Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship

by HERA (Her Economic Rights and Autonomy) France Association
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship

Project Report | Feb 19, 2024
Education in Remote Communities and Under Seige

By Lynellyn D. Long | Project Leader

Moldovan Countryside
Moldovan Countryside

It seemed as if we had been driving for hours across the Moldovan countryside.  The road alternated between washed out, dirt rocky path and newly tarred, double lanes that stretched up and down over hilly terrain. Keeping a constant speed was difficult as we climbed up each hill only to roll back down again. I used the downhill momentum to gain traction on the next hill.  The countryside was dotted by the occasional farm with animal herds and fields of wheat and corn as far as the eye could see. Caught at times behind a tractor, I accelerated to keep our decrepit rental car from stalling out while resisting the temptation to pass until I could see over the next incline. 

We were a Moldovan, British American, and German team of three going to assess another HERA candidate's venture.  Everyone was growing restless; we had already travelled far to visit 16 women entrepreneurs and their ventures mostly in the north near the Ukrainian border.  We all wondered whether we were on a wild goose chase trying to visit this entrepreneur. She had received a first HERA grant in 2018 for her after-school program and had applied for a second for a children’s magazine, a completely different venture.  What had happened to the after-school program?  Were we funding a serial entrepreneur? At least we could evaluate a former grantee, we decided. 

Eventually we reached a farming town. Its streets were also a combination of dirt and pavement, and we were temporarily caught behind a steamroller flattening fresh tar. That put us late for our appointment, but we easily found the entrepreneur’s address.  Turning into one of the main squares, we parked in front of a municipal building that looked fairly prosperous except for its uncut grass.  Inside, however, many offices appeared to be closed. Had we come to the wrong place? Climbing the stairs to the first floor, we saw a sign on one of the doors for an after-school program and we knocked.  Irina, smiling and welcoming, opened the door and invited us into a room that served as both her classroom and office (see photo below).  

We learned that Irina had trained as a journalist and teacher of French and English. She explained that when the first HERA team visited her in 2018, she had 64 children, ages seven to 18 years, in the after-school program.  During COVID, children and parents from the surrounding rural communities had trouble accessing internet and staying online.  She closed for eight months and re-opened in January 2021.  

While the program was closed, Irina started a children’s magazine in Romanian language in July 2020. When she reopened, she continued publishing the magazine in the mornings and in the afternoons, ran the after-school programme again.  In July, when we met her, she had 12 children as it was a low period for education activities.  During summer months, many children work in the fields and some leave for summer camps and/or to visit grandparents.  Her after-school program also provides tutoring in languages and writing; and helps young adults trying to enter university and/or obtain a bachelor’s degree. 

The town’s rural population has two schools: one in Russian language and the other in Romanian.  Moldovan schools run half day so after-school programs fill a critical need for both children and working parents.  Each summer, people from the Moldovan Diaspora return to this region but only for holidays. Many continue to migrate abroad. Year-by-year, the region is becoming less populated, which may explain the empty offices. 

Irina’s magazine and school employ two young women and one man part-time: a young designer; an accountant; and a subscription manager.  The magazine has 3000 subscribers throughout Moldova and from abroad.  An annual subscription of ten issues costs EUR 21 ($23). Irina and her team are continually expanding with sales to children of the Moldovan Diaspora in Europe and North America, whose parents want their children to learn Romanian. Many of her new subscribers also come from Romania. 

The children’s magazine has entertaining stories, interviews, puzzles, and activities. It reminded me of the monthly magazine I enjoyed in my own elementary school days.  I asked Irina whether her magazine can compete with social media and smart phones for children’s attention.  She replied that in a rural area, phone coverage can be unreliable and costly and that even the children with smart phones, like having their own magazine.  We ended our interview with a second grant to promote her magazine in Romania and beyond. Whatever happens ahead in Moldova, we are fairly certain that Irina’s magazine will continue to thrive.

This unexpected, heart warming encounter reinforced our impression that HERA grants for educational ventures (preschool, after-school, tutoring, special needs, family centres, and language programs) address critical issues for women and their families. Such ventures tend to employ young women; and preschool and after-school programs allow parents to work. During war and conflict, these programs maintain some normalcy and continuity. Not surprisingly, several other educational ventures received grants this past year. 

In Armenia, the team supported an after-school Robotics program, where children will learn to assemble, program, and operate a small robot.  The team also gave a second grant to a preschool that is expanding since our first grant, which supported a music program.  For the second grant, the team is supporting equipment for the new school playgrounds. 

In Georgia, the team funded a speech therapist who works with children with special needs; and trains other therapists. The team also funded an after-school fashion and modelling program for teenagers, offering classes in nutrition and fashion design, and a training centre providing Robotics for youth. Although not specifically an education program, the team gave a second grant to a young mother, who developed and produces safe playdough for autistic children.  The mother had developed the recipe for her own autistic son. 

Besides Irina’s magazine in Moldova, the team gave grants for adult business and financial training, and for a program supporting children with special needs by trained therapists.  One of the grants will assist an adult training centre to add finance classes for children and teens. As the Director observes, “they don’t have experience in finance.” The team also funded a young woman’s ISO (quality management) consultancy.  She plans in the future “to have a school for people who want to become HR, accountants, auditors, and financial specialists as the international courses are very expensive.  The entrepreneur observed that “Moldova is lacking in people with this expertise. There is an opportunity for people to remain in the region.”   

In Ukraine, the team awarded a second grant to a Montessori preschool on the Kyiv outskirts that continues to stay open and provide a safe environment for children. The team was relieved to be in contact again with UniClub, a family centre in Kyiv. The Centre offers classes for children and adults, including caregiver grandparents to give them a break and some support.  HERA gave the first grant to UniClub in November 2021. UniClub shut briefly during the first three months of the war but is open and growing again (see photo). 

Of the 514 grants given to date, 65 (13%) have been for educational ventures. This figure is higher if we count grants to local NGOs providing training.  For example, HERA's grants to Orran, an NGO in Armenia, supported sewing and tailoring classes for single mothers. Since the beginning of the grants’ program in 2010, we have witnessed increasing diversification in the kinds of educational programs offered, with a corresponding increase in HERA grants for education. Initially, our education grants supported preschools and language classes. Our education grants today include STEM training (e.g. financial, business, and Robotics classes); programs serving children with special needs; and online and in-person education in regions of conflict and under seige.

 

 

 

Irina's Venture
Irina's Venture
UniClub Team in Kyiv
UniClub Team in Kyiv
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Project Leader:
Lynellyn Long
Sancerre , France
$263,364 raised of $500,000 goal
 
1,717 donations
$236,636 to go
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