A YEAR OF CHALLENGE
A LETTER FROM OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
As we close out 2020, an especially tough year, we are grateful to share our key achievements to celebrate our donors, our board and the Komera team. This report highlights important areas including achievements, setbacks and our focus for the future. Our girls were able to remain focused at home throughout an eight-month lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also facilitated access to food security and livelihoods for the families supported by Komera. We are celebrating the entrepreneurs among teen mothers, parents and even girls who did not manage to further their education. However, it hasn’t always been easy. We experienced a prolonged school closure, restricted movements, and the adoption of new technology in a remote area.
SO THE QUESTION IS, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
We want to see empowered girls who can return their acquired leadership skills to their respective communities through the Komera Leadership Center. We want to see our girls continue to receive quality education support so they can further their studies and mentorship, and become better transformational leaders. We want to leverage the lessons we learned in 2020 with teen mothers’ job creation through mentorship and entrepreneurship. We want to reach out to more girls who are neglected in their respective villages. Finally, we aspire to reach more girls concerning their reproductive health education. Through our work, more opportunities will be unlocked for girls and their communities.
We can’t do this without you and our team. With your continued support we will continue to overcome the challenges ahead.
DATIVAH BIDERI MUKAMUSONERA
Executive Director, Komera
TRANSITION OF LEADERSHIP
“If you are lucky enough to be in her presence when she is addressing a crowd about women’s rights or speaking with a girl one-on-one, you will feel her genuine passion and become energized with her enthusiasm.” Lauren Mason, Komera managing director, describes Dativah Bideri Mukamusonera as a force, adding,
“SHE IS A FEARLESS ADVOCATE WHO WORKS TIRELESSLY TO ADVANCE OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS. ”
Komera supporters have witnessed this passion in Margaret Butler, Komera founder and executive director, for over a decade. In August 2020, Margaret and Dativah decided the time was right for Margaret to focus on expanding her advocacy work for young women through AMPLIFY and for Dativah to officially assume the role of executive director. “Dativah and I had been talking for a long time about transitioning to full local leadership, as the intention of Komera was always to have Rwandans leading,” Margaret explains.
While Margaret’s passion for Komera grew out of a feeling of gratitude for the education and experiences she had growing up and a desire to extend those opportunities to others, Dativah’s passion grew out of feeling discouraged as a young girl raised in a family and culture that did not give full or equal opportunities to girls. “I dropped out of school after Senior 2 because I was a girl,” she notes, adding, “My father thought paying for my school fees was ‘wasting resources.’”
Unwilling to accept that fate, Dativah and her mother went to the local authorities to ask them to allow her to continue her education. When the school official reluctantly gave her the necessary paper, Dativah ran home with it. “That’s when I started my life,” she states.
Dativah’s transition from country director to executive director happened both organically and intentionally. “One of the big pushes for making the change now,” Margaret notes, “was the realization that there was never going to be the perfect time to transition and that it was time. So much of the money and power traditionally goes to white-led organizations.
“IT IS IMPERATIVE TO MOVE ASIDE AND MAKE ROOM FOR BLACK LEADERS. I HAVE ALWAYS UNDERSTOOD THE RESPONSIBILITY I HAVE TO STEP INTO THIS CHANGE. ”
Margaret is currently expanding her advocacy work for young women through AMPLIFY—a collaborative of community-driven organizations that amplifies the voices, work, and impact of local community organizations delivering services for adolescent girls. AMPLIFY is currently using its global platform to study the impact on girls of returning to school after COVID-19 in order to identify barriers and best practices to help their return.
“AMPLIFY works in the ecosystem where Komera exists,” Margaret explains. “It evolved through the recognition that many organizations don’t get access to platforms simply because they are seen as too small, yet they are the ones on the frontlines delivering for girls. We are addressing the issue of how we can create scale through collaboration and centering communities.”
Today, Dativah leads Komera from Rwanda as executive director, and in partnership with Lauren Mason, managing director in the U.S., Komera is proud to have two female leaders at the helm as we move into the next chapter. It is not easy to change a culture that is deeply entrenched in traditional gender-based norms, Dativah admits, but one community at a time, new conversations are beginning to take place to shape a better future for Rwandan girls.
COVID-19 RESPONSE: SAFETY & SUPPORT
The Komera scholarship program, which currently supports 174 vulnerable girls in secondary, post-secondary, tertiary, and university education, was one of the programs most affected by COVID-19 due to school closures and the students’ inability to learn directly with others in schools. When the Rwandan government closed all schools and halted all general activities in mid-March, Komera staff faced unprecedented challenges to address the needs of the scholars, as well as their parents and guardians.
“THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN CONTINUED MUCH LONGER THAN EXPECTED, CREATING NEW AND URGENT CHALLENGES WITHIN OUR COMMUNITY — INCLUDING LOSS OF FAMILY INCOME, POOR HEALTH, RISING FOOD PRICES, INCREASED DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, AND INABILITY TO ACCESS BASIC NECESSITIES,”
Komera’s social worker manager, Ruth Kamatali, notes. “This placed our already vulnerable girls at even higher risk of extreme poverty, gender-based violence, conflicts in the home, early marriage, and teen pregnancy.”
Throughout the lockdown period in 2020, Komera Safety Circles mentors visited all participants and delivered sanitary towels and face masks in addition to food packages. Through these socially-distanced discussions with the girls, as well as regular text messages and phone calls, the mentors were able to share how they have been able to cope with the pandemic and how they have supported their communities. These sessions provided important inspiration, psycho-social support and connection with students to help keep them focused on their long-term goals.
*Name changed to respect privacy
At age 16, Grace* was in Primary 4 in school. In the same year, she became pregnant with a baby girl. While new life had entered her life through her pregnancy, Grace’s personal life had reached a low point. “She became desperate and had no confidence or hope for the future. She got lonely, stressed and was considered a misfortunate girl,” said Josephine Mutamba, Komera Teen Mother program coordinator.
Grace lives with her parents, who work as cultivators in the field, but unfortunately they do not have any land of their own to farm to provide food or income. In addition, Grace’s six sisters and brother live in their parent’s house, along with her sisters’ children. It would be three years after the birth of her daughter that Grace would find Komera. She joined our Teen Mother program as one of 270 participants in 2020. “She liked many offerings, like yoga and sports,” Josephine notes.
“SHE IS NOW ABLE TO HELP HER CHILD AND FAMILY THROUGH SAVING AND RUNNING SMALL BUSINESSES," JOSEPHINE SAYS. “IT IS NOW EASY TO FIND MONEY FOR PAYING MEDICAL INSURANCE AND FOOD. SHE IS HELPING HER PARENTS WITH ALL HOME RESPONSIBILITIES.”
“When they meditate, when they say good things like ‘I am good, I am special, I am beautiful,’ Grace always feels hope, peace and happiness when she says those words.” Today, Grace helps her parents by working at home and is able to care for her daughter and lead her siblings. With help from Komera’s nurse, Grace is able to access family planning methods that empower her to make decisions about her future. She has also started a small business cooking and selling potato samosas to those around her home and in the market. The possibilities for Grace and others just like her are endless and we can’t wait to see how high she soars!
What started as an idea built within Komera is now transitioning into its own unique organization as AMPLIFY Girls. We saw the power of community-based development and wanted to figure out how we could broadly share best practices with other girl serving organizations around Eastern Africa. We realized that if we could create a new way to think about scale through collaboration, we could in fact create a movement.
AMPLIFY Girls embodies an innovative, new, grassroots model of scale: it supports Community-Driven Organizations (CDOs) to lead and collectively work towards improving outcomes for adolescent girls, based on the solutions they identify as best for their communities. AMPLIFY helps them strengthen organizational systems to deliver more effective programs, document their impact and advocate for change.
Komera is proud to be one of the 18 partner organizations within AMPLIFY located across Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya that implement a diverse set of programs to serve adolescent girls.
Throughout 2020, Komera staff participated eagerly in AMPLIFY virtual events and training on topics including Monitoring and Evaluation, Theory of Change, and Resource Mobilization. Komera has been active in creating partnerships with AMPLIFY members to encourage learning from one other. Additionally, Komera participated in a four-country research project through AMPLIFY that will show the scope of impact COVID-19 has had on women and girls in particular, during the pandemic. We look forward to sharing the results this year.