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Sep 19, 2018

Support Team Winrock and the Christopher Dowswell Scholarship

Did you know YOU can help fund African women’s scholarships for ag extension education? Yes, you can!

On the weekend of September 29-30, a team of Winrock International staff members will bike more than 400 miles to collect donations for the Christopher Dowswell Scholarship. Launched by Winrock with initial financial support from the Dowswell family, the scholarship helps to increase the number of women in agricultural extension services in Africa. People from rural backgrounds with extensive field service are often lack the educational requirements to go to universities, barring them from promotions and holding back extension services as a whole. The scholarship financially supports African women pursuing degrees in Agricultural Extension, providing 50 percent of the estimated tuition and research support to 88 students in five African countries. By the end of next year, the fund aims to extend their scholarship to 100 women.

Winrock staff will participate both in the U.S. and in the field. In Washington D.C., two Winrockers will bike the Shenandoah Valley’s Alpine Loop; in Little Rock, one will bike the Big Dam Bridge 100; and in Mozambique, a team of ten will ride a collective 370 miles from Nampula to Meconta District.

Please show your support for our riders by making a donation. Together, we can make extension education more accessible and affordable for Africa’s women.

Aug 27, 2018

Christopher Dowswell Scholarship Report - Aug 2018

As a young girl growing up in Nigeria, Elizabeth lost everything. When her father died, his small plot of land was taken away from his family, leaving Elizabeth, her mother and six younger siblings struggling to get by.

“My younger ones and I had to survive,” Elizabeth says. With their mother’s help, they began working on other farms, managing to keep food on the table and school fees paid. In the fields, Elizabeth discovered something new: a love for and curiosity about agriculture.

“While working on those fields I noticed that some farms were growing better than the others, and I wondered why,” Elizabeth says. As a secondary school student, she posed the question to her agricultural science teacher, who chalked the difference up to lack of nutrients in some farms’ soil. Elizabeth, however, suspected that the disparity had a deeper cause – that with enough knowledge, the problems could be fixed.

This interest in agriculture continued into Elizabeth’s adult life. Not being able to afford a true university education, she applied to a federal college nearby and began working towards a degree in agricultural technology. As she worked toward her degree, her interactions with other students revealed another passion: communication and teaching. 

“I discovered my strength in communication and teaching,” she says. “As a result, I opted for Agricultural Extension and Farm Management for my Higher National Diploma.”

But in Nigeria, young people, especially women, without a university education are often marginalized, missing out on financial and social opportunities. With this in mind, Elizabeth saved 80 percent of her monthly allowance from the federal government towards her university education. With the help of the Christopher Dowswell Scholarship and Winrock International, she was able to complete her degree.

“When all my savings had finished into the third year of my university education, I was considering picking up menial jobs to pay my school fees, accommodation, project, computer and other bills,” she says. “Winrock International was my savior.”

Now, Elizabeth works as the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development Coordinator for Green Shield Integrated Technologies, an agricultural firm in Ondo State, Nigeria. Utilizing her passions for both teaching and agriculture, she provides marginalized rural women with the information and connections they need to improve their produce production and boost their income.

“I am living my goal and having a fulfilled life,” Elizabeth says.

Jul 19, 2018

A Summer Supporting Youth Entrepreneurship

The Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC) has had an eventful quarter focusing on Arkansas’s youth. An adjustment from our typical target of women entrepreneurs, this summer has been packed with trainings and activities geared toward nurturing an interest in entrepreneurship. Studies show that teaching entrepreneurship at an early age cultivates much-needed soft skills necessary for success in today’s competitive markets. Whether it’s owning and maintaining small business or, more traditionally, seeking employment in the ever-changing job market, entrepreneurship teaches self-confidence, social skills, public speaking, creative thinking, team-building and leadership skills.

In June, AWBC held two youth-oriented programs: Beginnings at the Bank and 2018 El Dorado Youth Entrepreneur Camp. With an award of $5,000 granted from U.S. Bank, the AWBC hosted 18 high school students from Life Skills for Youth for Beginnings at the Bank, a two-day financial literacy training at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub. Partnering with Regions Bank and Centennial Bank, AWBC offered first-steps programming on understanding money and healthy uses of it, covering topics like banking basics, variable and fixed costs, credit versus debt, what reports to credit bureaus, how to maintain and lose healthy credit, college financing options, and identity theft protection. Beginnings at the Bank was a hard-hitting yet interactive training that included games, exercises and skits, encouraging full participation and open dialogue between the youth and our bank trainers. We are pleased that every student could identity at least one new piece of information that they now understand as a result of the training. In fact, several participants stated that more than 50 percent of the information was new to them.

Sponsored by Innovate Arkansas, 2018 El Dorado Youth Entrepreneur Camp was held from June 18-22 in partnership with South Arkansas Community College and the Arkansas Department of Education’s Upward Bound program. AWBC coached 12 high school students through the process of starting and maintaining a small business. Students learned the lean canvas method, how to study and track consumer behavior, and the importance of company branding, among other topics. Throughout the week, AWBC recruited local business owners to discuss the milestones and barriers to owning one’s own business. The students divided into teams and created pitch decks to present their business concepts to a panel of judges for a chance to win $500 cash. Because AWBC believes that business development and community development are closely linked, the students pitched the Murphy Arts District on how they can better target and reach the teen population of El Dorado and surrounding areas.

As AWBC returns to its regular programming – developing women’s capacity for entrepreneurship and business development – we hope that by partnering with these great organizations to offer assistance to Arkansas youth, we have created and encouraged budding entrepreneurs.

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