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7 Ways We Can Promote Women’s Education In Our Everyday Lives

Education is the most powerful weapon a woman can have. But in communities that don’t value women’s education, how do we provide them with the tools and knowledge they need? There are many ways of enlightening women about their worth in the community.

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  • Starting business projects.

Education starts with small initiatives. There are many hard working business women who are just waiting to discover their gift of building a successful business. A microloan is the only thing they need to invest in an income generating business like fish farming, bee keeping and poultry farming. These microloans help women to gain financial independence.

 

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  • Doing vocational training.

A useful skill is often enough for a woman to start a career. Teaching women skills like dress making, catering, housekeeping, bookkeeping and horticulture can lead women into productive work. 

 

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  • 10273825683_dede6b44cd_oIntroducing job opportunities.

There is a great need for communities to promote secure labor markets for women. Women have limited access to job opportunities which in turn puts them on the disadvantage.

 

 

 

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  • Promoting the importance of education.

The moment women are given the chance to get an education their aspirations rise. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 9584458850_ceba5f01e1_oInforming them about their rights.

Knowing their rights is also a prerequisite for advancing development and reducing poverty.  

 

 

 

  • 29680273255_47026950a3_oBeing a role model figure

Being a role model to younger women is another way of educating them passively. Be confident and show them that they too can be an influential woman.

 

 

 

 

 

  • 10273823663_3bde1d061e_oEducating men.

Men need to be educated about women’s rights issue just as much as women do. It’s important to have allies in men, but it’s also vital because when women become aware of their rights at a faster pace than men, social problems can arise.

 

 

Blogger Precious Ngwayarudza grew up in Chipinge, Zimbabwe and studied Psychology at Africa University. In 2015 she conducted a qualitative research: An exploration of the circumstances that led to elderly destitution and institutionalization at Zororai Old Peoples’ Home. She is a humanitarian who has volunteered her services to various vulnerable groups. Since 2012, she is volunteering at Zororai Old Peoples’ home by offering emotional support to the destitute elderly who stay there. She also volunteered at Mutare Farm prison in 2013 where she was involved in the rehabilitation and reconciliation of the incarcerated. In addition, she undertook an internship at Simukai Child Protection Centre where she offered psychosocial support to street children.

Staff Portrait: Meet Victoria, SKImfi Zimbabwe Communications Intern

IMG_2136SKIC’s Zimbabwe-based communications intern, Victoria, on what her role is like:

What is your role at SKImfi?

I am a communications/operations intern at SKImfi and I assist with keeping the records of the beneficiaries, ensuring that they comply with SKImfi rules and regulations, and compiling reports on the progress of their projects.

What does a day look like when you go out to meet with beneficiaries?

When we go out to meet with beneficiaries, the day is exciting. I like visiting women from different places. It gives me the opportunity to see life in a different way by spending time with new people in a new environment and hearing about their life stories and projects.  

I was quite impressed by one of the groups we visited in Mutare. They mainly focused on buying and selling bales of second hand clothes. When they first joined SKImfi, their projects did not go so well. They had bought a bale of blouses only to find out the blouses were off-season. We were approaching winter, so people were buying warm clothes. What I liked about these ladies is they did not sit on their project—they actually went to some of the rural areas in Mutare and they traded their blouses with mealies and nuts. The next time they went to Mozambique, they bought a bale of kids’ jerseys and they made a profit of 60%. I liked that these ladies are hard-working and open-minded.

How have you seen beneficiaries benefit and grow from SKImfi?

The loans that beneficiaries have received from SKImfi have helped them to start something. For example, those who rear chickens and sell them have made a lot of profit. They buy 25 chicks for $18 and rear them for 5 weeks. They then sell the chickens for $7 each. 

What do you find to be the most meaningful part of your job?

Visiting the beneficiaries to monitor their projects. It gives me a chance to understand some of their challenges and help them with ideas on how to approach their problems.

Why do you think it’s important to empower women and girls?

Women’s empowerment is important because it leads to development of society as well as the economy. It also reduces poverty: sometimes the money earned by the male member of the society is insufficient to meet the demands of the family, and the added earnings of the women helps the family come out of poverty.

7 Sexist Comments I Hear—And What I Say in Return

WP_20150425_047Precious Ngwayarudza, a native of Zimbabwe, shares some of the comments she’s heard as single woman pursuing education—and her strategies for combatting casual sexism:

Why are you obtaining a Masters degree? Don’t you know that you will never secure a job in Zimbabwe?

Learning is my passion. As long as I have the funding to continue educating myself, nothing will stop me, and I’m confident that I will secure a job that is good for me.

 

If you continue learning, no man will be bold enough to marry you.

I don’t aspire to be married to a coward. I will marry a man who suits my educational status and demands.

 

Education is for men, not women. Do you think you’ll even use your education once you’re married?

I’m pursuing education so that I can have a better understanding of the world. Even if I choose not to have a career, my education will still serve me; the best thing about being educated is being able to view the world in a new way.

 

Why are you wasting your time and money on learning? When you marry, you’ll be taken care of by your husband and you will be confined to the kitchen.

I want to be my husband’s equal, not a burden and responsibility.

 

You aren’t going to have time to spend with your children, you’ll be too busy.

Necessity is the mother of invention. I will make time for both my career and family.

 

Haven’t you noticed that everyone your age is already married?

I’m too busy to be concerned about something like that.

 

Precious Ngwayarudza grew up in Chipinge, Zimbabwe and studied Psychology at Africa University. In 2015 she conducted a qualitative research: An exploration of the circumstances that led to elderly destitution and institutionalization at Zororai Old Peoples’ Home. She is a humanitarian who has volunteered her services to various vulnerable groups. Since 2012, she is volunteering at Zororai Old Peoples’ home by offering emotional support to the destitute elderly who stay there. She also volunteered at Mutare Farm prison in 2013 where she was involved in the rehabilitation and reconciliation of the incarcerated. In addition, she undertook an internship at Simukai Child Protection Centre where she offered psychosocial support to street children.

 

What Women’s Empowerment Means to Me

Growing up, I was the firstborn girl in a family of five children and a victim of a patriarchal society in Zimbabwe. But I had to set a precedent. I vividly recall taking up menial jobs in the neighborhood to supplement my school fees—my father’s risky job and meager salary were not sufficient for our needs. Even still, I dreamed to acquire an education.

To me, empowerment means the ability to make decisions and influence, to have a strong self-perception, to have personal freedom, to have access to and control over resources and support from social networks. I have discovered that one of the greatest challenges to achieving empowerment is that most people still live with the mentality that certain tasks are better handled by men. It is rare to come across a female electrician, mechanic, bus driver, politician or engineer in Zimbabwe. People often assume that women are generally incompetent in certain fields of life. For example, when I wanted to volunteer my services to the incarcerated in my community, it took me a long time to get permission to work at a local prison since the government believe that women are too weak to work with prison inmates.

The only solution to this challenge is to be resistant towards criticism. Women must stop seeing their gender as a weakness. They must see it as strength, and prove themselves by striving to outperform their male opponents. They must be prepared to break through limiting traditions, and stick to what they believe in.

The other challenge women in Zimbabwe face is that of balancing work and family. Women lay the building blocks on which the family foundation is built. So working women usually find themselves torn between commitment to the family and their work. The best way to overcome this barrier is time management and delegation.

Women have a willingness to listen, patience to understand, strength to support and heart to care even though they have limited access to achieve what they want. Women must always know that gender, age, race, religion or personal beliefs are not criteria for success. What is important is to have a good plan and be determined to succeed, even in the face of failure. Women can change the world. Whenever the going gets tough, they must always feel inspired by T.D Jakes quote, “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion, for passion will lead you into your purpose.”

33253486031_fbedd522d7_oBlogger Precious Ngwayarudza grew up in Chipinge, Zimbabwe and studied Psychology at Africa University. In 2015 she conducted a qualitative research: An exploration of the circumstances that led to elderly destitution and institutionalization at Zororai Old Peoples’ Home. She is a humanitarian who has volunteered her services to various vulnerable groups. Since 2012, she is volunteering at Zororai Old Peoples’ home by offering emotional support to the destitute elderly who stay there. She also volunteered at Mutare Farm prison in 2013 where she was involved in the rehabilitation and reconciliation of the incarcerated. In addition, she undertook an internship at Simukai Child Protection Centre where she offered psychosocial support to the street children.

Celebrating Ancestry and Craftsmanship in Lebu and Beyond

Local-made blankets in Lebu, Chile. Lebu is home to SKILLS, a branch of SKI Charities that celebrates local craftsmanship and artistry.

Lebu isn’t the only town that boasts local, indigenous talent in Chile – Chile’s northernmost region, Arica y Parinacota, is home to a large indigenous population that has long maintained the tradition of craftsmanship. It hasn’t been without hardship, though, to celebrate this idea of community-oriented building and craft. These small towns in Chile, rural as they may be, are not immune to the ways of the modern world. In his article highlighting the resurgence of Chile’s traditional artisans, Jonathan Foyle notes, “The modern world’s emphasis on individual careers tends to deskill rural communities, which in turn threatens the survival of the rural-built environment.”

Fortunately, local organization Fundación Altiplano enables community members to learn traditional building and restoration skills that are unique to indigenous regional cultures. Thus far, Fundación Altiplano “has funded 32 conservation projects, supported artisanal craft production and hosted a film festival about this area.”

The community has rejoiced at the opportunity to preserve their heritage and exercise new skills. Not only are people provided with employment options, but they are also instilled with a sense of pride, responsibility, self-empowerment, and a deeper connection to one another and the history of their ancestors.

Raimundo Choque, a villager in the Arica y Parinacota region was struck by Fundación Altiplano’s mission and liked the idea of beginning a career in conservation as a way to remain connected to his culture – and to keep his culture alive. Choque and his community members had the opportunity to be “reborn as artists.”

Among the restoration projects sponsored by Fundación Altiplano are the rehabilitation of churches, which reinforces the cultural and spiritual connection of craftsmanship with the people. Choque comments, “The work in the church is not only a material job, but also a spiritual job. Our villages are depopulating, so a way to captivate people is to make them feel how families were before.”

SKI Charities aims to do similar work in the indigenous Lebu commmunity – encouraging local craft and entrepreneurship is a way of encouraging self-empowerment and responsibility. Much of the craft in Lebu (painting, weaving, leatherwork, etc) stems from skills that are passed down generationally. Keeping these skills alive, celebrating them, is what SKIC aims for in its SKILLS program. The SKI Local Life Survey helps to empower artists to share their histories and craftsmanship with a broader global community. For more about SKILLS and to purchase art that has been born out of this initiative, click here.

The quotes in this article are excerpted from “High Plains Grafters: Chiles Traditional Artisans” by Jonathan Foyer. It was published in the Financial Times on March 23, 2017.

3 SKIPGO Parents on How Education is Transforming Their Daughters

In Mutare, Zimbabwe, our SKIPGO program is providing motivated, promising young girls with the education they deserve. But how do we identify girls who will benefit most from a quality education at such a young age? One way is by finding families who are as equally committed to education as we are. We asked three SKIPGO parents how they’ve seen their daughters grow since they began the program, and where they hope to see their daughters in the future:

 

What SKIPGO has done for their daughters:

Candice, first grade

Candice, who is now in first grade.

“She has improved in many ways. We can now have a good English conversation, she can do puzzles, her eating habits have changed and she now knows she has to brush her teeth every morning.”— Candice’s father, Trymore

“The SKIPGO program is more than a brilliant idea. My daughter has developed psychological, mentally and physically within a very short period of time. It was such a good foundation for her and she is promising to be a star, I tell you.”— Stacey’s mother, Rita

“Tinevimbo has really changed since she joined the SKIPGO program. Her language development has improved greatly and she conducts well with her peers.”— Tinevimbo’s mom, Samantha

Where they see their daughters in the future:

“Good education is what l dream for her. I can imagine my girl at one of the best secondary schools doing her best. I think providing a good education for my daughter is the best help SKIC can give to achieve this future.”— Candice’s dad, Trymore

Stacey D

Stacey

“I have always had big dreams for my daughter but I was afraid I could never achieve it due to my limited resources. But now I’m foreseeing my dreams coming true. Equipping my daughter with the best possible education ever was always my dream. I foresee a brilliant, confident, intelligent girl excelling in her studies, showing that girls can achieve even more than boys when fully supported and given all the necessary resources.”— Stacey’s mom, Rita

“The dreams that I have for her are that she may be able to complete her studies till university level and be able to give back to the program—for instance by assisting other kids.”— Tinevimbo’s mom, Samantha

Tinevimbo

Tinevimbo

Why it’s essential to educate girls:

“SKIC is financially aiding my daughter in all her educational requirements, which was going to be very difficult for me considering that our society looks down on girls. I happen to be a mother of two girls and culturally our African husbands will be reluctant to support girls as much as they would if it was a boy. When you educate a woman, you have educated the world because generally women are responsible and can easily pass what they have learned to the world.”— Stacey’s mom, Rita

“Women play a big role in the society, though they do not get enough chances as compared to men. Women give back their achievements to society.”— Tinevimbo’s mom, Samantha

Meet AWA, an Inspiring Female Force Coming out of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean female rapper, AWA (source: BBC Newsbeat "Meet AWA, the Zimbabwean using hip-hop to improve human rights in her country")

Zimbabwean rapper, AWA. Photo via BBC.

One of the biggest reasons that SKIC put down roots in Zimbabwe is because female disenfranchisement is rampant and the availability of micro-finance loans does not meet the demand. The marginalization that women in Zimbabwe face is not often talked about – both within the country itself and on a more global scale.

Meet AWA, a female rapper who is attempting to shed light on the types of prejudices and gender-based violence that many women in Zimbabwe face. She is one of very few women who are using music as a platform for raising awareness about the issues that permeate Zimbabwean culture on a daily basis. Her name, an acronym standing for African Women Arise, was chosen to convey her passion for women’s rights advocacy.

SKIC hopes that women and young girls who are utilizing our programs (both SKImfi micro-finance loans and SKIpgo scholarship education programs) gain the self-confidence that comes from employment and education to combat some of the gender discrimination that is embedded in Zimbabwean culture. Fortunately, with the emergence of AWA, Zimbabwean women are beginning to have role models that they can turn to and glean inspiration from when it comes to breaking down some of the barriers that exist for women in historically gender-biased communities.

For more about AWA, click here.

To hear AWA’s music and see her in action, click here.

Life After SKIC: What Our Veterans Are Up To

On the SKIC blog, we spend a lot of time talking about our new recruits—the women who have just decided to take on a SKIMFI microloan to transform their business, or maybe venture out to start a new business altogether. We’re always excited when new women join the program, but what about the women who used a microfinance loan to launch their career—and have since found the independence to move on from the program? We’ve got updates for you on five Chilean women who can now proudly call themselves SKIC veterans.

Valeria Caripan Cartes

Valeria expanded her clothing and pastry business to incorporate a wider variety of food items, and began generating more profit. She decided to continue growing alone, thanks to the knowledge and financial stability she gained through SKIC.

 

Bella Olave Barrigabella-olave-1

Bella always showed a spirit of achievement and commitment to business, which allowed her to raise significant capital. With the help of SKIC loans, she was able to invest in freezers to keep her seafood products cold. As she transitions into independence, she’s made her deep gratitude for SKIC’s support clear.

 

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Roxana Marihuen Pailalla

Roxana uses a traditional Mapuche loom to weave fabric. She’s gained enough customers to save the money to continue with her business and covering personal expenses independently.

 

 

 

pamela-lopez-1Pamela López

 

Pamela now has a sufficient workshop space that allows her to run her clothing business—where she now has many customers and generous revenue.

 

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Rosalía Rebolledo

 

Rosalía’s clothing business has earned her enough capital to continue on alone.

 

 

 

 

Our goal is to provide women with the resources they need to eventually thrive as independent entrepreneurs. Though it’s bittersweet to see women leave the SKImfi program, it’s our mission at work.

How We Narrow Our Approach to Maximize Our Impact

Beneficiaries in Mutare, Zimbabwe

Beneficiaries in Mutare, Zimbabwe

“Less is more” is one of those oft-repeated sayings that, well, can get old. It’s trite, simple, and something we’ve all heard on countless occasions. It feels silly sometimes to bring up in conversation – but it’s often wildly true and important to keep in mind in both our personal and professional lives.

When SKI Charities was in its nascent stages, it was critical that founder Shyam K. Iyer remind himself of the “less is more” adage. When the organization began, Shyam had to ask himself certain questions in order to narrow the scope of his project and remain focused. There are people everywhere, in every city and town across the globe, who could benefit from the types of programming that SKIC provides. As much as a business or organization may want to “do it all,” specialization and focus is essential to maximizing one’s impact. Trying to do more often winds up with watered down results or growing too fast for one’s resources.

Shyam knew that he had to target one or just a few specific locations, and specific demographics of people within those locales. What began as a desire to help the world ended up turning into focused attention on women and young girls in Lebu, Chile and Mutare, Zimbabwe. “We want to, through the fewest touch points, reach as many socially constructive areas as possible,” Shyam says. Here’s how SKIC does it:

How SKIC Maximizes Its Impact:

  • SKIC was brought to very deliberately chosen locations, where supply does not meet the demand. Shyam reasoned that, in a place like India for example, there are far more micro-finance organizations and charities available to the disenfranchised. When Shyam first began SKIC in Zimbabwe in 2010, nobody else was doing what SKIC was doing. The organization remains one of the few if only organizations that caters to Zimbabwean entrepreneurial spirit and pride by utilizing micro-finance loans.
  • SKIC focuses on women. Shyam has been asked many times, “why not men too?” He reasons that in general, and in the countries that SKIC is present, women are more disenfranchised and marginalized than men. Women have always been lower on the totem pole – “it’s time to level the playing field,” Shyam affirms. Despite their lower status, women have proven to invest more in their community with the money that they do make. “A woman will first grow her business, which will then hire more people, which will support more suppliers and provide more jobs in the community. When she makes money, she will put her kids back in school, which of course increases the education of a community, a crucial component to the wellbeing of a society. She will herself become more respected and become a leader in her community. She will become a role model for younger women, which will result in a ripple effect with even more people,” Shyam contends. “The spillover effect is strong with women, the money goes further.”
  • In the charity’s SKIpgo program, Shyam chooses to focus on girls ages 3 to 5. He notes, “Early stage learning is the most important because it’s where you can make the greatest impact on a girls’ life, for the rest of her career. With girls this age we can teach them even the simplest things like hygiene, respect for themselves, respect for each other. The schools we place them in are not just about teaching them English or history or math. It’s about teaching them how to be strong, independent women. And if they grow up with that idea, if we engrain it in them from the very beginning, they’ll absorb it and live it and be able to reverse some of the gender dynamics that are so rampant in our world.” Though the charity hates to have to say no to teenagers, Shyam reasons that “we want to start at the very beginning. It’s important to start the education process in the most impressionable stages of growth and learning.”
  • SKIpgo selects girls who have positive familial environments within which they have a greater chance of being supported in their education and actually excelling in the program. Shyam and his on-the-ground team work to find the best possible candidates for the SKIpgo program. These are girls who come from financially needy families, but also families that value education and will encourage their girls’ studies. These are the children who are most likely to excel in the program, and as they age, share their knowledge with peers and their own families.

The desire to “help the world” and to make it a better place is one that many people feel deep within their core. What’s most intimidating about confronting this desire is where to begin. Non-profit and micro-finance work inhabit a large landscape with many avenues to pursue. It may feel counterintuitive to narrow the scope of one’s focus, but really, it is the path toward positively and maximally affecting a group of people, no matter how small the group is. We’ll leave you with another trite adage worth thinking about, and one that SKIC stands by: “Quality over quantity.”

Here’s What’s Happening At Our Zimbabwe Sites

In our last blog, we updated you on the #SKIC women of Chile (who are thriving in our SKImfi and SKILLS programs!) Now, our founder, Shyam, has been visiting our sites in Zimbabwe, and we have more exciting updates about our beneficiaries on the other side of the world.

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SKIMFI women cooking lunch from food produced locally using microfinance loans.

Thanks to our SKImfi manager, Beatrice, the program is growing steadily. She’s done a fantastic job in choosing committed women who will receive the greatest impact from microfinance loans. Shyam spent a day in a rural village called Gombakomba, where he met with the local chief. Shyam explained our long-term development goals, and the chief showed enthusiasm about how morale has improved for his community.

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Shyam discusses using SKIMFI beneficiary profits to rebuild the village’s water delivery system with locals.

The beneficiaries in Zimbabwe use their loans to buy livestock and sell the poultry and eggs, as well as longer-term investments in goats and pigs. Others are involved in classical trading such as vegetables, clothing, and small goods. Beatrice runs monthly workshops to train the women in business skills such as bookkeeping and planning.

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Two beneficiaries with our manager Beatrice in Gombakomba

The SKIPGO scholarship program is making a big difference in our scholars’ lives. Since the girls are so young, they are absorbing very quickly at the Early Learnings School in Mutare. Since Shyam’s visit last year, their understanding of English has improved and they look healthier due to the eating habits encouraged by the school. Their demeanor was outstanding.

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The 2016 SKIPGO scholars.

One of our new scholars, Tinawimba, came from a difficult background and a challenging part of town. She was very disruptive and had issues handling her emotions. Now, she is working well with others and is clearly a natural leader. Girls like her get the most out of early-stage education and we’re excited to see how she does over the next few years.

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Portrait of SKIC founder drawn (and signed!) by one of SKIPGO’s budding artists.

We’re thrilled with the progress that our Zimbabwe sites are showing, and can’t wait to see our SKImfi and SKIPGO programs keep developing.