In February, I had the pleasure of meeting Alice, an intelligent, persevering and extremely inspiring young woman. Alice exemplifies the passion and dedication of our students. We are thrilled to welcome her into our family.
We walked down the dusty, narrow, winding spaces between each shack. We passed clothing lying out on bushes to dry; dishes waiting to be washed in dirty water; and children staring wide-eyed at us. We followed closely behind Alice as she smiled and shouted greetings to her neighbors, who smiled and shouted right back.
Finally, we arrived at a one-room hut, the size of a typical bedroom in the United States.
"This is it. Please, come in. You are welcome here."
Alice ushered us into the home she shares with seven others, none of which are her parents. Brought together because of loss, these distant relatives make up their own, unique family unit. There was a makeshift clothesline attached to the walls that served as a closet, draping each family member's few outfits. There was hardly room to walk; the bed and piles of belongings took up most of the floor, but we squeezed in to explain why we had come to this Ugandan slum in the first place: to accept Alice as a These Numbers Have Faces scholar.
Alice is the sole provider for the seven other members of her family. However, even with these hardships, she's studying accounting at the best university in East Africa in the evenings and spends her days (eight hours each day, seven days each week) balancing the finances at a local bar to pay for rent, food, and her siblings' school fees. Without money for transportation, she spends over two hours walking from home, to university, to her job each day. And with a large family, she's the first to sacrifice her dinner when there isn't quite enough.
Alice's love and selflessness is overwhelming. In the short time we spent with her, we realized she personifies exactly what These Numbers Have Faces stands for, including the potential to be an inspiring leader in her family and community. As we told Alice and her auntie about These Numbers Have Faces - that 75% of Alice's tuition would be covered, that she would receive top-of-the-line professional development training, and that she was part of a community that believed in her, her auntie pulled each of us onto her lap, hugging us and laughing and shouting thanks.
Alice remained fairly quiet during our visit. But as we got ready to leave and started our goodbye hugs, she turned to us and said, "I will not let you down." And we won't let Alice down either. To give to Alice's tuition, transportation, or food stipend, please consider giving to These Numbers Have Faces today. You can give Alice and her family the boost they need to escape poverty.
After graduating just weeks ago, Busisiwe has landed her first job as a business intern! Representing the first cohort of These Numbers Have Faces graduates, Busi is setting the bar high and we couldn't be more proud.
Graduating with a degree in Accounting just weeks ago, Busisiwe was determined to find a job that would put her business skills to work and provide a valuable, real-world experience. After three interviews and a lot of hard work, we are thrilled to announce that Busi is now working as a business intern for Fetola, a social enterprise and development company located in Cape Town, South Africa.
Fetola exists to make a positive difference in South Africa by stimulating the growth of the small business sector. Seeing sustainable empowerment of people as their primary goal, Fetola helps larger companies and government organizations plan projects and intiatives that empower community-based projects and NGOs.
For the next 3-6 months, Busi will be working alongside the Project Manager to assist with projects and particpate in strategy sessions. Additionally, Busi will be writing proposals, doing research, performing business tasks associated with upcoming deadlines and preparing presentations for the board.
Recognizing what a incredible opportunity this is to begin her career, Busi is already strategizing how she can leverage this experience to reach her goal of starting her own consulting business to benefit female entrepreneurs. This is just the beginning for Busi, and we are confident about the incredible direction of her future!
"Thank you so much to everyone at These Numbers Have Faces, even all of those I have yet to meet I thank you a million times. Your support, love and belief in my abilities and the potential you see in me keeps me motivated to face another day with a positive attitude. I am both nervous and excited for my new job, but to know that I have people backing me up all the way makes it easier for me."
Check out this video to learn more about Busi's story! Stay tuned for more updates on Busi and the upcoming launch of her new business website. Busi's success wouldn't be possible without supporters like you. Thank you for providing a hopeful future for our students, so that they - like Busi - can achieve their goals.
Because of your support, These Numbers Have Faces has expanded our vision of investing in the next generation of African leaders to Uganda. Together, we’re impacting more students than ever before - providing Leadership Loans, Community Impact Programs, and more.
This fall, we supported a wonderful young woman named Doreen. Doreen is a phenomenal student now able to go to college due to your partnership with These Numbers Have Faces. Just a few weeks ago, we sponsored Doreen to become a member of the Africa Youth Leadership Forum. She participated in a multi-day leadership conference, and got to interact with the current leaders of Uganda - including President Yoweri K. Museveni!
This is the foundation of opportunity necessary to bring a whole new generation of young women into leadership positions across Africa. Thank you for believing in Doreen!
Every semester, hundreds of students participate in our Community Impact Programs. But a special group of students are asking some truly important questions: “What does it mean to be a woman in Uganda?” Too often it means hardship, adversity, or abuse. Even among university graduates, most study participants believe it is okay to beat your wife a “little bit.” Gender inequality still impacts many young Ugandan women. We’ve developed an outreach program to address issues of gender roles and relationships. The first event in the series had 120 participants! Students talked about pre-existing relationship ideas and are continuing the conversation about gender expectations. With your help, a young woman’s gender will no longer be an excuse for abuse or an impediment to leadership.
Now is the pivotal time to partner with the next generation of African leaders, transforming Africa from the inside out. We hope you’ll continue to partner with these students. Together, we are changing lives forever.
Visit thesenumbers.org and continue to support these strong African women.
With love,All of us at These Numbers Have Faces
In honor of Nelson Mandela’s legacy, we are proud to partner with Dermalogica’s FITE, Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship, investing in the potential of women.
Following the success of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebrations in London’s Hyde Park in June 2008, it was decided that there could be nothing more fitting than to celebrate Mr. Mandela’s birthday each year with a day dedicated to his life’s work and that of his charitable organizations, and to ensure his legacy continues forever. Mandela Day is a call to action for individuals – for people everywhere – to take responsibility for changing the world into a better place, one small step at a time, just as Mr. Mandela did.
FITE will be supporting scholarships for three young women as part of the These Numbers Have Faces programs in Cape Town providing scholarships to the region’s brightest youth. The scholarship recipients all participate in a community impact program that includes volunteer community service, leadership and financial literacy trainings, and a commitment to give back a year of tuition to help a new student participate in the program. Thank you for partnering with us in empowering girls in Africa through higher education.
Alutho was so encouraged by being chosen for this campaign that she wrote an inspiring letter to These Numbers Have Faces. Read Alutho's Letter.
See Alutho tell her story on Vimeo.
It has been an amazing year so far!
These Numbers Have Faces continues to grow, impacting dozens of students in South Africa, Rwanda, and Uganda! We spent most of March in Uganda and Rwanda. It was a whirlwind of activity, opportunity, and camaraderie as we met new students, assessed our programs, and built new relationships for further growth.
Here are a few specific updates about our programs with an emphasis on women’s empowerment.
Several young women will be graduating this year in Rwanda. The exciting thing is that with additional funding and new slots opening, we’ll have new students given the opportunity to attend University. We have initiated the application process, and we’ll have seven young women chosen from dozens of applications.
One graduate that we’ll miss particularly is Margret. She is a natural leader, and an incredible mentor to the younger girls in the program, particularly those who have faced significant amounts of physical and/or emotional trauma.
Margret is finishing here degree at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) where she majors in Computer Engineering. KIST has fewer than 25% female students, and is the premier science and engineering university in the country. Our dream is to help Margret get a job with a tech startup, where she would remain in Kigali building software for smart-phones and other Web platforms.
Check out more of our Rwanda stories and Student Profiles.
We have eight awesome new of students in South Africa this year. Our students are busy planning for a June retreat together, and the new students are acclimating to their peers and the new world of University education.
One of our new students, Phumza (pictured below), was in hospital for a week with complications from Diabetes. She is a brilliant Analytical Chemistry scholar at one of the best universities in South Africa.
We were concerned that she might need to leave the program to recover, and re-start the program after a semester.
After delving into her life situation, it became clear that her diabetes was causing significant medical problems. The core issue was that she was taking her insulin shots on an empty stomach. Further inquiry revealed that her father had been absent for most of her life, and she was far from her mother on the eastern cape. Her brother, who had been
able to supply a small monthly stipend, about $40, had been unemployed for some time and had ceased to do so. Her sister, who had also been supporting her, was pregnant, and needed to save money for the birth of her child. She was dependant on small hand-outs from her church for food.
The net result was that she was injecting insulin while on an empty stomach because she didn’t have any money to eat, and would skip days, going without eating due to lack of funds.
Once we were able to drill down to focus on the problem, we were able to address it. Our South Africa Director, Edwin, visited her several times in Hospital. Sadly, no other single person visited her during this time, including her siblings whom live in Cape Town.
Our South Africa Director communicated with her school so she would not be penalized for missed work, and facilitated the diet instructions from the medical personnel to ensure she would have proper nutrition. He also conducted a home visit in the townships. The home-visit assured us of her financial need, and it allowed us to make sure that she had refrigeration for food, a means to cook, and a clean, safe working environment for her studies.
We also immediately made a decision to implement a monthly stipend from our contingency funds, roughly USD $110, and that was wired directly from out staff in South Africa into her account, so it was immediately available for food the day she was discharged. The joy of this story is what she had to say about the experience:
"Because of These Numbers Have Faces, I've never felt so loved or part of a family." - Phumza
And it gets even better: When we shared her story through our blog and our advocate community, the support was overwhelming- we had donations coming in within minuets, and in less than 24 hours, the members of our community had raised enough support to take care of her food stipend, not only for this year, but for all four years of her college education. WOW!
For our US based staff, it is inspiring to see so many of our followers step up, and when given a clear choice between apathy and compassion, choose to let their humanity shine through, and reach out to support another human being on the far side of the Earth.
Learn more about our South Africa Program!
The issue of physical and emotional trauma and its impacts on our young female students is one that is of growing concern to us. In South Africa, Rwanda, and Uganda we know that this is an underlying and difficult problem, but one that cannot remain unaddressed.
Senior high-school girls in need of University scholarships.
I recently was able to sit in on an interesting discussion among university students in Uganda. In an open discussion forum, they were debating an interesting story:
“A young woman from a wealthy family has fallen on hard times when her parents died. They left enough money for her to finish her secondary school. When it comes time for her to attend University, and uncle offers to pay her tuition every semester. When she is one semester away from graduation, he says that she must have intercourse with him or he won’t pay her tuition, and she will be forced to leave university without graduating. Should she agree?”
The debate was fascinating to observe. One young man commented several times ‘that when someone gives you something, you must give them something in return…’ It became even more interesting when a young woman asked “When is it okay for a woman to beg, to be a beggar?”
I learned later that of this cohort of students, fully 1/3 of the women will bear children out of wedlock by the end of university, with significant negative repercussions for their personal, academic, and professional futures.
These Numbers Have Faces CEO Justin Zoradi made the immediate decision to commit $2,500 on the spot to initiate a process around gender, sexuality, and women’s empowerment. Our first step was the creation and dissemination of a questionnaire that would help clarify perceptions of gender and relationship norms. The survey was given to both men and women who are university graduates, and whom attended an elite secondary school on full scholarship for two years, which has a heavy focus on moral leadership and character development. In a sense, they are an academic and cultural elite.
While we have not completed an analysis all of the results, one trend is clear: Physical abuse is considered a normative and appropriate response in sexual relationships.
We need to have a way to address this with our students that is appropriate, effective, and adequately funded. While we are not experts at implementing gender-based curriculum, we are fortunate that there are many organizations on the ground that focus on this, with a long work history in the region and a solid track record. There exists a range of curriculums and interventions, as well as a full spectrum of behaviors that they are designed to address.
We see this as really a two-part process. The first addresses the downside behaviors- mitigating the effects of sexual violence, coercion, and dealing with trauma. The second aspect is more positive, focusing on engagement and empowerment.
To put it in concrete terms: How do we help heal a student who has endured sexual assault, prevent it from happening again, and also make sure that she attends a youth leadership conference with the poise, confidence, and ambition to participate and to thrive?
We know that there are no easy answers, and this is not our primary expertise. But we can commit ourselves, and we can begin. And you can help us. If you’d like to do something concrete to help young women in Africa attend university, become an advocate for These Numbers Have Faces.
In conclusion, our programs are expanding and gaining increasing depth and strength. We also continue to realize that the need for education is significant. There are new areas, especially gender, sexuality, and women’s empowerment, that demand our attention and a commitment of resources.
Thank you for your continued interest and support for These Numbers Have Faces.
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