Sanitary towels and undergarments program.
This model can be adapted in other communities, including where people live below $2 a day.
Social interventions in sub-Saharan Africa and other impoverished communities usually begin with good intentions. Many are founded with valid needs in a particular community, but when it comes to resource mobilization during inception, some simply hope for the best. The founders hope that because of their passion and the magnitude of need, the initiatives will automatically be funded by the government, local corporate entities, and western donors. All too often, this is not the case, leading to the termination of their work and dissolution at start-up.
If these projects went through complete cycles from startup to growth, they would become great resources in their communities. Finding a sustainable resource mobilization strategy within one's own community, however impoverished, is critical.
The example below is adapted from Fountain of Hope Youth Initiative, a community-based organization founded in Kiambu County, Kenya.
Kiambu Sub-County Background
Social and economic demographics
Kenya Country Focus
Kenya ranks 147th out of 183 countries tallied in the report on global population of persons living below the $1.25 PPP (poverty line) per day (data published by UNDP and collected by World Bank). A 2014 report from Standard Bank puts Kenya’s middle class at just 400,000 in a population of over 40 million. The United Nations estimates that with a fertility rate of 4.41, Kenya’s population will grow from over 40 million to 66 million by 2030. With no increasing social facilities to assist the increasing population, this will translate to ‘scramble’ for social amenities.
Kiambu County Focus
Kiambu County covers an area of about 2,543.5 km2 with a population of 1.623 million. Kiambu borders the counties of Nairobi and Kajiado to the south, Machakos to the east, Murang’a to the north and northeast, Nyandarua to the northwest, and Nakuru to the west (Ministry of Devolution and Planning, 2013). Kiambu County is divided into ten sub-counties. Our area of focus is Kiambu sub-county.
Half of the population in Kiambu sub-county lives below $2 USD per day. There are many coffee, tea, and flower farms that offer employment. However, most if not all of these farms pay meager wages insufficient even for basic needs. Access to funamental quality services, such as healthcare, education, clean water, and sanitation is a luxury for many people. Large segments of the population including the burgeoning urban poor are vulnerable to climatic, economic, and social shocks. HIV/AIDS is another health problem in the area.
CLARIFY THE GOALS AND CONTEXT FOR SUSTAINING THE EFFORT
Fountain of Hope Youth Initiative’s Response
A group young people headed by James Waruiru founded Fountain of Hope Youth Initiative in Kiambu's sub-county in order to respond to the needs emanating from poverty and mushrooming HIV/Aids infections. The organization identified two primary problems that were a major barrier to development in the sub-county.
- HIV & AIDS Pandemic
- Lack of menstrual hygiene supplies to young women in rural and urban setups
In order to address these problems, the organization conducted an in-depth problem analysis of both challenges separately and reported the findings as indicated below:
- HIV/AIDS awareness. The people of Kiambu sub-county did not have sufficient information on HIV/AIDS, its transmission, and prevention; many still practiced risky sexual behavior that led to the increase of newly infected individuals.
- Stigma and discrimination toward people living with HIV/AIDS. It is reported that some deaths from AIDS that occurred between 2000 and 2007 were not caused by the virus but by stress brought about due to the stigma of contracting the disease. People living with AIDS suffered rejection, even from family members. Some were laid off from their jobs because employers feared they would spread the disease.
- Lack of better nutrition. From the late '90s to late 2000s, people succumbed to the disease due to a lack of better nutrition. Many lost their jobs, and those who ran businesses had to close since people wouldn't buy from them.
- Lack of accessible care and treatment. Although the government of Kenya with support from UNAIDS, USAID, European Union, and other donor agencies had introduced free treatment to HIV/AIDS patients, many still couldn't access the treatment, either because the facilities were too far away or because they consulted optional traditional medicines.
- Myths & misconceptions attached to HIV/AIDS. People believed that AIDS was a curse or that contractors of the disease were bewitched. Instead of seeking medical help, they sourced traditional healers and herbalists. Patients also sourced religious leaders to offer prayers. Many of these religious leaders were not legitimate. They exploited the desperate patients for financial gain. All these practices led to even more deaths. Lives that could have been prolonged were lost earlier unnecessarily.
Lack of Menstrual Hygiene Supplies
- Poverty. Most families were living below $2 USD dollars per day which was not enough for basic needs. Sanitary towels weren't regarded as a basic need for families struggling to have two meals a day. Many girls improvised with rags cut from old clothes, mattresses, cotton, wool, or chicken feathers. In some regions in northern Kenya girls use leaves or papers.
- Missing school. Many girls missed school during their periods. At least one in eight reported a messy incident in school where the piece of cloth would get soaked with blood and leak through a dress. This contributed to school dropouts as most had no interest in returning to the same environment surrounded with shame.
- Commercial sex acts. Some teenage girls had sex in exchange for a small amount of money so they could buy personal supplies. Sanitary towels and underpants were at the top of their lists. These risky sexual activities led to bigger problems including teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
- Shame and stigma. Menstruation is surrounded by a shame and stigma. Females could not talk about their periods openly or ask their fathers for money to buy menstrual supplies.
CLARIFY GOALS AND CONTEXT FOR SUSTAINING THE EFFORT
With the challenges noted above, it was critical to respond to these issues. However, Fountain of Hope did not have government assistance or foreign donors to support the cause. The dilemma was how the organization would raise sustainable support from a community that was impoverished itself, a community where a large percentage of the population lived below the poverty line as per the United Nations index of $1.25 USD.
We needed an innovative way to raise support from members of our community, a venture inspired by desperation and the risks of closing down. Fountain of Hope also realized that any initiative lacking local support would also lack a base, and the likelihood of growth would be minimal, and devised the following fundraising strategies:
IDENTIFY SPECIFIC TACTICS TO SUSTAIN THE ORGANIZATION'S EFFORT
For the HIV/Aids Program
- We harnessed time from volunteers: youths and young adults. Together, we improved HIV/AIDS awareness through theatrical performances, songs, and poems. We also practiced literature set-books for high school English lessons. After doing a few free performances to showcase our work in schools, the high schools began to invite us to peform. We soon began to charge a fee, depending on how many books we dramatized and how many shows were staged. This generated much-needed support to keep the organization going. It also provided a platform for young people to nurture their theatrical talents. In 2005, we produced the second best actor in the Kenya colleges, universities, and organized groups' annual drama competition. Some have also gone on to pursue careers in theatre and the performing arts as a result of the project helping them discover and nurture their talents.
- We approached local hospitals and the ministry of health for training on HIV/AIDS. The response was phenomenal. We received more than we had hoped for: free training and teaching materials on HIV/AIDS. We started a partnership with the local government. They gave us food and other humanitarian support to distribute to affected people, including orphans. We acted as a conduit of supplies to families devastated by HIV/AIDS. Since we had no money to offer, we used relief food rations to pay those who were working on the collection and distribution of food.
- We also approached local farmers and asked for farm produce donations. Because it wasn't a monetary request, the response was good, and farmers gave us what they had. As a result, we were able to collect and feed more families.
With effective partnership and collaboration with stakeholders like Kanunga Mwangaza Self Help Group, Kiambaa Constituency HIV/AIDS Committee, FOFCOM & Uhai Welfare Group, we conducted HIV/AIDS awareness and testing. This was made possible by volunteer services and funding from Kenya National AIDS Control Council.
Menstrual Hygiene Program
- After the unsuccessful fundraising from government and cooperates entities, we devised a new support strategy. We sought permission from church leaders around the community and asked for 15 minutes after a church service to speak to women and women's organizations. We showed them how this issue was a huge problem in our community. We invited a few of our beneficiaries to speak about their ordeals. The women from the churches were touched by sad stories of girls who had previously dropped out of school before Fountain of Hope intervened and provided menstrual supplies. We implored local women, who themselves were poor, to support the program. To make it easier to donate, we asked them to buy just one extra sanitary packet per month, just as they bought for their own use. We kept large baskets behind the churches, and women would come by and drop one packet here and there anonymously. After a while, with help of the clergy who stressed the importance of this program, we collected from these same poor women enough support to keep nearly 200 girls in school each month, and the number kept growing.
- From these same women, we found volunteers who would talk to other churches in support of raising ventures and distribution. In the same community we also found teachers and counselors who would train the girls on reproductive health, hygiene education, and career mentorship.
Sanitary towels and undergarments program.
There is no community so poor it lacks the ability or the supplies to support its own local initiatives. We all have something to give. We collected our support for free; the only thing we provided was leadership and a platform.
Local ownership of the project. When people give to an initiative, they feel that they own a stake in the project. Many will either come back and give again or recommend the project to other potential donors.
Assurance for growth and continuity. Projects that are able to raise support locally are sure of sustainability even when the founders leave.
Promotion of philanthropic culture. I strongly believe that Africa is not poor, but most people suffer poverty mentally and in their hearts. Before Fountain of Hope engaged a community to give what they have, the notion that only western countries or government support could sustain local initiatives was unchallenged. Every year, for example, Fountain of Hope collects a large amount of in-kind support like clothing and food for a Christmas gifts program. Ninety-five percent of the support comes from the local community.
Images from Fountain of Hope Life Center.
Contributed by James Waruiru, founder of Fountain of Hope Life Centre, 2016 Community Solutions Program Leader, and Intern with the Community Tool Box.