PARTNER HIGHLIGHT: Kisoboka Africa, Adapting SBS for Refugees
Kisoboka Africa is a nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the chains of poverty by giving people access to education, livelihood and financial skills training, and by empowering women and youth in the local communities. Most of their work is in the rural village of Lwengo district, home to over 3,000 people, located west of Kampala, Uganda. Kisoboka Africa became a Street Business School partner to bring the SBS entrepreneurial training to Lwengo district, believing it would complement their economic empowerment programs and strengthen other programs such as their savings groups. To date, they have trained 22 groups of entrepreneurs and have initiated a plan to provide training to another 15 groups this year.
Inspired by the success of their first SBS graduates in Lwengo district, Kisoboka Africa recently began training an even more vulnerable population within a refugee settlement. Nakivale is the oldest resettlement camp of refugees and displaced people in Africa, about three hours south of Kampala, with a fluctuating population of nearly 145,000* and a reputation for a progressive resettlement policy. Women and children comprise 77 percent of the settlement population, and residents come from 10 countries in the region. Many consider the settlement home, some are hoping to gain asylum in third countries, while others are waiting for the chance to return to their home countries.
Kisoboka Africa knew there was much to learn about how to successfully share SBS training in this new setting, so they started by recruiting ten motivated young women for a pilot course. To identify committed participants, they requested that women in the refugee camp submit applications describing why they were interested in the course. The strategy was a success, identifying enthusiastic, dedicated participants who seemed excited for the life-changing opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills in a place where they had few other learning opportunities. The team also found that the women were open-minded and excited to learn. Plus, because participants had few other constraints on their schedules, their commitment to regular participation was typically higher than that of some Kisoboka’s traditional community-based groups, with all ten completing the course.
The implementation has not been without challenges. Since the settlement is 3.5 hours from their offices by car, Kisoboka staff could only travel to the camp twice a month, limiting opportunities for interaction and engagement. Because the participants spoke many different languages, translators were needed, and the translation took time, changing the rhythm of the modules. Sometimes women left the camp before graduation and following up with those women was difficult. Because the women were typically young and lacked access to the most basic resources, Kisoboka felt that raising funds for some start-up capital was essential for business creation, even if the training team had to work hard to ensure that the funds were only invested in the businesses.
Despite these challenges, the rewards have been high. Ultimately, the women entreprenuers have proven to be focused, committed and successful, with all but one starting a new business. The staff at Kisoboka Africa believe that building relationships with the women has been key to gaining their trust and unlocking that “spark” that comes with first believing it is possible to succeed at something new, even in the most challenging of environments. Once trust was established, the women were increasingly comfortable asking questions and sharing their ideas about their businesses, thus creating learning opportunities.
Nelly, a graduate from the pilot group in the refugee settlement, has been particularly successful. Because of her new bookkeeping skills, confidence and a newfound belief in herself, she was offered a banking job within the refugee settlement. She also opened a salon that employees three women and one man. She was so grateful for SBS’ entrepreneurial training that she plans to pay it forward by donating her time to assist Kisoboka by training three new women every six months. With the hopes of further expanding this initiative, Kisoboka Africa is preparing to train a new group of 30 women.
If you work with women facing poverty and would like to learn more about bringing the SBS training to your community, click here to learn about our virtual workshops and here to learn about our in-person workshops, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.