One of the beauties of the Internet is the availability of expert advice at your fingertips. With a wealth of opportunities to grow and evidence your skills base, improving your employability has never been easier. Here are a few of our favourite opportunities!
1. Learn to Code
…But not for the reason you think. Learning to code is not an easy fix. It is not a magical solution to unemployment and debt. As always, reality is more complex and a dose of scepticism is healthy! Don’t learn to code because it will land you a job as a developer (unless you seriously invest in it, it won’t). Instead, learn to code to understand the basics and improve your digital literacy.
Most companies have some type of digital presence. The more you understand how they work, the more effective you’ll be on them. You’ll be able to fix or prevent minor technical issues because you’ll see why they’re happening. You’ll have a better grasp on product development because you’ll know what goes into it. If you’re an entrepreneur, getting to grips with the code can help you build your site exactly the way you envision it. The great news is that there are a tonne of platforms out there to help you do it:
Popular with the uninitiated, Codecadamy is a classic
If you’re feeling committed: try FreeCodeCamp. (It’s recommended by James, our Comms Manager!)
Consider taking an online course with a reputable provider. It’s a great way to keep learning, stand out in your field, and earn certifications. Taking your professional development into your own hands requires a lot of motivation, but shows you have the discipline and drive to succeed.
With so many different sites, there’s a course out there for everyone. You could choose to learn something totally new or to deepen your current understanding of a subject – and levels range from broad overviews to ‘MicroMasters’.
Owned by the Open University, FutureLearn offers a huge variety of courses through partner universities and specialist organisations
EdX is a well-respected platform, with their MicroMasters recognised by industry leaders
3. Build On What You Have
You’ve been trained in it on your placement. You have the experience you need to pass it. You’ve trusted Challenges with your professional development for those three months – and you know we do everything we can to support your learning. It would be wrong to miss CMI qualifications off this list! Make the most of the work you’ve already done by converting your training to a qualification.
As you know, Challenges offers Level 5 CMI qualifications in Professional Consulting. In response to your feedback, we’ve also introduced Management and Leadership! M&L is targeted at Team Leaders, who will all receive training from now on – but can be done by anyone ambitious, entrepreneurial, or innovative. Want to prove you’re a natural born leader? Looking to learn how to manage others efficiently and effectively? A CMI qualification with Challenges can help you grow and prove that skill.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Explore YouTube
YouTube is actually the world’s second largest search engine. It’s not far behind Google, and definitely not one to underestimate! It’s a rogue one on our list because it does not offer qualifications, but we couldn’t leave it out.
Not just a platform for beauty tutorials and mildly distasteful pranks, YouTube is full of videos on practically every topic imaginable. From TED talks to entrepreneurial workshops, ‘life hacks’ to motivational messages, YouTube is an incredible resource on a vast range of topics. It’s free, accessible, and the content comes in easily digestible bites! So why not procrastinate productively next time you’re browsing?
Hi, my name is Richard Reading and I am a volunteer from the UK volunteering with Challenges Worldwide in Kampala, Uganda, in association with the International Citizenship Service (ICS). Challenges Worldwide work with small to medium-sized enterprises in developing countries across the world, sustainably supporting the economic growth of a wide range of social enterprises. When in country Challenges Worldwide matches a UK volunteer with an In Country Volunteer (a Ugandan volunteer in my case), then we are placed into a business which has a positive social or environmental impact. I have been placed in a motorcycle business called Miracle Motors who have a positive social impact on Boda riders (motorbike taxis) by enabling them to more easily own their own motorbikes, as well as providing safe rider workshops, free reflector jackets, and free helmets to riders.
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My business counterpart, Omara, and I were invited to join our business Miracle Motors on Sunday the 12th of March at a Holi Festival event in Kampala, Uganda. Miracle Motors is the key distributor of Mahindra Two Wheeler motorcycles in Uganda and across East Africa, selling motorbikes, services and spare parts. The festival was a great opportunity for us to gain an improved understanding of how the business carries out their marketing, as well as observing and looking for any room for improvement.
The day started with us arriving at the business early Sunday morning, collecting a few things for the day, then travelling to the event. We both then helped the team hang up posters, and erect stands. This enabled us to see what kind of visual advertisements they use at events to raise awareness of the brand and their products. Once the festival started to get busier we were sent with a member of the sales team to distribute leaflets, advertising the motorbikes to the public. This first-hand experience enabled us to observe the direct marketing approach used by our business on occasions like this.
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The whole day was a great success and has enabled us to understand a key component of our business, helping to complete our analysis of the business and consultancy work in greater depth. We will be using our findings from the day to help us provide enhanced recommendations to our business. For example, as a result of a day researching, we were able to notice room for improvement and form a recommendation for our business. The recommendation we have given is to improve the professionalism of the marketers at business events such as Holi Festival by equipping all marketers with business cards.
Watch the video we made during our day at Holi Festival, I hope you enjoy it as much as Omara and I did. Until the next trip out of the office…
During our Challenges Worldwide ICS placement, all volunteers are involved in one of three committees. Working in our committee team is an opportunity to work with a different group of volunteers outside of our day to day work in our businesses.
The impact committee organises events to engage more with the wider community. The team building committee organises fun, relaxing and cultural activities for the volunteers. I am a member of the communications committee which gathers and produces content to showcase the team’s experience throughout our ICS placement.
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My host home counterpart, Mzeziti, is also on the communication committee. She is passionate about raising awareness of Challenges Worldwide’s work in Zambia through radio and TV. She asked Precious, a Zambian team leader, for her contacts in local radio. Through one of these contacts, we secured a 1 hour Saturday morning slot on Pan African Radio! With less than two days’ notice, we got to work with preparing for our first radio interview, with the support of Team Leader Ari and the Challenges staff in Lusaka.
Pan African Radio
The audience of Pan African Radio’s Saturday morning show is the business community in Zambia. We were excited the share Challenges’ work with local small to medium enterprises (SMEs). Challenges’ have given business support to 105 local businesses so far in their work to support Zambia’s economic growth. The radio host was particularly interested in our experience of volunteering in Zambia and the training we receive. It was a fantastic opportunity to promote Challenges to Zambians who may get involved in the future, either as a volunteer, enterprise or host home!
Through my involvement with the committee, I have already developed my verbal communication and teamwork skills. I have had experience in delegating tasks and chairing our team meetings. My work on the Challenges Worldwide ICS communications committee has given me the valuable opportunity to contribute to different aspects of the ICS experience. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to speak live on Pan African Radio!!
On this World Health Day, I was wondering about what to get for lunch. The Scottish classic of square sausage in a roll or something a bit healthier. The daily dilemma. Luckily for my health, I was inspired to go for the healthier option (and to go outside) after reviewing some of the Enterprise Recommendations presentations from our Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteers aka our Business Support Associates (BSAs) in Zambia.
Hi, I’m Lewis and I am one of the Portfolio Analysts at Challenges Worldwide and my main role is crunching the numbers that our BSAs produce during their placement. We then use these numbers to inform our strategy for Enterprise and Value Chain Development. This data is invaluable as our approach is unique in that we critically evaluate enterprises from within instead of surveying owners once and hoping the right information is given.
Umoyo Natural Health is one of the enterprises we are currently working with and specialises in providing natural health products; medicinal products, foods, supplements and cosmetics.
How does this relate to world health day?
Prevention is the best policy when it comes illness
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, so the saying goes. In 2016, close to half of the children under 5 were stunted (low-height-for-age) as a result of malnutrition with another negative impact being a decrease in academic performance.
How does enterprise development impact health?
Well, it’s about the long-term, we want a solution, not a plaster. There are 3 ways in which enterprise development will reduce malnutrition:
Increasing Distribution: By providing technical assistance the enterprises we work with will be in a position to approach investors, confident in the knowledge that they meet investment criteria beforehand. By expanding their business, Umoyo will be able to increase the number of people they can provide their health goods to.
Reduction in Price: As the enterprise grows, it will be able to benefit from economies of scale as the unit cost is reduced (the first car wasn’t cheap!) and consequently becomes a realistic option for people on lower incomes.
Increase Incomes and Demand:Umoyo has over 35 (19 female) employees and over 140 suppliers. As the business grows, enterprises must take on more staff, their demand for inputs from suppliers increase and they may need to find new suppliers. When you consider the women between 45 and 49 were surveyed their ‘completed family size’ was on average 6. Ultimately, it will be those in the household of employees that will benefit.
This is by no means a silver bullet (health warning for werewolves) and educated assumptions are always made, please see here, here and here. However, at the end of the day, if a parent’s income increases I’d bet it’s more than likely they will spend it on improving their children’s welfare. Why don’t you join us to implement lasting solutions?…and have a healthy dinner while you’re at it!
You can join us in supporting enterprises such as Umoyo by taking part in the Uk Government funded Challenges Worldwide ICS programme for 18 -25 year olds from the UK, Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia.
Complete your online application today and help businesses like Umoyo reach their potential for delivering positive social and environmental impact on the communities in which they trade.
‘So how many people from Copwaste work at the dump?’
‘Just the two of us’, replies the dump attendant.
‘Who are the rest of these guys?’, I ask gesturing to about twenty guys loitering around the attendant’s hut. They’re all flecked with mud and wearing welly boots that look about three sizes too big.
‘They come here and collect rubbish that they can salvage. They roam about looking for odd bits of metal, clothes, electrical items, anything that they might be able to sell on. But mostly they just wait for the trucks to arrive’.
‘What do they do when the trucks arrive?’
‘They run’, states the attendant.
Right on cue a truck turns off the busy road and rolls into the dump site. In a split second, there is frenzied movement all around us as the previously docile men spring into life and run after the truck. They clamber aboard as the truck steadily rumbles toward the far end of the dump site. The late starters have the unenviable task of racing through the squelchy, knee deep puddles that have gathered on the road running through the site in the rainy season. The truck has taken on six new passengers as the men frantically set about tossing anything they think might be of worth from the truck’s waste bucket overboard. They disappear into the distance as the truck gets down to the bottom of the site to unload its rubbish. Fifteen minutes later, the truck and it’s passengers return, some are empty handed but others clutch pieces of old piping and scrap bits of metal. As the truck turns back onto the highway, the men hop off and examine their recovered treasures.
‘What will you do with this stuff?’, I ask one who looks happy with a lead piece of piping he has recovered.
‘Men come to the site and we sell these things to them’, he replies.
‘Do you know what the men do with the stuff you sell them?’, I enquire.
‘Not really, maybe the take it to markets, maybe they use it for parts, who knows?’, he responds.
In a country where there is precious little recycling activity, there’s a good case for suggesting that these men working at the dump are amongst Zambia’s recycling pioneers. Just walking around the dump site it’s easy to notice a whole host of recyclable goods lying as landfill waste, ranging from glass bottles to old clothes. An effective recycling movement in Zambia is limited by lack of resources and also a prevailing waste disposal culture that pays very little credence to the environmental impact of unsustainable rubbish disposal. Copwaste, the company I’m doing my Challenges Worldwide ICS placement with, readily admits that a lack of resources is holding it back from hitting recycling targets that it has set for itself. So for now the only recycling effort is coming on the ground, at the dump site, from the group of men sifting through the rubbish mounds.
I asked the Copwaste attendant if it was a good thing that these men worked on the site:
In answer to my questions, he said: ‘In some ways, yes because they are able to recover and reuse waste that would have otherwise gone into landfill but in other ways, no.’
‘Why would you say it’s not a good thing that they’re here?’
‘Well, they seem to have an incomplete understanding of what is available to be salvaged. For example the other month they completely stripped down our attendant’s hut and before that they removed the batteries from our digger that moves the rubbish around the site’.
In a country where there is precious little recycling activity, there’s a good case for suggesting that these men working at the dump are amongst Zambia’s recycling pioneers.
I guess there’s still a fine line between pioneering and plain stealing.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” (Gandhi)
The key message received by volunteers in Kampala, Uganda on International Women’s Day, a national public holiday. Dressed in the day’s thematic colours of white and orange, our group of volunteers, Team Leaders and in-country staff joined many others at a conference partnered by Challenges Worldwide at The Innovation Centre in Ntinda. Armed with the globally trending hashtag “BeBoldForChange” our team were ready to gain first-hand insight into life as a working woman in Uganda.
The message was one which we can all relate to and received by both men and women. It was a day for not only recognising women in Uganda but recognising the changes that we as individuals can make to generate a more equal and inclusive society. Nonetheless, we learnt that 70% of the world’s poor are women and face many challenges in health, education and their role within society which for some women the consequence of their actions could be life or death.
Three inspirational women, two from Uganda and one from Afghanistan formed the panel discussion to commence the event. Godiva Monica Akullo, a feminist, lawyer and human rights activist encouraged women to stand up for change. She shocked the room when she spoke about one of her own experiences: working for a Ugandan law firm and attending a conference as not only the youngest but also the only female, she was approached by a male client who asked if she could pour him a coffee. As a professional and Harvard lawyer graduate she did not let this pass and made her opinions known. Since this day, she believes in empowering women to take action such that men feel their presence in the room.
Among the other panellists was Evelyn Namara, founder of Innovate and an ICT specialist, believing women can be better in technology advancement, breaking stereotypes and mindsets and advocating that girls should grow up with the same opportunities as boys. Captain Babra, a Ugandan army captain also stood up to encourage young girls to follow their dreams because nothing is impossible.
“girls should grow up with the same opportunities as boys”
All the women spoke with such passion and emphasis on how women in Uganda will continue to speak up about this topic until the day they are viewed as equal human beings. However, it was Betty Ogiel Rubanga, author of Against All Odds and an example of the life-changing benefits of education for girls and women, whose story truly inspired. Over ten years ago she was caught up in a road accident, crushing all dreams of becoming an athlete (being able to run 100m in 12.8 seconds, pathed out a potential career), leaving her partially paralysed down the right side of her body and with a speech impairment which would impact on the rest of her life. As she translated these memories into words and spoke of her experiences she moved many in the room to tears. Her message, however, was clear as she went on to discuss the five things that made her excel at life, without which she would not be the women she is today: 1. Working hard; 2. Making wise decisions; 3. Be yourself; 4. Be the author of your destiny; 5. Positive mental attitude.
So the question is: how are we being the change we want to see in the world?
As volunteers with Challenges Worldwide, we have already made this leap. Working to promote development through small-medium sized enterprises, many owned by women we are being active in making the change that we want to see happen in the world.
Often we take our realities for granted. Access to electricity or to clean water seems to be rights that we all should have. But, all countries have had different historic moments, from colonisation periods to social and political conflicts, which have shaped their population realities. So, these “rights” end up being unequally distributed and, in some cases, a luxury for just some sectors of the population.
Yes, all our industrialisation development, agricultural and livestock activities, cities sewage and industrial waste discharge are generating an environmental disaster. Not just for the aquatic ecosystems (from oceans to rivers, lakes and so on), but also for underground water, which can end up affecting the water that reaches our houses.
But pollution is not the only problem facing our water supplies
Water issues go from droughts affecting productive farmlands around the world, to millions of people without access to it for their day-to-day activities.
Around one-third of the world’s population live in areas with water scarcity problems, and it is estimated that 600 million are in places where they can’t access safe drinking water. This might sound like a foreign problem for us because in the UK water access isn’t a problem. But, it is a serious problem that is affecting specific regions and locations throughout the world, and it can become quite fast a serious global threat.
Water problems are ranked by the World Economic Forum as one of the greatest risks to economies, the environment and people. And to make matters worse, issues relating to water are affecting extreme weather events, climate change and political instability. All of these end up affecting water management, access, pollution, sanitation and health.
So, yes, it is a problem with no single or easy solution
But we, as a society, can use our creativity, innovation desire and technology to find social, environmental and, hence, economic solutions to water problems.
There are organisations like water.org, which have worked for more that 25 years in making water more accessible, as well as in guaranteeing sanitation, for many regions of the world. They have empowered women and communities, giving them hope and health thanks to a loan system to give a toilet or access to clean water to houses and communities.
Not only big organisations can generate positive changes
A way to start is acknowledging the water issue and, if we won’t or can’t be part of the solution, lets at least try to not be part of the problem. If you are, for instance, an entrepreneur, take into account your waste when doing the costs table. It is very easy to forget about it, given the costs, and also about the effects, because are the communities surround you the ones that will suffer the most.
Also, eating less meat
What about day-to-day solutions? Simple things such as thinking what we eat can make a difference. 70% of the world’s water is being used for agriculture and livestock. In fact, to produce the amount of food that one person needs per day, 3000 litres of water are needed.
To give you an overview, 15.000 litres of water are used to produce 1kg of beef, compared to 6.000 litres for 1kg of pork, 4.000 litres for 1kg of chicken and 1.500 litres to grow 1kg of grains. Also, meat has many other environmental consequences that are detrimental for forest and soil, as well as for climate change.
I’m not asking you to become a vegetarian, but to reduce your meat consumption. You can do this by eating less meat every week or by taking a break from it every now and the. This way you can make a big difference.
Finally, turning off the tap is an efficient way to save water
Yes, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard this a thousand times. But it’s because is one of the easiest and more effective ways to save water.
Let’s take a fast look at some numbers:
By turning off the tap you can save up to 25 litres of water per day when you brush your teeth.
You can also save at least 22 litres a day by turning it off when washing your hands (here some guidelines to properly wash them and save water at the same time).
Hand washing the dishes can use up to 75 litres of water. The dishwasher can be 4 times more effective.
A typical shower could use up to 250 litres of water. Not only turning off the tap but reducing your shower time to 5-minutes reduces your water use about 10 times, to 25 litres.
There are many more facts and tips about water and our consumption. So the invitation is to not stay just with this information, be curious about it and try to change your routines in a way that works for you and is also environmentally friendly.
Water is a renewable, but it’s also a finite resource
Drinking, washing, eating and producing any good depends on water. So it’s in our hands to use it in a responsible way and, therefore, guarantee it not only for future generations but also for ourselves.
Be bold to question, to challenge and fight the conscious and unconscious gender biases within yourself, Be a voice, a speech, an author, a poet, a writer for her story,
Be a fighter, a lawyer, an advocate, defender for her rights,
Be the courage, the motivation, the hope for her future,
Be a change, a catalyst, a leader for her community,
Be a keeper, a mentor, hope for her goals,
Be a teacher, a parent, a social worker, a friend who listens to her concern,
Be bold for change
Be bold to stand with her, nurture her into a future leader,
Let everyone understand being a feminist is not becoming a perfect human being but simply someone who understand her privileges and responsibilities,
Her rights and duties,
Give her the opportunity to be herself,
Let her learn and lead,
Let her start business, be a boss, a manager, a CEO
Be bold for change,
Take a challenge,
Broaden your knowledge about diversity and inclusion,
Challenge policies, laws and cultures that limit her participation,
Be a leader who listens to her voice,
Speak against the gender disparities,
Welcome different points of view and value different individuals as they are,
Support efforts to end Gender-based violence,
Support her to get high-quality education,
Give her skills and resources to manage her business,
Respect her decisions
Point out bias and highlight alternatives,
Applaud social, economic, cultural and political women role models,
Celebrate women’s journeys and the barriers overcome,
#BeBoldForChange this 2017 IWD and beyond.
Last June, I departed the UK on what was sure to be an adventure. I was heading to Kumasi, Ghana as a team leader with Challenges Worldwide for 3 months. Although I had no idea what lay ahead of me as I began that 24 hour journey to Accra with the other team leaders, I could never have envisioned that, fast forward 7 months, I would be stood speaking about my experiences at the Houses of Parliament in front of the head of DFID, Lords, Ladies and a group of MPs.
When I applied for an ICS placement, I had just secured a job in London and was looking for something to fill my final extended summer. I wanted to travel, but having already taken a few too many ‘gap years’, this time I wanted to give something back. I’d heard horror stories about the voluntourism industry: “They’ll knock down anything you build for the next group”, “You’re money’s going to a selfish and greed-driven organisation”, “Why are you paying to volunteer your own personal time?” These are all valid points that highlight real issues around this industry, and they resonated in my mind as I searched the internet for opportunities to combine my wish to travel with my want to do some good.
“Why are you paying to volunteer your own personal time?”
ICS was something I learned about from Facebook. The DFID funding gave it credibility, the opportunity to work in partnership with other young people was unique, and the breadth of projects and countries was exciting. I had no real idea as to where in the world I’d like to end up or with which organisation, I just knew that I wanted to be involved in an entrepreneurial-focused initiative. Everything I’d read and believed pointed towards the sustainability of development when the power of business was harnessed in the solution. No more questions about what happens when the funding stops and the volunteers leave; upskilling business owners and making a positive impact to an economy as a whole should have a far reaching and long lasting positive impact. Two weeks after my initial application, I heard I would be interviewing for Challenges Worldwide. Another quick trip to my go-to google and I realised this project aligned perfectly with my aspirations.
No more questions about what happens when the funding stops and the volunteers leave; upskilling business owners and making a positive impact to an economy as a whole should have a far reaching and long lasting positive impact.
The work the volunteers did whilst on placement was fantastic. Over the space of the 3 months, they made a real impact on 9 businesses within Kumasi. However, what led me to the Houses of Parliament, and what I’ll focus on in this blog post, is the social impact that bringing a diverse range of people and a community together can have.
For those who have not been on a Challenges placement, I’ll give a quick explanation. Alongside their day-to-day work, whilst in country volunteers are split into four groups:
MPR (Mid Programme Review) – tasked with organising a fun-filled weekend of reflection halfway through the 3 months
Team Building Committee – responsible for activities and events that bring the volunteers closer as a team
Communications Committee – with the joint aim of marketing the volunteers’ achievements and work
Impact Day Committee – required to identify a need within the community in which the team are living, and organise a day of action to tackle this.
As a team leader, I headed up the Communications and Impact Day teams, and my counterpart Lukman took charge of the MPR and Social committees.
It’s at this point that I’d like to challenge you to take a look at the below picture and ask yourself: what you believe you see?
We’ll revisit the answer to that shortly – but first, I’m going to explain how this picture, and the Impact day it was taken at, came about.
Planning Impact Day – take one
As previously mentioned, part of every ICS project is a team “Impact Day”. Although the eventual outcome of this event is tackling a social problem, it was clear that due to the nature of the Challenges programme it would be best to take an entrepreneurial approach.
The easiest way for a group of newcomers to a city to do this would be to join forces with an already established network. In our case, however, Challenges was as new to Kumasi as we volunteers were, meaning we had no existing connections. We, therefore, set about searching for charities and volunteer groups, talking to host homes and businesses, looking online, and reaching out to friends.
An orphanage affiliated with one of our businesses approached us for help. However, in order to mitigate the ‘voluntourism’ risk that I spoke about before, there has been a shift away from working with children on any Challenges Worldwide ICS placement. Challenges’ 20 years of expertise centres around sustainable business development in emerging economies and their work delivering ICS seeks to disrupt the status quo of unskilled young westerners undertaking short-term projects that can cause more harm than good. Therefore we were encouraged to approach our impact day activities with sustainability and long-term outcomes in mind.
Planning impact day – take two
Weeks passed, and ideas came and went. We all wanted to make a real lasting impact in the community that had welcomed us so nicely, but – like anything in a developing country – overcoming obstacles was a daily challenge. Thankfully, using prior university contacts from home, I managed to contact a social enterprise, SanEco, who wanted to help. Saneco is the brainchild of The University of Southampton’s Enactus Society. In short: SanEco have identified a way to create reusable sanitary towels from readily available and affordable materials. They train unemployed members of communities to make and market these products with a focus on also educating women on their bodies and menstrual cycles. Through this initiative, social entrepreneurs are created. By increasing these people’s income, they directly tackle poverty levels. These entrepreneurs also increase the standard of living of the females in their communities, who would now have access to affordable sanitary products, allowing them to continue with their normal lives whilst menstruating.
I pitched the idea to the Programme Manager and our Impact Day Committee and they all loved it – but they would, as a predominantly female team who understood these issues and were comfortable speaking on the topic. The real issue would be introducing the concept to the male members of the wider team and, as expected, there were mixed reactions. We, as Westerners, like to believe that we stand for equality and share the mutual respect to discuss health issues and topics such as the natural processes of the female body. It’s all too easy to think that the male/female divide is only now a problem in lesser developed areas; however, initial reactions to the Saneco topic highlighted that so-called ‘taboo subjects’ are also still prevalent in Western society.
It’s all too easy to think that the male/female divide is only now a problem in lesser developed areas; however, initial reactions to the SanEco topic highlighted that so-called ‘taboo subjects’ are also still prevalent in Western society.
After a few difficult conversations and a hard stance from the Impact Day team that this was how we would proceed, we got everyone on board. We would deliver workshops in the morning, transferring skills that are essential to any business: budgeting, marketing and bookkeeping, to name a few. We would then introduce the SanEco programme in the afternoon, and apply what we had taught in the morning to the product.
Preparing for Impact Day
The team were excited and the day began building momentum. We bought materials, secured a venue, did shout outs on the radio, printed and handed out flyers, reprinted and red-handed out flyers and attended church ceremonies to spread the word. Before we knew it, the day was upon us and all we could do was wait to see if anyone turned up.
Anyone who has been to Ghana will be well aware of GMT (Ghana man time). To those who haven’t, this is the name given to the fact that it is perfectly acceptable to show up to arrangements hours after the agreed time. A bizarre concept for people from the UK to wrap their heads around. Thankfully, it appeared that GMT was running particularly close to regular Ghana time this day, and at just 45 minutes after our planned start day, the room had over 20 people in (both male and female, from babies to grandmothers!)
The morning workshops went without a hitch. The participants were actively engaged, offering examples, asking questions and genuinely enjoying themselves. We broke for lunch and got ready to introduce SanEco.
There was a buzz in the air. We had decided to market the initiative only as a new ‘social enterprise idea,’ in order not to discourage anyone from attending before they understood the initiative. However, to our surprise, when we revealed what we would be showing them, the excitement remained in all participants! We began walking them through the process of creating a sanitary pad. Unfortunately, as accomplished as we all felt for pulling off this day, it turns out that we’d overlooked the slight issue that none of us could use a hand operated sewing machine, which was the main component of making these pads. Thankfully, and with some quick thinking, we threw it out to the audience and were extremely relieved when a lady in the front row was more than happy to help. She came up to the front, and in less than a minute, we had our first pad. I pulled out my iPhone and quickly snapped the above image.
When I earlier asked what you thought my picture showed, I’m sure you didn’t guess the answer. A woman empowered by a group of young people with the tools to start her own business tackling women’s needs.
Since returning to the UK, I’ve been overwhelmed by the interest in this image. It’s been in newspapers, been voted top 10 out of over 400 entries in the ICS photography competition and allowed me to attend a showcase at the Houses of Parliament, discussing my experiences with some of the most influential people in the country. The Houses of Parliament showcase was the first time since returning from my placement that I really had the time to sit back and reflect on the difference that we have made and can continue to make. Meeting volunteers from other ICS organisations has reiterated the positive impact that young people are making across the world. Challenges and ICS represent the opposite to most stigmas that are attached to young people nowadays. Lazy? No. Uncultured? No. Shying away from community spirit? Not that I’ve seen.
Challenges and ICS represent the opposite to most stigmas that are attached to young people nowadays. Lazy? No. Uncultured? No. Shying away from community spirit? Not that I’ve seen.
With the changing, and somewhat frightening, world that we live in today, it’s never been more important to spread the word on the positive impacts that collaboration across borders can make. I spent 3 months living in a country where I was a ‘foreigner’, and quite frankly the experience would have been impossible without the welcome, help and support I received from my Ghanaian colleagues. Pictures, to most, are a way of preserving memories. They have always been a very personal experience for me. However, what I’ve learned from this experience is that they also serve as a tool to spark curiosity, spread positivity, and tell a story. I’m not promising all pictures will end up with you in the Houses of Parliament, but I have seen first-hand that people want to know about your placement, they are interested in learning from your experiences and it’s actually pretty fun to relive them through sharing your story.
So: post your pictures, share your stories and remember that the Challenges Worldwide ICS experience is a truly unique one.
Inequalities exist all around the world and gender isn’t an exception to this reality. Women represent half the world’s population and yet account for 70% of the world’s poor. To make matters worse, women contribute approximately 70% of working hours in the world but only earn 10% of the world’s income. Hence, women in many countries face inequalities throughout their whole lives, from when they are born until the time they die.
From an early age, millions of women face gender-based stereotypes that discriminate them from having access to education. As well as not having access to education often young women are conditioned to see their only aspiration in life is to get married and have children. In the eyes of many societies around the world, having a well-kept home, a happy husband and producing offspring is the only worthy indicator of a successful woman.
Those who are able to overcome the first hurdle of accessing an education then grow up to face limited job or promotion opportunities. Often the job opportunities that are afforded are limited to domestic activities and service roles. Many women find themselves with little or no power to make decisions in their work and home and many others have to defend themselves from sexual harassment and gender-based violence, from which millions of women die every year.
In Africa, these realities occur every day and, although this has been recognised as a problem to be solved by most African governments, the transition has been much slower here than in other regions of the world. However, empowering women and girls is a key factor for economic development. Healthy and educated girls, with an equal access to opportunities, can help their families to get out of poverty, become leaders in their communities and make significant changes, like Wangari Maathai or Kaya Thomas have done.
What can we do to empower women to change the world?
The first step is to be informed; running away from the information won’t make gender injustice around the world less of a reality. As Minna Salami says, “it takes individual consciousness to create collective awareness”.
“it takes individual consciousness to create collective awareness”.
The second step is empowerment: working together to give women the real opportunity of making their own choices, especially the most vulnerable ones. But, how can this reality be changed? It isn’t easy peasy. Still, there are many people working for gender equality around the world. Here we’ll share some African enterprises that are encouraging examples of this:
Foundation for the Realization of Economic Empowerment (F.R.E.E)
F.R.E.E. is a social enterprise that works to reverse marginalisation of women in Zambia by providing them with opportunities that go from making jewellery to reducing illiteracy levels. It helps women, mainly single mothers and those who are in a vulnerable situation, to have a dignified source of income.
Ng’ombe Jewellery Project, for example, is one of their projects and is based in the Ng’ombe community. The idea is to teach woman how to make jewellery, from bracelets to necklaces, by using recycled cooper (which have generated many political, economic and social issues in the country), as well as semi-precious Zambian stones. As the cherry on top, each of these pieces is packed in a small chitenge bag, which are sewn by Vida and her sisters, who are disabled but talented women in the Ng’ombe community.
Is a skin care business that doesn’t only sell beauty products but builds opportunities for women in Ghana. In this sense, Ele Agbe is empowering women in rural areas to gain a sustainable livelihood by producing quality products for both the local and international market. This venture started making jewellery from recycled glass and then moved to shea butter products, thanks to the vision of their inspirational founder and CEO Comfort Adjahoe. But why attempt to tell the story if Comfort can do it better.
Another women-led enterprise based in Uganda that, contrary to the previous ones, isn’t mainly focused on empowering women but on creating jobs for young people. Decent work opportunities, not charity, as we’ve seen through all these examples, is a more powerful way to provide employment and dignified ways of income. Kampala Fair began with sewing lessons in Mette Islandi, who then teamed up with Louise Graymore from the UK and created Kampala Fair together.
Nowadays, Kampala Fair is a sustainable, profitable and fair trade business that sell their products for local and international markets. Everything in this clothing business is locally made, from the vibrant fabrics to the designers and tailors. We invite you to visit the web page, learn more from them and get lost among the beautiful designs.
Last October Challenges Worldwide volunteer and soon to be Team Leader Rosie Coleman spent a Friday evening with the Kumasi, Ghana chapter of women who code to lead a workshop on “excelling your career.”
The most interesting thing for me was to witness the similarities between the women here in Kumasi and those I’ve met back home in London during similar tech career workshops. The Kumasi women had the same fears and concerns about interviews and our feedback session focused largely on the same issues with self-confidence and belief in their own awesomeness.
Not only in the global South but also here in the UK
Here the gender inequalities aren’t as big as in other countries, however, we aren’t absent of this reality. One of the main issues is the “missing middle” in organisations. What does this mean? Even though at junior management levels both genders are equally represented, male managers are 40% more likely to be promoted to higher roles. This is the number one cause of the 23% gender pay gap.
You can join Challenges Worldwide by taking part of the International Citizen Service volunteer programme and help any of these enterprises to keep on empowering women or you can do your own bit to fill in the missing middle and join the Chartered Management Institute at an exclusive discounted rate for Challenges learners.
By joining many small efforts, challenges can be overcome and great changes can be achieved. Be part of this movement!
Take the chance and travel to Africa with us. Apply now!