May 15 is the International Day of Families, a day that draws attention to issues that families face and offers opportunities to examine the social and economic factors that affect families’ well being. Reach for Change Africa is marking this occasion, along with families all across the continent, by celebrating the work of the social entrepreneurs who work to strengthen families, which in turn increase the likelihood that children will be raised in happy, healthy environments.
“Social entrepreneurship is a powerful tool that can be used to address the most pressing issues that African families face,” said Amma Lartey, Reach for Change Africa’s Director. “Through social entrepreneurship, local innovators can provide solutions for issues that families face and are able to provide their solution through a sustainable business model. This is increasingly becoming the new face of development in Africa: social entrepreneurship’s strength is that it is designed to provide long-term solutions for those who need it most, through local innovators who best understand the challenges their communities face.”
Reach for Change Africa supports social entrepreneurs with innovations that improve the lives of children, women and youth. Through its Incubator program, Reach for Change Africa provides exceptional Change Leaders with mentorship, trainings and helps them develop the skills they need to operate successful, sustainable social enterprises that create wide-scale, positive impact in society. Many of them provide solutions that directly address issues that families face.
As social entrepreneurship continues to expand across Africa, social innovations – like those described below – will increasingly require support to grow into lasting solutions that respond to families’ most pressing needs. (The names of beneficiaries have been changed due to the personal nature of the stories shared.)
Ethiopia: Tesfanesh Tadesse addresses economic challenges and provides hope for young, single mothers and their children
When Deraretu tried to escape an arranged marriage, she was trying to make a better life for herself. But after fleeing her home in rural Ethiopia and moving to the capital Addis Ababa, the teenager found herself alone, vulnerable and just when she thought she had found help, she was raped by a man who promised to find her accommodation.
Pregnant and terrified of what would happen next, Deraretu had lost all hope and was contemplating suicide. It was at this point, crying outside a church in Addis Ababa, that she met Tesfanesh Tadesse, who offered to help her. Tesfanesh is an Ethiopian Change Leader supported by Reach for Change Africa who helps young mothers living on the street with counselling, skills training and employment through her organization, Akinbalo Trading PLC.
Deraretu joined Akinbalo and was provided with emotional support and was trained to bake ‘injera’, a traditional Ethiopian bread. Having mastered this skill, Deraretu was able to earn an income and prepare for the arrival of her child.
Three weeks ago, Deraretu gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Tamer, with Tesfanesh by her side. Thanks to the support and skills provided by Akinbalo, Deraretu is now able to afford a home for herself and her daughter and will be moving into the new home in June. Empowered and feeling more hopeful than ever, Deraretu has the tools to be the mother, and the family, that her daughter needs.
“I want to continue my education and go to university alongside baking injera,” Deraretu says. “I want to give my daughter the best life possible. I will train her to be independent and have a mind of her own. For her, I see the bigger picture.”
Akinbalo Trading PLC is currently supporting dozens of single mothers to help them gain skills, earn stable income to build happy, healthy childhoods for their children.
Tanzania: Kiiya JK provides resources for children and families in crisis
When parents separate, it is not uncommon for families to be hurled in a state of uncertainty, distress, and even violence. In Tanzania, a father of two was recently struggling with his divorce and the breakdown of his family and was seeking revenge against his ex-wife who had custody of their two children.
Fortunately, he read an article published by C-Sema in Mwanachi newspaper and called its national child helpline to reach out for help. C-Sema is an organization led by Kiiya JK, a Change Leader supported by Reach for Change, which promotes children’s rights and conducts various programs and initiatives that strengthen families. Using data collected from children themselves, C-Sema provides parenting learning sessions, informs Tanzania’s government of gaps in child services, publishes a quarterly children magazine and runs a national helpline that provides counselling and links children in particular to appropriate social services when necessary.
The father spoke to a counsellor from the helpline and exposed his plans to burn down the home where his wife and children were living without him; the home that he had built. He explained that he did not want to hurt his children, so he planned to burn the house during school hours.
The trained counsellor walked the man through the potential outcomes of his decision. What if his children were home sick that day from school? Even if the children were not harmed, what would happen to them without a roof over their heads? How might it affect the children emotionally upon finding their home burned down?
Thanks to this approach, the counsellor was able to dissuade the father from his plans of revenge and helped him to understand that the well being of the children must be his primary concern in all decisions that he takes.
C-Sema impacts tens of thousands of children and their families every year.