Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
RAIN's learning and earning groups are at the heart of integrated and durable programs to improve education, food security and health among the nomadic populations of Niger. Nomadic people viewed schools as extensions of the colonial system. This has changed as traditional lifestyles are threatened and education is seen as key to better futures. Few of Niger's nomads speak, French, the national language of Niger. Only 10%can write or read in any language. Women are less-well educated than men and cultural limitations often keep them isolated, with no access to literacy, basic education or skills training. They tell us: "I want more for my children. I don't want my daughters to be denied as I was."
The learning and earning mentoring program produces significant impacts:
- 20% more girls with mentors return to school each year than their classmates.
- 90% of nomadic women in Niger are illiterate. RAIN mentors study French, the national language, and their written mother tongues.
- The girls learn traditional craft skills providing them possibilities for future earnings. Offering these practical skills encourages families to let their children stay in school.
- Girls in Niger stay in school an average of only 3 years. Girls with mentors stay in school longer, 5% from RAIN's program are now in high school.
- 1 in 8 women in Niger die in childbirth and 1 in 6 children die before the age of 5. RAIN teaches girls about hygiene, health, reproductive health and the dangers of too-early pregnancy.
The mentors are equally beneficiaries of the program. Recruiting women to mentors girls brings them into the education system, builds their confidence, increases their knowledge. They soon seek literacy. Mentors and the girls in their mentor groups are learning french together -- an intergenerational loop of trust and sharing.
Mentors express their experiences best:
"I decided to be a mentor so that our children would not reject our cultures, so that they would learn valuable trades and for the development of our region and out country." Fourrera Alassane
"I have been elevated by mentoring...I have had an experience beyond my normal life. I am proud to be a mentor." Tikna Ahmed
"The students gave me courage to be a good mentor... they also helped me to learn to read and write." Aboucka Ahmoudjira
RAIN's mentoring program has grown from 5 schools to 15. More communities are eager for our engagement, we seek to grow our program by 40% per year. In order to support such increases we must develop means for the program to generate funds to ensure sustainability over the long-term. This year we are starting pilot programs in herding and grain-grinding. Mentors will earn for themselves and buy materials for their traditional skills classes.
Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing
RAIN's learning and earning program is addressing the following primary problems:
- The nomads of Niger are disenfranchised minority groups receiving little outside aid from the Niger government, foreign governments or Nigerienne or international NGO's. Widespread illiteracy and lack of fluency in French, the national language, keep nomadic women isolated, at risk and unemployable. A RAIN criterion for choosing work sites is the lack of other assistance. The school enrollment rate among nomads in Niger is only 10%. Boys, on average, complete only 4 years in school, girls 3. Women who earn to support their schools become a significant source of support for communities' schools -- they gain great satisfaction and social esteem. They are encouraged, advocate for education and seek literacy for themselves.
- Nomadic peoples identify strongly with their clans but between clans there is often distrust that hinders community cooperation. With women in the lead, we are creating new communities around schools, and fostering an ethic of group cohesion and action for the common good.
- Education is seen as unnecessary for girls, whose societal role is to serve as wives and mothers. Teachers often view them as less intelligent than boys. RAIN provides training to mentors about cultural bias, gender roles, vocational options. The mentors encourage girls, advocate for them with skeptical teachers and parents.
- Niger has developed little; there are few jobs. Parents see no need for education. After-school classes in traditional crafts offers them a practical reason to send their daughters to school.
-Program sustainability. RAIN's mentoring program is successful and popular. We would like to replicate this proven model across Niger. And each program should continue for at least 12 - 15 years to educate a generation of girls. This scope is not affordable unless the program can attain sustainability. It is this conundrum that brought us to innovation.
Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?
The learning and earning partnership taps into a woman's need to earn money to support their families, and her desire to help the children in her community. The program started with artisans' cooperatives. The women do fine work and have had experience with many people and organizations who promise them good profits that do not materialize. They repeatedly found themselves selling their products for very little while others reaped the gains. These demeaning experiences were often in keeping with their low status in society. In RAIN's school-supporting program they are taking leaderships roles in society, generating their communities only significant school support. In addition to the financial gains for themselves and their schools, they gain self-esteem and status. They improve their artistry and products, learn skills and are offered literacy classes. This array of motivation is the engine that keeps the program successful. The choice of activity and participants is the foundation of the business. Women discuss business ideas. They must establish need, market, profitability and ability to produce. The women organize a cooperative with officers. They are trained in the skills necessary for the enterprise and learn basic business skills. Once the business is established they are offered literacy classes. Once appealing designs are mastered and quality control achieved, the craft items produce substantial profit. The women put aside 50% for their schools. As we expand to other businesses such as grain-grinding mills and sheep herding the division of funds between the women and the school fund will be calculated. The primary goal is school-support, but the women must earn enough to help them provide for their families. Projected profits determine the number of women who can be partners in the enterprise. The women decide how the group's earnings are shared among the members.
Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible
Mentoring enterprises are now entering their first year. We will concentrate upon organization, honing the skills needed for the enterprises and mastering simple business concepts and practices. The goal will be for the enterprise to break even or generate a small profit. In Year 2 skills training will continue, literacy classes will be offered and the enterprises should generate enough profit to allow for some school assistance. The latter part of year 2 there will be time devoted to evaluation of operations, the functioning of the group, the members skills and adjustments made. Year 3 will concentrate on increasing markets and increasing profitability. In Year 3 the group's goal will be the funding of a substantial school program.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?
As we scale up this project we plan to present the replicable model to NGO's and the Niger government to encourage more participative, ground-up development of income-producing models. The poor of Niger have no access to start up funding or other capital. There are few organizations to provide business training or support. The country needs its people to be productive, to move from aid to developing economic activity.