Curriculum: Life and Entrepreneurial skills
Project Baobab achieves its mission by educating and empowering youth with skills they will need to start a small business. This includes not only business training but also skills to build their self esteem and confidence. All students, regardless of whether they receive a grant, will be impacted through esteem-building exercises.
Our curriculum is taught in two parts: 1) Life Skills and 2) Entrepreneurship Skills. These classes are currently offered in 5 community-based sites with the goal of gradauting 300 students by the end of 2009.
In the Lifeskills portion of the curriculum, students learn about issues of gender empowerment, decision-making, assertiveness, communication, AIDS awareness / prevention, and reducing stigmatizing behavior associated with AIDS survivors.
As a result of these classes, students have reported improvements in their self-confidence, personal awareness, and knowledge to make wise decisions related to their well-being. Teachers are encouraged to tailor this portion of the curriculum to meet their students' specific needs. For example, in the Maasai community, students have specific gender obstacles to face with their husbands, and teachers have emphasized the family communication techniques to encourage more open dialogue.
In the Entrepreneurship portion of the curriculum, our students learn small business start-up skills where they are empowered with knowledge and skills to become effective entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is often the only option these students will have to achieve some level of economic independence; to this end, our Entrepreneurship Skills curriculum provides students with the tools and guidance to successfully plan, implement, and manage a small business in their community. Topics include budgeting, marketing, accounting, stock control and inventory, risk management, legal issues, and business ethics, among others.
Grants and tracking program
Upon completion of the course, graduating students prepare business plans and are given the opportunity to present those businesses plans before a committee of faculty, local business owners, and Project Baobab staff. Selected students then receive micro-grants of $100 to help start their businesses. These businesses, though often modest by U.S. standards, fill important needs in the community and have great potential for growth. Some examples of the types of businesses started are: zero grazing small scale cow, goat, pig, or bull rearing; fresh fruit and vegetable stands; beaded jewelry and other artisan crafts; mutumba (repairing and selling used clothing) bakeries, and vegetable farming. For a more detailed list of businesses started since inception, see Impact
Upon receiving a grant, each graduate is assigned a mentor, a Kenyan woman who will follow up with them approximately every 2-3 months to provide support and accountability. Mentors are trained in areas of specific business knowledge, as well as soft skills like offering life guidance and simply encouraging students not to give up. The mentoring program also helps us measure the successful number of businesses. Those who did not receive grants are also mentored to encourage them to make use of the knowledge from the course.
We have discovered that approximately 50% of the grantees are running businesses with good to marginal success including some who did not receive grants who have started businesses on their own!
Where We Work
Project Baobab is working on 5 community sites: Meru, Githunguri, Naivasha, Mai, Mahiu and Olooseos. Currently, there are 150 students enrolled and over 1,000 graduates since inception
We have found that the community programs have an immediate impact on the women we work with. These young women have very different life circumstances than the secondary school students. Most are single parents with little or no income and no other opportunities that would lead tehm to other areas making it more viable for us to track and mentor them.
In 2008 we graduated the last group of high school students who took the Project Baobab curriculum at their secondary schools. Although our work in secondary schools is very valuable to these young women, there are obstacles that hinder greater success. Some girls have not reached a level of maturity to sustain their businesses or they have other opportunities such as jobs or college. Often it is impossible to "track" the students after the program ends because they go back to their homes in areas where Project Baobab does not have mentors.
Some of the places where we have worked in the past include:
- Karima Girls School
- Kinjo Girls School
- Maasai Girls School
- Miguta Community
- Oloshoi-bor Community (in partnership with MWEEP-Maasai Women Education and Empowerment)
- Ngara Girls School
- Olooseos Secondary School
- Olooseos Community
- Ruiga Girls School
- Naivasha, Gilgil and Maimahiu Communities (in partnership with Lifebloom Services International)
- Langata Women's Prison
In addition, Project Baobab partnered with Technoserve in 2006 for programs in:
- Juja Community Class
- Ziwani Community
- Kibagare Community
- Kibera Community
- Mukura Fuata Nyayo Community
- Huruma Community
- Githurai Community
- Kariobangi Community
- Kangari Polytechnic Community
- Ikumbi Secondary School
- Gurec Secondary School
- Githunguri Secondary School
- Brother Beausang Secondary School
- Broadways Secondary School