Start-up money helps young entrepreneurs in Somaliland

Start-up money helps young entrepreneurs in Somaliland

Hibak markets the clothes she designs on social media, Sakariya’s café invites customers for coffee and books. Seed money also helps Sainab, who lost her business in a devastating fire. This is how FCA is supporting livelihoods in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

Text and photos: Björn Udd

More than 60 per cent of young people are unemployed in the northern part of Somalia, which is known as Somaliland. The country, which has suffered from decades of conflict, lacks sufficient jobs, which is why even educated young people are often left with no options. Youth unemployment is particularly urgent in the region, as approximately 70 per cent of the inhabitants of Somaliland are children and young people.

A workplace provides an important livelihood, and not only for the employee. Since so many people are without income, a single employed person in Somaliland can support up to twenty family members.

Making a living signicantly improves people’s future prospects, so FCA is focusing on supporting young people who want to become entrepreneurs in the city of Hargeisa. Having your own income also eases the position of women and the disabled, because with a regular salary they have better opportunities to plan their own lives. Those who dream of entrepreneurship, however, often lack the necessary funds and accounting skills to start a business. FCA bridges the gap by offering free training and start-up grants.

But young people are not the only group that needs support in Hargeisa. In April 2022, the large market of Waheen burned to the ground, and with it, the savings, warehouses, and business premises of an estimated 2,000–5,000 merchants turned into ashes. The ravages of the fire and global inflation completely crippled the city’s economy. While there were no deaths, damages from the fire amounted to around $2 billion US Dollars, or up to 60% of Somaliland’s GDP.

After the fire, FCA gave twenty female entrepreneurs €500 cash relief, which has enabled them to restart their operations.

In this story, we meet three small entrepreneurs from Hargeisa: two of them are young people at the beginning of their working careers, and the third represents a more experienced generation of merchants.

Hibak Hiis Mohamoud is a 23-year-old tailor who markets her clothes on social media.

“When I started the tailoring course, the others had already been in school for two months. There was no more room on the school bus. I walked to school for an hour and a half every day. Finally, the teachers realised that I was serious and gave me a place to study,” says Hibak Hiis Mohamoud.

Excuduing self-confidence and activity as she recounts the stages of her life, Hibak explains that her father did not want anything to do with his family. That decision caused difficulties in many ways, but also to study, because her mother had a low income and school fees were high. Once Hibak called her father and asked him to pay the school fees, but he refused.

“So I then sold my only possessions, the earrings, at the market. With the money, I bought school books and fruit for my mother,” Hibak says.

A Somali woman looks at the camera with a smile.
Hibak Hiis Mohamoud used to walk every day for an hour and a half to school to study to be a tailor. “Finally, the teachers realised I was serious and gave me a place to study,” she says.

First, Hibak studied to be a midwife, but when no work could be found, she decided to switch to a tailoring course organised by FCA. Hibak followed fashionable women on social media, whose style she began to imitate in her own collection. However, acquiring new customers was difficult.

“I wore the clothes I made and went to cafes so that others could see what kind of clothes I make. I was asked where I bought my clothes. That’s how I found customers”, Hibak laughs.

Today, Hibak makes not only clothes but also bags. She markets his products on social media and there are enough buyers from Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Hibak sends clothes by post and receives payments from customers using a mobile application. Currently, she earns about $60 US Dollars a month.

“At first, my mother didn’t give me permission to go to the course because I already had training as a midwife. Now she sees how I bring home money, and encourages me to continue,” says Hibak.

“All my life I have been dependent on others, but now I have become an independent woman.”

Even the relationship with her father has changed with education.

“When my father heard that I had become a seamstress, he became my customer. I want my father to see that it was a mistake to abandon us.”

Sainab Abdi Farah is an experienced market seller who revived her shop after a devastating fire.

“The fire started on Friday, my day off. I was at home and when I heard about the fire, I rushed to the scene. The whole store was on fire. When the fire burned out, I had lost everything.”

A woman in a patterned hijab and abaya stands behind a stall in a market
Sainab Abdi Farah’s first business burned down in a devastating fire in 2022.

Sainab sadly tell us about the day that changed everything in her hometown of Hargeisa. On the first day of April in 2022, the market was destroyed across an area of almost ten hectares. In one day, people’s savings, livelihoods and the city’s own economic prospects all disappeared.

“It was terrible. I don’t get support from anyone, and my husband has been sick for a long time,” says Sainab, whose entire family of 11 depend on her income.

Sainab’s husband has back problems and needs surgery. According to Sainab, the treatment costs 18,000 dollars, and since healthcare in Somaliland does not work well, the surgery should be done abroad.

“Right now, all I have left is hope. I want to expand my business and make enough money to support my family.”

After the fire, Sainab was allowed to sell her goods on the steps of a shop set up in a former warehouse. She kept her merchandise in a small box. However, the business was so small that it was impossible to live on the income.

“I received $500 from FCA and a week-long merchant training so that I could get my business up and running again. Without support, it would have been impossible for me to expand my business.”

Now, instead of a small box, Sainab has a whole cart of merchandise, such as clothes, scarves and more. She still has permission to sell on the steps of the shop.

“We help each other. My products go well with the store’s products. I sell women’s and children’s clothes, and they sell hair and skin care products,” says Sainab.

But business is still difficult. A large part of the marketplace is still under construction, and customers have not found their way back.

“In a good month, I make about $70. Before the fire, I earned up to $200,” says Sainab.

“All of us here hope that things will go back to normal.”

A man holding a white cane stands in front of a coffee making machine in front of a tiled wall.
Sakariya Ali Isack founded a cafe with his friend with the start-up money, where customers can buy snacks as well as specialty coffees.

20-year-old entrepreneur Sakariya Ali Isack has been blind since the age of 3.

“We are establishing a fast food cafe. We sell specialty coffees, teas, fried chicken and french fries,” enthuses Sakariya Ali Isack.

The café is still being renovated. Building materials lying around the business premises. The rush to get it finishes is intense, because in a few days ‘Books and Coffee’ will open its doors to the public. Shelves will offer books that customers can read while drinking coffee.

Sakariya and three friends used $4,000 start-up money, provided by FCA, for rent, decorating, purchasing coffee and deep-frying machines and food supplies. The café receives books that have already been read once as donations.

“I take care of administrative tasks, cleaning and also some of the catering. I can serve most of the products, but, for example, telling soft drinks apart from each other is tricky,” says Sakariya, who is blind.

He tells us that becoming an entrepreneur has brought a lot of advantages with it even before the café opens. According to Sakariya, people with disabilities are discriminated against in the local culture. He has even been attacked by strangers.

“In high school, even the teachers asked why I was there. I had to convince myself that I’m smart, I ended up teaching Braille to the teachers. However, the bullying never completely stopped.”

In addition to the start-up money, Sakariya has attended training organized by FCA, which teaches, for example, accounting, data processing and market research.

“These skills will be very useful. I hope to soon earn enough to support my family and siblings.”

Sakariya also dreams of starting her own family. He is engaged and will be married later this year.

“My fiancé is also blind. I don’t know if it will cause problems in the future, but we understand each other well, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

FCA and partners launch TVET report at Global Refugee Forum 2023

FCA and partners launch TVET report at Global Refugee Forum 2023

A group of smartly dressed people pose for a photo.
From left to right: Minister Awut Deng Acuil, Minister July Moyo, Dr. Prosper Ng’andu, Christine Hofman, Mrs Marianna Knirsch, Ms Lilian Musoki, Mr Abraham Kamara

Government representatives from Germany, Liberia, South Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe and FCA experts discussed how to bolster refugee self-reliance through technical and vocational education and training (TVET) during the international forum on refugees.

AT THE EDUCATION CAMPUS, linked to the 2023 Global Refugee Forum, FCA with its 15by30 steering committee partners, ILO, GiZ and UNHCR, hosted an expert panel to explore the results of the new report, “Economic and labour market impacts of TVET for refugees in LMICs.

With Ms. Christine Hofmann from the International Labour Organization moderating, the panel found common ground on the need to open up access to labour markets to refugees, as well as the need for training programmes to be labour market relevant and their results more rigorously evidence based.

Economic impact of TVET

A lady sits on a chair and talks into a microphone. Behind her a projection shows the FCA Finn Church Aid logo
Minister Awut Deng Acuil stressed the big economic return of TVET

Minister Awut Deng Acuil, the Minister of General Education and Instruction in South Sudan stressed the economic investment of TVET,

“TVET has a big economic return. When you give the skill to individuals, you will see the impact in a very short time – in the family, in the community where they live.”

She continued that traditional education approaches have concentrated on primary and secondary education, whereas TVET can “produced professionals, who can help in development of the country, but also in economic growth,” adding that skills can also help them reintegrate if they return to their home countries.

A man in a suit sits on a chair and listens. He has a microphone in his hand
Mr Kamara emphasised the need for robust evidence on TVET outcomes

The expense of TVET programmes was mentioned by almost all of the panel. Mr.Abraham Kamara, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Liberia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that building up a robust evidence base was key to helping international donors and governments make sound funding decisions.

“We need to provide qualitative data, so the donors will be able to situate themselves. The implementing partners will be able to design programmes that will be more focused financially. By providing structured data that will be able to overcome the shortcoming of budgetary that most host countries face,” he told the packed room.

This was a point also brought up by the new report, which offers six recommendations to better bolster refugee skills.

Responsive programming, new skills

Mr Kamara also emphasised the need for gender responsive programming and digital skilling, like in FCA’s own Creative Industries programme.

This was echoed by Mrs Marianna Knirsch, Deputy Head of Education Division at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, who also brought up the importance of green skills in TVET programmes, as well as the importance of integrating refugee training into national frameworks.

Two men in suits sit on chairs on a brightly patterned carpet
Minister July Moyo of Zimbabwe (L) and Dr. Prosper Ng’andu of Zambia outlined their country’s approach to TVET

“We try to make it as far as possible to integrate whatever we do for refugees and IDPs into nation systems – we know it’s more efficient, we know it’s more effective and it will offer prospects to refugees either if they stay or go back,” she stated.

Also on the panel were Mr. July Moyo, Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Zimbabwe and Dr. Prosper Ng’andu, Commissioner for Refugees, Zambia, who both outlined their own countries’ approach to TVET with Dr Ng’andu describing a ‘paradigm shift’ in Zambia through which refugees are now seen as an asset that can be welcomed to build the economy. 

FCA Uganda’s Lilian Musoki related her personal experience with the TVET complementary pathways programme and laid out clearly that financing is key.

A woman in a black suit wearing a bright necklace and red lipstick listens intently.
FCA’s Lilian Musoki used her years of experience to clearly outline further needs.

“We want an increase in TVET financing, financing that looks at scholarships. If it is labour mobility, if it is a TVET pathway, these scholarships should look at TVET directly.”

Ms Musoki ended the session by quoting an apt African proverb: “if you are afraid of the bee, you will not harvest honey.”

Text and photos: Ruth Owen

FCA, ILO, UNHCR and GiZ form a steering informal committee as part of the 15by30 ‘megapledge’ (link) for refugee tertiary education.

Read more about the steering committee’s research and approach to TVET for refugees.

FCA Uganda receives top honour at Visionaries of Uganda Awards 2023

FCA Uganda receives top honour at Visionaries of Uganda Awards 2023

Finn Church Aid Uganda has been recognised as the “Best International Education Humanitarian NGO of the year 2023”. This prestigious recognition was conferred upon the organisation at the 11th Visionaries of Uganda Awards ceremony on November 30th, 2023, hosted at the Kampala Serena Hotel.

THE EVENT was held under the theme “Celebrating Inclusive Economic Growth And Dynamic Leadership Through Innovation, Value Addition And Industrialisation For Continued Socio-Economic Transformation Of Uganda.”

It was presided over by The 3rd  Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda, Rt. Hon. Lukia Isanga Nakadama. During the ceremony, she extended congratulations to the Visionaries and urged them to persist in their commendable work.

A large glass award. Text engraved on it reads "THE 11TH VISIONARIES OF UGANDA AWARDS Presented to FINN CHURCH AID UGANDA On The Occasion Of Being Honoured As The Best Visionary INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION HUMANITARIAN NGO OF THE YEAR By The People Of The Republic of Uganda For The Outstanding Contribution Towards Uganda Middle Income status Aspiration and Vision 2040 on 30th November, 2023 From The Government Of The Republic Of Uganda"
FCA earned the award through its work with refugees in Uganda.

Finn Church Aid earned the recognition for its exceptional contributions to transforming and equipping refugees and host communities with education and vocational training skills in Uganda.

The award was presented to FCA Uganda Country Director, Mr. Wycliffe Nsheka, by the Minister of State for Urban Development, Hon. Obiga Kania Mario.

Expressing gratitude, Mr. Nsheka remarked, “It is a tremendous honor to accept this award and be acknowledged as the best international education humanitarian NGO in Uganda.”

“In collaboration with the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, and other stakeholders, FCA Uganda is actively involved in addressing Education in Emergencies in the refugee settlements. we are dedicated to fulfill the right to quality education which is a fundamental human for all. I extend my appreciation to the committed FCA Uganda staff, our partners, and donors for enabling us achieve this award.”

A smiling man in a suit sits at a table in a room full of people. He is holding an award and showing it to the camera.
FCA Uganda’s Country Director, Mr. Wycliffe Nsheka, proudly displaying the award.

Initiated in 2012 by the President of Uganda, H.E President Yoweri Museveni, the awards aim to recognise organisations and initiatives driving socio-economic transformation in alignment with Uganda’s Vision 2040 strategic development plan. The Visionary Advisory Board, supported by a team of researchers, conducts thorough assessments, surveys, and evaluations to identify outstanding organisations contributing to the realization of Uganda’s Vision 2040.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

FCA signs memorandum of understanding with Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine

FCA signs memorandum of understanding with Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine

Two men sit at a table exchanging documents while smiling. A Ukrainian and Finnish flag is on the table next to some flowers.
Oksen Lisovyi, Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, and Tomi Järvinen, FCA Executive Director, exchanging documents in Kyiv. Photo: Antti Yrjönen

On November 6 in Kyiv Tomi Järvinen, FCA Executive Director and Oksen Lisovyi, Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine signed a memorandum of understanding. The memorandum aims to consolidate efforts at enhancing educational sector of Ukraine. 

AT THE SIGNING, Minister Lisovyi said, “Today, it is especially important for us to support children’s and youth’s bids for education and help them fill them knowledge gaps caused by COVID-19 pandemic and war outbreak.”

Tomi Järvinen highlighted that it is important for children and youth to have a vision for the future even amid the crisis. 

“In addition, we need to understand what the war’s cost is for mental health. We need to do all we can so that the children and youth get the support they need”, he said.

Furthermore, Minister Lisovyi underlined the importance of psychosocial support and said that the role of partner organisations is crucial, as Ukraine lacks internal resources due to the ongoing war.

A long term agreement on education

In line with the memorandum the parties agreed to cooperate on:

  • Rehabilitation of damaged buildings and provision of shelters in educational institutions.
  • Establishment of safe and inclusive learning environments.
  • Building capacity of educational institutions and stakeholders to provide better quality and inclusive education.
  • Providing capacity building and educational activities on MHPSS (Mental Health and Psychosocial Support).
  • Supporting the renewal of educational content.
  • Support of education stakeholders in overcoming learning losses.
  • Supporting the development of socio-emotional and interpersonal skills of teachers and students.
  • Support access to quality education and training for the most vulnerable groups. This includes people with disabilities, veterans and IDPs (Internal Displaced Persons).
  • Ensuring better transition from education to employment through development and implementation of labour marked demand-driven education and training programmes.

The memorandum extends for five years from the day of its signing with the possibility of renewal after this time.

Read more about our work in Ukraine.

Vocational training unlocks the potential of refugees

Vocational training unlocks the potential of refugees

In Uganda’s Rwamwanja refugee settlement, thousands of refugees, including a significant number of youth, face immense challenges. Locked out of many employment opportunities, they struggle to find ways to generate income.

FINN CHURCH AID launched their Business Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) programme in response to the need for change.  It’s had a profound impact on the lives of the young people living in the settlement.

Two individuals living in Rwamwanja, located in Kamwenge district, Western Uganda, shared with us how their lives have been positively impacted by the programme. The UN Refugee Agency and the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly support the initiative.

From shattered dreams to creative success

Gaston Chirimwami, a Congolese refugee living in Rwamwanja, had long harbored aspirations to become a musician. His goal was dashed, however, when he was forced to flee his country and seek safety in Uganda. His luck changed when he enrolled in FCA’s Creative Industries programme at their training centre.

There, he discovered his passion for video production and learned skills such as camera operating and photo and video editing. Gaston’s newfound abilities not only boosted his confidence but also provided him with a source of income through photography.

“I believe I can pursue both music and video editing like successful musicians like Tekno,” he told us.

A man in a red t shirt and wearing headphones holds a camera and looks into the viewfinder from above. Another man stands behind him and looks over his shoulder.
Gaston Chirimwami shooting a video in Rwamwanja refugee settlement. Gaston completed FCA training in camera operation and video and photo editing.

Hairdressing helps support an entire family

Majengo Sadick, a resilient young adult who has the responsibility of caring for his six siblings, stumbled upon FCA’s vocational training program, and found it lifechanging. After completing a hair dressing course at the centre, Sadick started a mobile salon in Rwamwanja refugee settlement (see main picture).

Sadick’s newfound abilities in hairdressing opened doors to lucrative job opportunities while also igniting a passion he never knew he had.

Today, as a professional cosmetician, he owns a salon and supports his siblings’ education. “I’m glad that FCA provided me with skills and a professional certificate without any cost as compared to the expense I would spend in my home country, Congo,’’he says.

A man stands in front of a straw fence and braids a long pony tail. He is wearing an apron and has a look of concentration
Majengo Sadick braiding a client’s hair at her house. Majengo completed an FCA vocational training course in hairdressing and now runs his own salon in Rwamwanja refugee settlement in Uganda.

Vocational training brings transformative change

Beyond these individual success stories, FCA’s vocational training program has made a tangible impact on the Rwamwanja community. The programme’s focus on trades such as tailoring, cosmetics, and agriculture has resulted in the establishment of numerous salons and tailoring firms owned by FCA BTVET graduates.

Parents in the community have witnessed the transformative changes brought about by vocational education. Now youth, who were once passed over, play a crucial role in rebuilding their lives and addressing unemployment challenges. Many graduates have even ventured beyond Kamwenge district, competing for job opportunities in urban centres across the country.

The hope for a better future is being restored, one skill at a time, thanks to FCA’s vocational programme.

Text and Images by Shema Bienvenu: Communications Intern at FCA Uganda

Shema completed secondary school with assistance from FCA and is now studying Journalism and Communication at university. We are honoured that he chose FCA for his internship!


FCA and GIZ – green resilience in Nepal, youth training in Kenya.

FCA AND GIZ are working together through the Green Resilient Agricultural Productive Ecosystems (GRAPE) programme, which aims to strengthen sustainable agricultural ecosystems in the Sudurpashchim and Karnali provinces of Nepal.

As part of the project, FCA operates Climate Field Schools, where farmers from the most vulnerable and marginalised communities can learn and practice proven trends and technologies in Climate Resilient Agriculture (CRA). Most farmers working with the project are women. In addition, we work with communities to raise awareness on CRA through advocacy and street dramas, focusing on women and gender transformative approaches.

Nepali farmers told us about the effects of climate change on their crops. Working with German development agency, GIZ, FCA is engaging whole communities on climate resilience through the GRAPE project.

FCA supports communication about CRA through production of radio shows and infographics as well as providing training to journalists covering climate issues. Select journalists graduating from FCA training then received media fellowships to support writing and broadcasting on CRA.

A group of people stand outside a building, posing for a photo and holding a large banner which reads: "WOMEN'S ACADEMY FOR LEADERSHIP. Province Level Exposure Visit of Women's Academy Leadership Members/Sudurpaschim - Karnali"
The Women’s Academy for Leadership during a visit to facilitate learning and knowledge-sharing among the members

The project includes 53 civil society organisations in Nepal who cooperative on CRA in a Community of Practice. This is a collaborative space for networking, peer learning and upscaling of CRA models. One initiative, the Women’s Academy for Leadership, aims to address the lack of female representation in the agriculture sector.

In the next iteration of the project, activities will focus on gender transformative approaches, addressing the specific needs of women in agriculture, and the disproportionate effect of the climate crisis on women
plus aspects of intersectionality.

The GRAPE programme is jointly financed by the European Union (EU), the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

A woman walks through a field of very dried out tomato plants

Climate change threatens the sustainability of whole food systems in Nepal with women and girls at particular risk of losing out on economic independence.

Smiling women tend to a patch of plants in a garden

Key Facts

  • 21 Groups formed and 568 individuals reached through Climate Field Schools.
  • 53 Civil Society Organisations work with FCA Nepal to regularly share best practices in climate adaptation and sustainable agriculture.
  • 64 female leaders from 38 organisations joined FCA’s Women’s Academy for Leadership.
  • 21 journalists on FCA’s media fellowship have published or broadcasted 119 articles or programmes on CRA .
A line of women stand in a garden of tomator plants. They are looking at the camera.


FCA has worked with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Nepal since 2023, focusing on sustainable climate adaptation and supporting green local economic development.

FCA and GIZ also work together in Kenya and on a global level with other partners, leveraging expertise in modern teaching methodologies and using evidence-based studies to expanding refugee inclusion in technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

Technical and vocational education in Kenya

IN KENYA, FCA, GIZ and the TAMK University of Applied Sciences in Tampere are collaborating on a project to foster collaborative partnerships between Finnish educational institutions and Kenyan actors working in the area of technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

The project aims to leverage Finnish expertise in modern teaching methodologies, individualised learning and competency-based education to elevate the quality and effectiveness of TVET in Kenya.

Improved experiences in vocational education will lead to improved learning, as well as enhacing employability among Kenyan youth. It’s hoped that the project will eventually facilitate a sustainable model of quality technical and vocational education that can be replicated aross various contexts.

Both FCA and GIZ also work as part of a wider global steering committee, with UNHCR and ILO, dedicated to expanding refugee inclusion in technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

A man looks at the camera with a cheeky smile. His head is tilted and he holds his hand to his forehead. He wears a green FCA vest.

FCA has long supported TVET training courses, like this hairdressing course in Rwamwanja refugee settlement in Uganda.

Working with local partners and international experts, FCA and GIZ are leveraging this experience in Kenya.

An image of a PDF

Download the brochure

Nairobian Christine Murugi aims for a career in animation

Nairobian Christine Murugi loves cartoons, and soon they might be her job

Finn Church Aid believes that vocational training for young people is crucial to access the job market. Hairdressers, chefs, and mechanics are examples of traditional professions, but the transformation of the labour market also changes educational needs. Now, FCA is training digital professionals in Kenya.

IN THE Kenyan capital Nairobi, 18 young people are typing on their computers in a small classroom. One of the students, Christine Murugi, is working on a 3D model known from the film Minions, mulling over the best way to animate the character’s hand.

Christine, 20, studies animation in Finn Church Aid’s Creative Industries programme. In her studies, she practises creating three-dimensional characters and making them move.

“I’m a huge fan of cartoons. They’re so funny, and I love the stories. I’d find it interesting to take part in creating them,” she tells.

Currently, Christine is inspired by Bold, a Disney animation that depicts a dog’s life as a TV star. She also finds ideas in “DC League of Super-Pets”, an animation series about the pets of superheroes.

Graphic design, digital market and animators

FCA’s Creative Industries programme is free of charge and aimed at low-income youth. The students train to become graphic designers, digital marketing professionals, or animators. Christine is happy about the opportunity, because without it and as the only child of a single-parent family, she wouldn’t have had a chance to study.

A woman smiles at the camera
Christine Murugi enjoys the opportunity to make animation films a profession in FCA’s Creative Industries training program in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Björn Udd / FCA

“When Covid hit, my mum’s financial situation got even worse. I had to drop out of school.”

Without anything to do, Christine moved out to live with her uncle, so that her mother was able to work more. At her uncle’s, she had more company, and she was able to help her uncle with household chores.

“Fortunately, I heard about this programme, so I was able to continue studying.”

In the beginning she was nervous. Animation is a male-dominated field, both in Kenya and around the world. Christine is the only woman in the class.

“When I joined, I was the only girl amongst 18 students. Initially it was unsettling, but now I’ve made friends with my classmates, so I can be more relaxed.”

After the initial tension, classmates have become one of the best things about studying. Christine likes her new friends; she particularly enjoys brainstorming ideas and exchanging thoughts with her classmates.

Smartphones more common than computers in Kenya

Although smartphones are common in Kenya, some students are completely unfamiliar with them. All students in the programme go through an elementary IT course.

Christine already knew how to use a computer, as she had taken computer classes in upper secondary school. Her studies have progressed as planned.

“I might be the best in class,” she says laughingly, “or at least I’m doing well.”

A woman sits at a laptop. On the screen is a 3D animation model.
Christine Murugi practises building an animated character on her laptop. Photo: Björn Udd / FCA

Despite her success in the classroom, the future concerns Murugi. In Kenya, the digital industry is on the rise, but competition is fierce and global. Finding a permanent job might be difficult, and many work as freelancers.

“It’s a little discouraging sometimes, but I remain optimistic. I know I’m a really good animator, so I’m certain I’ll be able to sell my skills.”

Christine is determined. There’s no doubt about what she would like to do in the future.

“Movies, absolutely. I love movies, and that’s what I want to do. With this training, I could make websites, for example, but at least for now my focus is on the movie industry.”

Text and photos: Björn Udd

Ugandan delegation benchmarks Finland’s education system ahead of reform

Ugandan delegation benchmarks Finland’s education system ahead of reform

The Ugandan Education Policy Review Commission consisting of researchers, educationists, economists, policy analysts and former ministers, arrived in Finland as guests of Finn Church Aid. During the week-long visit, the delegation visited various educational institutions and met Finland’s top experts in education.

THE FINNISH EDUCATION system received plenty of praise from the Ugandan experts who visited Finland as guests of Finn Church Aid in late September and early October 2022.

“The educational environment encourages and supports learning.”

“The teachers seem to love their job and be proud of their profession.”

“The teachers are highly educated and have good pedagogical skills, including in preschool education.”

“Vocational schools teach skills that help find job opportunities.”

During their week-long stay, the delegation visited a Finnish daycare and kindergarten centre as well as comprehensive and vocational schools and met with local authorities.

The aforementioned quotes are from a discussion meeting held during the visit, where the members of the commission were reflecting on what they’d learned.

The reason for their visit is a fundamental one. Uganda is planning a wide-ranging educational reform, which would increase the quality and effectiveness of its education system.

In regard to the reform, the Minister of Education and Sports and First Lady of Uganda, Janet K Museveni, appointed a Commission comprised of Ugandan education experts. The primary function of the Education Policy Review Commission is to draft a new policy framework for education and sport in Uganda that would replace the current Government White Paper on Education of 1992.

Thus, it’s possible that there will be a nugget of Finnish expertise in the Ugandan school system in the future. The commission also plans to benchmark education systems from other countries to broaden their knowledge and understanding before submitting their recommendations. “Many things in Finland inspire me. One is the structure of education and how it has been built from early childhood all the way to a doctoral degree. All Finns I interacted with seemed to understand this structure,” says Monica Abenakyo Monge, a member of the commission.

Quality education at the core of FCA’s work in Uganda

The delegation says that the Ugandan school system is battling against a diverse range of challenges, including inadequate funding, weak school-level management structures, inadequate availability of learning materials, and large class sizes. A major issue is also the availability of teachers in disadvantaged areas and a lack of accommodation for teachers in rural, hard-to-reach areas.

The delegation emphasised that there is much to learn from the research-based Finnish education system. Currently, the most important goal of learning in Uganda seems to be more academic. Poorly performing students don’t receive the support they need, leading to them being left outside the system.

FCA has operated in Uganda since 2014, focusing on improving comprehensive and secondary education, particularly in the immense refugee communities. FCA’s work particularly highlights the importance of the quality of education arising from trained teachers, carefully prepared curricula, and safe learning environments.

“The Commission’s visit also supports the efforts of FCA, as it gives us an opportunity to shape Uganda’s new education policy,” concludes Wycliffe Nsheka, the Country Director for FCA Uganda.

Ugandan experts who visited Finland as guests of Finn Church Aid in late September and early October 2022. The photo was taken during the delegation’s visit to Omnia vocational college campus in Espoossa. From top left: Jacklyn Makaaru, Iikka Upanne (Omnia Education Partnership), Monica Monge, Mervi Jansson (OEP), Amanya Mushega, John Nsasira, John Kabasa, Wycliffe Nsheka (FCA UGACO). In the front from left: Lilian Nabiryo, Proscovia Kasemire, Saara Turunen (FCA).

Vocational education looks into the future

Recently FCA has particularly concentrated on supporting vocational education in Uganda, as professional skills and entrepreneurial competence improve people’s opportunities to make a living for themselves and their families. In Uganda, companies are in massive need of trained employees, and hence there is educational collaboration with the private sector.

Visiting a Finnish vocational school was a particularly memorable experience for the delegation.

“What especially stuck with me was the thought that vocational schools teach for the future. We tend to stay with the past and use traditional methods that are no longer suitable in today’s world. Training people to meet the needs of the labour market is also very important,” Monica notes.

Could Finns learn a lesson from Uganda?

“The environment is different. Finland has gone through all kinds of things in its development to what it is now. I’ve imagined what it would be like to teach here. Nothing could stop me, but would you survive in a challenging learning environment? If a Finnish teacher visited my school or village, they would understand and appreciate my efforts,” Monica says.

The visiting delegation also included the Commission chair and former Minister of Education, Hon Nuwe Amanya Mushega as well as commission members and experts Hon John Mwoono Nasasira, Jacklyn Arinaitwe Makaaru, Prof John David Kabasa, Lillian Nabiryo, Monica Abenakyo Monge and Proscovia Kasemire.  

Text: Ulriikka Myöhänen
Translation: Anne Salomäki

In Nepal’s Far West, pig and vegetable farming is the main source of livelihood for former bonded labourers

In Nepal’s Far West, pig and vegetable farming is the main source of livelihood for former bonded labourers

Former bonded labourers in Nepal’s Far Western Region earn a modest living by raising pigs and growing vegetables. FCA offers support to local people to help them earn a living, but in the most impoverished villages severe drought and all-engulfing fires make life extremely challenging.

IN A NORMAL summer, the Mohana River floods across the flat terrain all the way to the village of Bipatpur. Taking vegetables across the river to India would require a boat and a skipper.

In Nepal’s Far West, the annual monsoon season usually starts in early June, but this year the rains were weeks late. For local women, crossing the border from Nepal to India seems fairly easy; all they have to do is lift up their saris, roll up their trouser legs and wade across the river. It has been scorching hot for nearly two weeks now, with temperature rising above 40 degrees.

The ground is parched, and plants and people are desperate for water. Some of the wells in the village have dried up and there is no point in looking for new ones because finding groundwater is too uncertain and the costs of digging too high.

This has been an exceptional year in more ways than one. This spring, following a disaster in April that destroyed the harvest and stores, the women of Bipatpur had nothing to sell to the Indian vegetable markets across the river.

Women walking in water in Nepal.

During a normal summer the water in the Mohana river is much higher by June. The women of Bipatpur village cross the river to sell their vegetables on the Indian side. Photo: Uma Bista

“Only people were saved”

Burning crop residue on the fields to release nutrients is an annual tradition in Bipatpur. This year, an unpredictable and exceptionally strong wind caused the fire to spread quickly and uncontrollably. Houses, food containers, and livestock shelters burned down one after another. The fire destroyed or damaged the homes of 71 families and killed domestic animals.

Villagers cleared away the charred tree trunks, but the sad and disheartened feelings remain.

“Only people were saved,” the women say.

The fire also engulfed a large chunk of the village cooperative’s savings, which were kept in a box. Belmati Devi Chaudhary, 42, looks at the charred remains of her house.

“Everything is gone. All we have is emergency aid.”

A man and an older woman walking in a village in Nepal.
Belmati Devi Chaudhary and her son Sanjay Chaudhary outside of their temporary house at Bipadpur in Kailari Rural Municipality-7, Kailali district. They lost all their pigs on fire in April. FCA Nepal provided support to the Chaudhary family to rebuild their house. Photo: Uma Bista

A sow the family had bought with financial support from Finn Church Aid died in the fire. Without a mother to care for them, five piglets died, too. This was a huge loss for the Chaudhary family.

The money Belmati Devi Chaudhary had earned from pig farming helped her to pay for her children’s schooling. Standing next to his mother, the family’s eldest son Sanjay Chaudhary, 23, looks helpless.

“I may have to go to Kathmandu to find work. It’s difficult to get a paid job here,” he says.

For many years, scores of young Nepalese men have left for the capital city or for India in search of odd jobs, but Belmati doesn’t want her son to follow in their footsteps.

Like many others in Bipatpur and in the surrounding Kailali District, the Chaudhary family are former bonded labourers. Although Nepal’s 200-year-old Haliya and Kamayia bonded labour systems were abolished in the early 2000s, many former bonded labourers and their descendants are still very vulnerable.

People are standing behind a collapsed house.

Houses, food containers, and livestock shelters burned down one after another in April in the village of Bipatpur, Far West region of Nepal. The fire destroyed or damaged the homes of 71 families and killed domestic animals. Photo: Uma Bista

Sustainable livelihood with pig farming

Jumani Chaudhary, 50, is one of 29 women in a group supported by FCA. These women run a pig farm in the municipality of Gauriganga. They have learned how to make porridge for pigs from corn and wheat milling byproducts.

“By feeding pigs porridge, we save on feeding costs, and the pigs are healthier and grow faster,” Jumani Chaudhary says.

The women plan to start selling their pig feed to other pig farmers. To safeguard feed production, they would like to set up their own mill.

An older woman is petting her two pigs in Nepal.

Gaumati Sunuwar, 56, has received support from FCA on pig farming in Amargadhi, Dadeldhura district. Photo: Uma Bista

In a pig pen, three different-coloured pigs oink and jostle for food. Sows are less than a year old when they produce their first litter. Typically they can produce two litters a year, around ten piglets each time. With the right care and nutrition, pigs grow quickly.

“A full-grown boar is worth up to 30,000 rupees,” says Bishni Chaudhary, 43.

A Nepalese woman is standing in a room holding her young child in her arms.
Sheela Chaudhary, 22, with her son Ronim Chaudhary at Gauriganga, Kailali district 2. FCA Nepal provides nutrition packages to Sheela’s son. Photo: Uma Bista

Sanu Chaudhary, 27, who lives next door and is also a member of the women’s group, says she recently sold seven pigs for 50,000 rupees. Converted to euros, the sums seem somewhat modest: a thousand rupees equals roughly seven euros. But in the Far Western Region of Nepal, this money goes a long way. You can buy a school uniform for your child, meals for the entire school year, a water bottle and school supplies.

“Pig farming is easier and requires less work than buffalo farming. Buffaloes only produce milk part of the year, when they nurse their calves,” Jumani Chaudhary explains.

When buffaloes don’t produce milk, they produce nothing, but cost ten times the price of a pig.

“Before, we had to beg for food”

The road further west to the Dadeldhura district twists and turns along the lush green hills. Compared to the flat terrains of Kailali, Dadeldhura is topographically much more uneven. The winding road barely fits our car, giving the scenic drive an extra twist. Finally, we arrive in the village of Ganyapdhura.

We can see hints of green on the terraced farms even though the rains are late. The Dalit community living here grows cauliflower, potatoes and zucchini. Growing vegetables is more than a livelihood; it has given the community a sense of value.

“Before, we had to beg for food, but now we grow vegetables for sale,” says Gita Devi Sarki, 38.

In 2019, Finn Church Aid helped the community further improve its farming efficiency by supporting the Sarki family and 24 other local farmers in the introduction of tunnel farming. The plastic cover of the tunnel protects the vegetables from the elements and retains moisture. The community also received a walk-behind tractor, which makes plowing much easier. Gita Devi Sarki is the only woman who knows how to operate the machine – and even she needs her husband’s help to start it.

A woman is holding a hand tracktor. A man is walking next to the woman.

Gita Devi Sarki plows a field using a hand tractor to plant vegetables at Kholibasti, Ganyapdhura Rural municipality in Dadeldhura. The couple is now working together and hoping to expand their vegetable farming with the support they receive from FCA. Photo: Uma Bista

“Before, our farm was just big enough to produce corn and wheat for our own family. Now we can save 410 rupees each month by selling some of the vegetables we grow,” she says.

Most importantly, having a more secure livelihood meant that Gita’s husband Padam Bahadur Sarki, 42, was able to return home from India, where he worked for twenty years. The couple have been together for 22 years and have four children. Almost all this time, Gita Devi Sarki was in charge of the family’s day-to-day life, alone.

“I returned to Nepal due to the COVID-19 lockdowns,” he says.

“It’s a good thing you came back,” Gita Devi Sarki says, with a grin.

“Yeah, it’s been OK,” her husband replies, causing the group of women sitting around him to burst into laughter.

Having her husband back has reduced Gita Devi Sarki’s workload in the farms. The family plans to expand their business to raising goats and small-scale fish farming in a small pond in the valley.

A family is sitting on the porch of their home. A cow is peeking from one of the doorways.

Bahadur Damai, 52, (centre) with his family at Ganyapdhura Rural Municipality in Dadeldhura district received support from FCA for chicken farming. In the spring of 2022, Bahadur Damai was elected as a ward member in the local government. Photo: Uma Bista

From bonded labourer to a member of a local government

A pretty little house has a downstairs door open, and a wide-eyed cow peeks through the door. Bahadur Damai, 52, beckons to visitors to join him in the shade under a canopy. Back in the early 2000s, before the abolition of the Haliya system, he was a bonded labourer, mending other people’s clothing. Today, he smiles happily as he talks to us about his chickens and a small tailor’s shop he has opened in a nearby village centre.

Money has given his family a more stable livelihood, allowing him to buy things like a television. He has also been able to pay for the weddings of his two adult daughters, something that clearly makes him very proud.

One of his greatest achievements, however, was being elected a member of the local government in May.

A man is kneeling down inside a chicken pen.
Bahadur Damai, 52, used to make an inadequate living by sewing people’s clothes. Now he has a steady income raising chickens on his own farm in Ganyapdhura in Dadeldhura district. Photo: Uma Bista

“It’s all thanks to FCA that I am where I am now. I received support for vegetable and chicken farming, and I’ve been able to build relationships that won me votes in the election.”
He pauses mid-sentence when a gust of wind tries to rip off the chicken coop’s corrugated iron roof. Bahadur Damai gestures at his son, telling him to put big stones on the roof to keep it in place.

“A new chicken coop would be nice,” he says. Suddenly he becomes serious.

“You know, my wife and I only have one significant difference: she has aged faster.”

The look on his face says this is not a joke.

“Women age faster here because their lives are so much harder that men’s. It is a local tradition that women eat after everyone else, whatever is left. Pregnancies, childbirths, hard physical labour…As an elected member of the local government, I intend to raise awareness of the problems women have in our communities, such as the disproportionate burden of domestic work and domestic violence,” Bahadur Damai says.

But that’s not the only thing he wants to draw attention to. In this district, former bonded labourers are still not eligible for the Nepali government rehabilitation programme, which promises them land ownership, education for children, and employment opportunities for young people.

Charred trees on a dry field.

Charred trees are a reminder of the fire that brought the small village of Bipatpur to its knees in April. Photo: Uma Bista

Bank accounts secure the future

In Bipatpur, the village women have gathered together under a canopy. In fact, this used to be a house, one of the women points out. The charred roof beams have been removed and replaced with new ones. At noon, the sun is beating down, and the temperature in the shade is approaching forty degrees. It turns out that the name of the village, Bipatpur, means disaster in the local language. This village has certainly had its fair share of disasters, from floods to fires.

Women sit on the ground.
People from Bipatpur gathered to receive cash support from FCA Nepal in order to rebuild houses which were destroyed by the fire in April at Kailari Rural Municipality. The village was also provided support during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Uma Bista

But perhaps today things will take a turn for the better. Representatives of the local government and the bank will be visiting the village. With support from FCA, every family that lost their house in the spring fire will receive a humanitarian cash transfer. For those whose homes were damaged to some degree, 13,500 rupees, or about 106 euros, will be offered for reconstruction, and those who suffered the greatest losses will receive 34,500 rupees, or 270 euros. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, families and the elderly will receive an additional 500 rupees.

For the first time, cash transfers will be paid to women’s own bank accounts. This ensures that their money is safe, and that even if another disaster strikes the village, not all of their possessions will be gone.

Text: Elisa Rimaila
Photos: Uma Bista
Translation: Leni Vapaavuori

Finn Church Aid has had a country office in Nepal since 2013. Our work focuses on providing income opportunities for former bonded labourers, on ensuring the realisation of their rights, and on improving women’s livelihoods. After the earthquake in 2015, we built safe school facilities for 44,000 children, trained teachers and supported mental recovery. In 2021, we took action to alleviate the food insecurity affecting nearly 18,000 people as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A baby is sleeping on the ground in Nepal. Women sit around the baby.

Elisha Chaudhary sleeps while her mother Sajita Chaudhary is attending a meeting at Bipatpur. Photo: Uma Bista

“This is my decision” – Naciima found her path as an independent business woman

“This is my decision” – Story of an independent business woman inspires others in Somaliland

Naciima found her way to make her dreams come true while attending to FCA’s Technical and Vocational Education Training.

WHAT DOES an independent businesswoman look like?

Naciima, who recently graduated from Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) programme, is a perfect example. She lives with her family of eleven in Gacan Libaax in Somaliland. They have a very limited income and her father, though he struggles to pay her school fees, has always encouraged her to find something she is passionate about.

“After deciding to drop out from the university, I put my entire focus on the training that I was getting. It was sensational and the most skillful experience I have ever gotten before,” says Naciima, who joined the Finn Church Aid’s TVET program recently.

She got to know about the course from one of her friends who went to the Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee TVET Center. When deciding to apply, she says she felt at peace.

“My dream has always been to design clothes – coming up with ways to make them look fashionable. It was a dream come true when I found out about the training and I immediately joined without consulting my family. However, afterwards I told them about my decision.” 

“Without the training I would not have become the woman I am today”

Naciima says that she gained skills from the tailoring course, including how to start business and practical tailoring skills. During the training, she was inspired by two things. Firstly, the way to come up with new designs and, secondly, the profits she could be make, especially since tailoring skills are in demand the country.

Naciima has become an advocate for TVET and wants to explain the benefits of it and how it leads to profit making.

“Without the training I would not have become the woman I am today – a business woman, an independent woman, and career-oriented individual.”

After graduating from the program, Naciima and the other graduates, received business start-up grants and equipment that helped her to start a business that could also support her family. Her idea was to start a tailoring shop that produces fresh looks in women’s clothing. She knew that the majority of ladies in Somaliland liked to wear tailored clothes and knowing her market helped her come up with her designs.

High hopes for the future

Within the first three months, the business was booming and made a decent profit. She hopes that in future she can support her family even more. At the moment she supports family in other ways than just financially – she makes clothes for her younger siblings. Some of her earning go into servicing her machines but her support for her family motivates her siblings and helps them to believe that they too can start a business and support the family in future.

Naciima is optimistic about the future and dreams of hiring more people for her business to meet the growing demand. This woman, who had waited to be supported by her family, has now become the one who supports them.

“I am able to save the money; average $100–150 in month,” she says. This is what a successful businesswoman looks.

This project is funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA)

Text and photos: Mohamed Dugoow