Welcome to Shukuru’s first newsletter! If you are getting this, you are part of the Girl Revolution that is building a world where all girls get an education. Girls want an education and are fighting globally for it. They know it is so important for their future, that it will let them grow up and earn a good living, be healthy, and have their intelligent and wise voices improve their communities. And we also know that an educated girl can be the most powerful force for change in the world.
What is Shukuru?
Shukuru enables vulnerable 10-12-year-old girls in sub-Saharan Africa an opportunity to get a secondary education, something that many do not get because their family cannot afford to pay the required school fees.
But, Shukuru is not just making a difference by helping these girls get an education. It is the way that Shukuru is doing so that really can make a lasting change. Shukuru was inspired by microfinance and fosters self-reliance rather than dependency by teaching a girl that she is the solution.
Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Prize winner and the father of microfinance, once gave a talk about microfinance where he did not really focus on the economic benefits of microfinance or the extra income brought to the family — although these are both huge. He talked about how the women, when they started, were so afraid to step up to the plate and take a loan, how they did not believe that they could accomplish such an enormous feat of successfully repaying what seems to us, a very small amount of money, and how they felt that they were not worthwhile. How, over time, as they successfully met their goal, their confidence grew and their self-esteem grew and they started to see themselves as people who had agency and importance in this world. And that, he ended, was potentially more important than the actual loan.
Shukuru helps girls stay in school, but does not do this by giving them a handout. Instead, we use an in-kind microloan to enable girls, with the support of their family, to raise and sell chickens. The money that they earn in one year, combined with donor matching, is enough to pay for all four years of their high school education and repay their loan to Shukuru.
But the empowerment that the girls can gain from successfully paying for their own school fees will last a lifetime. And that investment that gets paid back? Another girl can use that money to earn her high school tuition fees. That starts a self-sustaining cycle of goodness.
What is Shukuru doing now?
JoAnne Longanilla, our Executive Director/Founder, has been in Tanzania since December running our first pilot program. And wow, has that been an experience. When you take a concept from paper and make it reality, it is always a wild ride of learning, shifting and refining. Especially in a developing country where the culture of time and people’s approaches to solving problems are can be quite different. But Jo, along with our fantastic Tanzanian team (Priyam Chibber, Program Coordinator and Haggai Nkini, Field Coordinator) adapt, move forward, and keep on with the vision: fine-tuning a sustainable solution that will keep girls in school and empower them to make lasting change.
Beginning in December 2012, our 39 girls began receiving 100 chicks each. And this is where the rubber hit the road – we had modelled out what we thought would happen, but now have gotten to see what really happens. We have found that some things cost more than we anticipated (chicken feed can be expensive!) and some things work better than we thought (the girls fortitude and dedication just blows us away!).
Haggai’s veterinarian expertise combined with his daily oversight, attention, and care, have resulted in the chicks growing up heavy and healthy. The chicken buyers, many of whom champion Shukuru’s model of helping girls from their own community self-finance their education, have requested heavy chickens so that is what we are delivering!
One-third of the girls have already begun their initial chicken sales, earning an average of 125,000tsh ($75 USD) to begin repaying their loan to Shukuru. More importantly, they’re starting to see what a powerful force they can be in building their own futures. Eleven-year-old Nasma said, “It’s so exciting to watch my chickens get sold!”
And Shukuru has already received accolades for its unique approach. “Your program is superb! I want to know why you aren’t nationwide!” asked the assistant director of Tanzania’s Ministry of Livestock in a recent meeting with our founder.
Well, how can 39 girls change anything?
We know! There are a lot of girls out there that want to go to school. About 25M in Tanzania alone. And getting girls educated can change the world. Educated girls marry later, have fewer children, earn 25% more, and break the generational dependency. Educating girls transforms not just the girl, but the entire community. It’s probably one of the most cost-effective interventions that we can do.
We are starting small, but as one of our favorite quotes goes: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (That’s from Margaret Mead.) We are piloting now and as we prove the model, we intend to scale to impact more.
What can I do to help?
So you get it. It is super-important to educate girls. And we want to do this in a sustainable way that builds girls’ self-esteem and empowerment. Because really, growing up in a culture that does not value girls as much as boys means that they need it all the more. So right now, we need you. The girls of Tanzania need you. So tell your friends, take a look at our blog, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and let us know your ideas for getting the word out further!
We always welcome your financial support as well. And if you are in San Francisco, you can support us by coming to our charity bartending night at Elixir (3200 16th Street) on Wednesday, May 1 from 9:00pm until closing.
With your help, we can seed a sustaining revolution in girls education.