Community Outreach & Economic Independence
"Through our holistic model, RefuSHE strives to empower women and girls beyond its classrooms so they can thrive as they rebuild in their new homes."
- Kavita Sood, RefuSHE's Senior Director of Philanthropic Intiatives
Earlier this summer, I visited the Kivuli Center Fair Trade Shop in Nairobi to learn more about RefuSHE’s community outreach program. Since I joined RefuSHE in the fall of 2017, I’ve been eager to learn about this component of our holistic model which fosters and supports the economic independence of entrepreneurial refugee women in the community, outside of RefuSHE’s campus. Currently, the program provides 22 refugee women entrepreneurs in Kivuli with business and literacy training, case management, and small business loans. The women are a part of a chaama, or savings group, where they collectively support each other to produce and sell a variety of handmade products including jewelry, soap, tie and dye clothing, and peanut butter in the Kivuli Center Fair Trade Shop.
While there, I heard directly from the entrepreneurs themselves about the challenges they face selling their products. Many are widows or single mothers, and political instability and refugee discrimination impact their sales and their families. RefuSHE provides support to them through training sessions to help them make critical business decisions to grow their businesses into successful enterprises. Skills such as financial literacy, record keeping, and marketing are helping entrepreneurs like Agathe, a young refugee from Rwanda, build her bead business and retain customers. Edith, another member of the community outreach program is the shop owner and employs other refugee women like Agathe to keep up with her tailoring orders and sell their own products in the store. The weekly chaama meetings create a community for refugee women entrepreneurs to celebrate their successes and learn strategies to overcome business challenges.
The women in the community outreach program have also become mentors and role models for the alumnae of the Girls’ Empowerment Project (GEP). As GEP alumnae look to pursue livelihood ambitions outside of RefuSHE, these women entrepreneurs are helping to form new communities and networks for their success in Nairobi. Through our holistic model, RefuSHE strives to empower women and girls beyond its classrooms so they can thrive as they rebuild in their new homes.
More support is needed to help continue the business and literacy classes and provide seed funding to women in the community outreach program. If you are interested in making a contribution to support RefuSHE’s programs, please click here.
Kavita Sood is the Senior Director of Philanthropic Initiatives at RefuSHE.