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In December 2018, five SYEF graduates joined our local board chair for a trip to the Lake Bunyonyi region of southern Uganda for a young women’s leadership summit.  They joined other young women from Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo for three days of discussion, community-building, laughter and visioning about how they can each achieve the life of their dreams, and the potential of women to lead East Africa into an era of prosperity.  In partnership with the U.S.-based Global Livingstone Institute (GLI), the summit was held at GLI’s lakeside retreat center, which provides a peaceful and beautiful setting where this group of young African women shared their challenges, successes and hopes.

Thank you to the SYEF donors who enabled our participants to make the journey to Uganda (including their first-ever experiences on a plane!), and giving these young women a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with their peers and elevate their awareness for just how important women’s voices are in leading East Africa. 

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We recently completed our annual IRS reporting paperwork, which always catalyzes some thinking and reflecting about our achievements of the past year. 

We are in our ninth year of existence as one of the only organizations in Samburu focused exclusively on supporting youth through educational scholarships and supplementary training.  Supporting education is repeatedly shown in research to be the single greatest action for addressing poverty in the developing world, and all of the related challenges that come with it.

We keep an active tally of what our graduates are up to since finishing high school.  Consider these numbers:

  • 60 graduates since we started in December 2010: 31 young women and 29 young men.
  • 22 of our graduates are in a position to support other family members for their education, resulting in an additional 30 youth attending school from the support of our graduates.
  • As of this writing, 24 of our graduates are employed and 27 are either enrolled or completed post-secondary training.  SYEF does not provide support for post-secondary; these graduates have the ambition and problem-solving skills to seek and arrange funding for additional education.
  • Of our 60 graduates, 11 have children of their own  That is a remarkable number considering that in this part of the world most young people have at least one child prior to the age of most of our graduates.  Even more remarkable is that included in those 11 are a few young women who had children prior to even starting high school from forced marriage circumstances or similarly troubling situations. 
  • Our expense allocations are solid: 93% to programs, 6% to fundraising, and 1% to administration.

We definitely feel satisfied with these numeric outcomes, though we also are curious how formal education and our trainings influence these decisions, which is on our horizon for future evaluation work.

 

Our 9th cohort of youth leaders were selected at the end of 2018, a few weeks in advance of the beginning of the new school year in January 2019. These seven boys and five girls join 16 other boys and 22 girls currently supported, and 64 alumni, to-date. Our selection criteria is based on demonstrated leadership and academic performance in primary school, and circumstances of the individuals that place them at great risk of failing to realize their potential as change-maker recognized by their teachers and community leaders. In other words, these are young women and men who could do great things, and simply need the opportunity. It is exciting to consider this group of young people, and who among them are future teachers, doctors, business owners, activists and other jobs that will bring positive change to their community!

Our primary women’s group partner for our beading program, the Unity Women’s Group, recently completed construction of a tourist hut for adventure-seeking travelers to Samburu. The women charge the equivalent of about $21 per person per night, and have had a modest but steady flow of visitors for a few months now.

The women built the tourist hut with funds generated primarily through the income they earned via their beading program with SYEF.  It was their own group decision-making that led to this reinvestment of a portion of the income into a venture that would generate additional revenue, and they are close to recouping their initial start-up costs already.  None of this should be surprising; researchers have long shown that investment in women in the developing world often leads to sustainable and positive outcomes. It’s wonderful to see that hold true for the women of Unity, as well.

As Unity continues to transition to a more consistent income, and one that is also less dependent on SYEF bead sales, we will bring additional women into our beading program, and hopefully have a similar effect elsewhere.  In the meantime, you can go to our Etsy site to purchase some of the items we sell, or visit one of our upcoming holiday events if you’re in Colorado.

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During the first school break of the year, our youth participated in a multi-day workshop facilitated by Stephen Muasya of Daraja Academy about conflict, gender-based violence and leadership. Employing a variety of activities and small group discussions, the students immersed themselves in discussing the source of conflict and the short and long term implications of how conflict is generally managed today.

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Conflict is common in Samburu, unfortunately. Conflict between tribes has persisted for hundreds of years, often in a context of livestock ownership and raiding. In addition, a traditional perspective by men in Samburu toward women has been one rooted in seeing women as property; only within the past 1-2 generations has a value on gender equity really taken hold.

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We envision our students as individuals who not only contribute to emerging social norms about how Samburu think about conflict, tribal tension and gender, but who are at the forefront of creating solutions. Through communication and listening skills, innovative thinking and the courage and confidence that comes with education, we see our students in positions of leadership and social change, and our recent workshop is one of the incremental steps in making that vision come to fruition!

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beadingprogram3We ramped up our beading program in 2016, a program in which we partner with women in Samburu to produce beaded items for resale abroad. Proceeds support the women directly as well as SYEF scholarships and programming. It’s a partnership that results in educational scholarships and income generation for women, or what is known to be a win-win strategy for alleviating poverty, supporting equality, promoting women’s rights, and many other benefits. Our evaluation results from 2016 indicated that women spend more than half of their income on food, and can purchase more nutritious food such as fruits and vegetables rather than relying solely on aid-provided sacks of sorghum and maize. In addition, the additional income enabled women to purchase school supplies for her children, clinic fees, and even set some aside for herself. Perhaps most notable, the women reported feeling less stress because they have less worry about how they will provide the basic needs for her family.

Our original partner, Unity Village, combined portions of their individual income to construct a new hut where adventurous tourists can spend the night for a traditional Samburu experience. They are using their income to invest in other income-generating activities!

In 2017, we plan to enhance these efforts even more, by expanding the number of women who participate by adding new items to the inventory. As we scale up the program, we intend to reach out to women whose children are not supported by SYEF but who are working hard to raise the money to send their children to secondary school.

beadingprogramHow you can help: find an event in your community that is suitable for selling the beaded items. Events with a global, international, women’s rights or fair trade theme are usually most successful, though other fairs, festivals and markets can be worthwhile as well.

You can also host a small event in your home where we talk about our efforts, provide some opportunities for Q&A, and then have items available for purchase.

We’ve been supporting Samburu youth for more than five years now. And we’re convinced that our place-specific, super grassroots approach is how to make a difference in the world. For this model to work, though, efficiency is critical.

We’re committed to running a lean organization, which is why we’re regularly above 90% on the portion of expenses allocated directly to the scholarship program. However, we aim to be efficient not just with our funds, but also with our time. The more time we can allocate to the aspects of SYEF that result in direct impact on youth, the better, of course.

This is where you can help. Our automatic donation program lessens the time needed to fundraise. You can enroll to donate once per month or once per year; it all happens automatically via your debit or credit card. When you do that, we spend less time analyzing donations, less time strategizing and re-strategizing, less time sending out emails and letters to donors. And as a result, we have more time to strategize about how SYEF can be even better and stronger in terms of its impact on Samburu youth.

Please, go to www.samburuyouth.org/donate, click and make it easy. Our goal is to receive 50% of our annual budget via the automatic donation program. When you enroll, you give time back to SYEF to focus on what we’re all in this for to begin with: empowering Samburu youth through education.