We are participating in the Mohamed Bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity digital divide and digital literacy challenge to scale up DigiLab, a digital resource center in Kajiado, Kenya where we train young girls on digital literacy, entrepreneurship and life-skills.
What we have done already
Empower and Serve Kenya through our Innovating for Social Impact Program (iSIP) is leveraging on the power of information and communication technology (ICT) and associated benefits to establish Digital Laboratory for Girls (DigiLab). This is a gender transformative program to address the socio-economic barriers to entry into the labor market for young women in rural Kenya. In particular, the initiative aims to enhance digital literacy for girls/women in Kajiado County. At DigiLab, girls and women gather to learn basics of computer, coding, web-design, and graphic-design, serving as a tool for them to tap into limitless direct and indirect job and business opportunities, while encouraging the community to embrace practices that promote gender equality. At the same time, the DigiLab serves as a social platform where we introduce sessions of entrepreneurship, life skills and behavior change and communication. The project targets out of school girls/young women of age 16-29 drawn from vulnerable households in Kajiado.
Noteworthy, Kajiado County is predominantly inhabited by the Maasai community who practice nomadic way of life. The community has recorded high cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) at 46%, early marriages at 63% and generally low literacy levels largely affecting women at 54%, and other retrogressive practices that impact on women.
Through DigiLab, we have trained over 70 girls and women, with about 65% using ICT directly and indirectly to earn a livelihood either in wage and self-employment, and 15% advancing their careers in ICT related courses.
Why participate in the MBR Initiative for Global Prosperity digital divide and digital literacy challenge? – DigiLab Scale-up Plan:
To ensure greater reach and sustainability echoed in our expansion model, we are lodging a fully-fledged and a self-sustaining DigiLab Center in another location (Kitengela) in Kajiado County now completely managed by Empower and Serve Kenya. The center will be a replica of the other center we have established in our partner organization in Kajiado town, fully equipped with computer lab and a digital studio, offering low cost basic and advance computer packages including photography and videography and online jobs training, social enterprise training and behavior change and communication. The goal of the project is to improve gender equality outcomes by increasing economic opportunities for girls and women.
Each year, the project targets to reach 200 out of school girls/women of age 16-29 drawn from vulnerable households in Kitengela.
A1: Recruitment, training and deployment of 3 trainers of trainees (ToTs), preferably female trainers with ICT academic background also to be the first cohort of youth champions. In addition to delivering the ICT, entrepreneurship and behavior change and communication sessions through the mentorship and coaching from Empower and Serve Kenya team, the ToTs will serve as role models for other girls in Kitengela and participate actively in gender awareness forums and campaigns.
A2: Working with grassroots organizations to mobilize, register and enroll girls and women (our beneficiaries) into the program. This model of working with grassroot organizations is at the core of Empower and Serve Kenya work of devolving benefits of ICT to the grassroots as opposed to concentrating these solutions in urban areas. The model is also a participatory way of working with communities for buy-in, ownership, and capacity building for change agents driving innovative solutions at the grass-root.
A3: Delivering computer (both basic and advance courses), digital media, and social enterprise and behavior change and communication sessions in a graduation model. This activity aim to bring ICT benefits to last-miles communities in Kajiado while cultivating the spirit of entrepreneurship and positive behavior change for young women.
A4: Pulling private sector partners for apprenticeship and job opportunities for the graduates. This activity aims to close the loop of our solutions by creating avenues to transition the young women graduating from the program into the labor market through networks of private sector actors. This will ensure that the girls have ready market for jobs (either apprenticeship/internships or meaningful full-time and part-time jobs) and business opportunities (network of suppliers, business mentors/coaches, business partners, investment partners, micro-franchising partners among other opportunities).
A5: Initiating a DigiFund that will be disbursed to promising entrepreneurs through competitive hackathons. The source of the fund will be from offering cyber-café pay-services to the community members (our customers). The services will include printing, photo copying, type setting, ecitizen services, photography and videography, web-development, and graphic design. These services will be offered by the girls in session.
A6: Establishing a Community of Practice (CoP) made up of stakeholder to shape the gender equality direction for the community while incorporating beneficiaries’ voices and choices. The community of practice will pull private sector representatives, area administrators, and representatives from other NGOs/CBOs/FBOs, beneficiary’s representatives and Empower and Serve Kenya team including the 3 ToTs. The CoP will meet quarterly and gender discussions including best practices to address gender inequalities will dominate the meetings. In addition, the CoP will serve as point of renewed commitments against retrogressive cultures that disempower women in this area.
A7 Organize Grassroots Entrepreneurship Summit annually inviting participation of key market players to rethink devolving entrepreneurship promotion and digital solutions in last-mile rural communities.
In so doing, we hope to increase the number of girls and women using ICT either directly or indirectly to earn a sustainable livelihood, increase number of girls advancing their studies in ICT related fields, change community's perception on women pursuing male dominant careers, increased self-awareness and self-worth for women and girls and awaken other young leaders to champion for women empowerment and advancement.