that will help us to be more of personal value to our society, by using any resource [we may have].”

For sponsors who contributed to supporting these girls and making this program possible, we thank you so much.  These young women have demonstrated how a little collaborative and hard work and applying the mindful leadership skills they have learned through Global Grassroots can make a significant impact in not only advancing positive social change in their communities, but preparing the next generation to become change leaders.

At this juncture, this project is considered completed. Global Grassroots is placing its Girls Academy for high school girls on hold for a year while it undergoes an evaluation and planning process to expand this program on a national basis across Rwanda. The Komera Project continues its important work in the support of these young women in the pursuit of their education and development as leaders. 

For those of you who contributed toward helping these young women, we extend our deepest gratitude for your support and trust in this work. Global Grassroots is now shifting its work with youth to focus on high school graduates in Uganda and Rwanda during the 9-month gap between high school graduation and university enrollment when young women are at great risk of leaving their path of education. You are invited to learn more about Global Grassroots Young Women's Academy in Uganda also listed with Global Giving: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/young-women-conscious-change-uganda/ 

To support the education and leadership endeavors of The Komera Project, click here: https://www.globalgiving.org/donate/8772/komera/  

Change Agent team member
Change Agent team member
Students practicing mindfulness
Students practicing mindfulness
Josie teaching
Josie teaching

In January 2014, eleven girls from disparate parts of their poorest parts of Uganda convened for three weeks of intensive training offered by Global Grassroots after they graduated from high school. They were like eager sponges.  They soaked up social entrepreneurship skills, leadership training, personal transformation exercises and mindfulness practices.  And in spite of all this, they quietly wondered if they really had the skills, ability and confidence to return to their home communities and put into action, ventures that they had just (remarkably) designed on their own. Without realizing it, they had already accomplished a lot: the creation of a social mission and plan of action to tackle troubling and enduring issues: school drop outs, unemployment, domestic violence, early pregnancies - that they determined they would try to change - alone.  At least at first. 

Could they do it?  They were asking themselves, and we too were not sure what was possible. Afterall, these girls were the pioneers, the first group of girls to be trained in Uganda by Global Grassroots. Global Grassroots had never trained girls to start a venture alone, independently, without being part of a team.  So when we reconvened in May, it was with pure joy that the girls effusively shared their progress.  "What was your biggest surprise," we asked?  And the consistent answer from each one was disbelief that adults from their communities were willing to listen to them.  And not only listen to them but go on to support them in innumerable ways including time and resources.

One of Global Grassroots' trainees, the highest level educated from her village (located, west, near the Democratic Republic of Congo) turned down two job offers because she was determined to make an impact on the troubling, pervasive issue of girls marrying early and dropping out of school.  When she started training, she has 120 eager girls who wanted to hear what she had to say.  Josie figured out how to manage training large groups of girls at the same time, and then started an intensive training session for the more serious 40 girls on Saturdays. Josie's project so inspired her local council leadership that she was invited to be part of the Town Council Meeting.

Another trainee, Harriet, offered lessons on the issue of dropping out of school, and she first remembered, "I did not think that I was of great value to the community... but when I started talking to the girls many people were happy and gave me encouragement.  The girls - they have hope to study and finish.  They are always promising to not let me down."

And one other student, Kellen, was deeply disturbed by the domestic violence in her community and courageously took on this issue. She returned from Kabale, her home community saying, "I have learnt something great... I didn't know that I am courageous and that I can speak and people listen to me .... and even in giving out the lesson I was feeling strong and firm."  She now has people in her village discussing a new policy that will limit the bar hours to help diminish the incidences of domestic violence which are mainly caused by over drinking.

These are only three of eleven success stories.  And certainly the girls faced challenges.  Many.  They were continually hassled about "the whites," or that they must be making money, or why weren't they getting something from this work?  And they didn't find answering these questions easy.  They each described to us and their classmates (their "sisters") how they patiently listened and how they managed these encounters based on tools they had learned in their training.

Encouraged by their shared stories and equipped with new skills and tools from their May training, the girls return to our partner, and their former bording school - Cornerstone Leadership Academy - for a graduation ceremony this August before they head to university. To those of you who have supported Global Grassroots' Girls Academy for Conscious Change, we extend our deepest gratitude.  We look forward to updating you on their progress and encourage you to continue to support our training that supports these girls and their communities.

The girls have over 1000 beneficiaries
The girls have over 1000 beneficiaries
Examining a ledger
Examining a ledger
All eleven change agents at the May workshop
All eleven change agents at the May workshop
The most recent 18 graduates
The most recent 18 graduates

For the second year, Global Grassroots's conducted a Conscious Social Change Academy curriculum in partnership with the Komera Project based in Rwinkwavu, eastern Rwanda, at the Partners In Health Center.  Eighteen girls joined this training to address social issues they identified in their communities.  Based on merit, these girls were awarded seed funding to support ventures that they designed.

The girls formed three ventures with the following missions, in their words (with translation):

"To reduce the number of street children through providing school material to the most vulnerable 5 children, training on importance of the girls and children’s rights, and educating community on importance of girls’ education and children in general through drama. We will help with reintegration process where it will be possible."

"To reduce the number of street girls who do not go to school, by providing the training and using theaters to mobilize and educate their relatives on importance of sending both children to school, providing some school materials to the 6 vulnerable girls and doing advocacy for their rights." 

"To reduce poverty against women and girls through family planning training, how to create jobs or businesses with personal small revenue available in community, and initiating livestock program among the most vulnerable families." 

Global Grassroots Senior Program Officer noted how effective it is to educate social change agents at this juncture of their lives.  Girls suddenly have new skills as well as a new found ambition with which to focus their energy. 

For sponsors who have contributed to supporting these girls in the past, thank you so much.  This group of eighteen girls shows great promise. Thank you for any new or continued support.  We will be sure to let you know how their ventures progress in the next quarter.

Links:

The girls at work
The girls at work

Six teams of girls from the Girls Academy for Conscious Change training are now carrying out their ventures.  The girls include teenage mothers, girls who are HIV+ and those who are the heads of their child-headed households.  For these girls, their education is critical.  The further they advance in their academics the more likely they are to improve their health, their sense of self-worth and how they can positively impact their communities.

Here are short summaries of the ventures they created and their progress:

Brave People is working to reduce the number of street children, ages 8-14, by educating them in performances using songs, plays and poems. Their goal is to mobilize these children to leave their street life, and bring them back to school and to their families.  To date, this team of 18 high school girls has independently reintegrated seven children back into their original families and helped three children find families to adopt them. They are working to ensure all children are reenrolled in school.

Invincible is working to reduce hunger by increasing farm yields using fertilizers, anti-erosion techniques and smart water usage. With a team of 5 members, Invincible was able to approach local leaders who agreed to partner with them, purchased four pigs to give to families and has worked to train the families on using fertilizer from the pigs to benefit the crops.

New Life is working to fight overpopulation by providing 400 people with trainings on family planning, performing educational plays, songs and poems that show the public the “bad effects” of overpopulation and mobilizing people to use family planning.  New Life’s team of 17 girls has created strategic partnerships with nurses from the local health center who helped them provide comprehensive family planning training to local women. 

Hard Workers has pledged to reduce poverty among women and girls by fighting their lack of self-confidence and teaching them marketable skills.  They began by organizing basket-weaving classes that take place under a tree. Women gather in the shade to weave, while hearing these seven girls talk about self-confidence and how to value the skills that they have.

Step Forward is working to reduce domestic violence faced by children, ages 7-20, by conducting trainings among 300 parents to reduce the ignorance of child rights.   They also aim to help children return to school and acquire health insurance.  This small team of nine has taken initial steps towards implementing their vision.  Step Forward facilitated conversations between parents and children at a local municipal office. They discussed children’s rights, how parents can help children achieve a bright future and worked to develop a “culture of conversation” between parents and children. They also gave school materials such as notebooks, pens, school bags and soap to 10 of the most vulnerable children.

Withstand is working solve a lack of day care centers  (preventing children under the age of 7 from playing in the streets and getting into accidents) by training parents and local leaders about the importance of these centers, and to build and register pre-school aged children in those centers.  Recognizing that their vision requires significant funding and local partnership, they approached local leaders who agreed to raise this issue at community meetings and help mobilize the population to build nursery schools. They also led two public discussions about the importance of day care to more than 100 people. 

For those who have supported and/or would like to continue to support these remarkable girls, thank you so much. With financial support the necessary resources are available for the girls to advance the wellbeing of their communities - and to claim the same for themselves, it is through your donations that they can continue their impresive and inspiring grassroots work.  In 2014 we will see how their ventures continue to take shape.

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Organization

Project Leader

Gretchen Wallace

President and Founder
Hanover, New Hampshire United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Girls Academy for Conscious Change