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CHALLENGE THE ROAD AHEAD

2020 ANNUAL REPORT

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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

Dativah Bideri Mukamusonera and Margaret Butler

“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

Komera's COVID-19 efforts

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.

Our upcoming plans to help girls include leadership training workshops during school breaks to guide scholars in their personal development, focus, and career growth. We are also hosting a mentor training in each secondary partner school to learn how to encourage adolescent girls after this long break from their studies. We are anticipating girls have returned to school with many new challenges, and our mentors in each school will be essential resources to our students.

The Komera team worked tirelessly and in increasingly innovative ways, partnering with parents and local authorities to serve the girls, families, and communities represented. Komera staff made weekly calls to scholars enrolled in secondary schools to check on their well-being, offer counseling, and give reminders about schoolwork. University students also had weekly check-ins focusing on physical needs such as food and rent support as well as emotional needs. Young women in the teen mothers’ program, among the most vulnerable populations, received weekly calls, food, cash transfers, and ongoing support to maintain not only their physical health but also their mental and emotional well-being.

Participants in the Parent & Guardian Cooperative continued farming and sharing their harvest of rice and beans with their neighbors in order to address food scarcity in the community. Komera staff also worked to secure emergency relief funds for cash transfers. In all, Komera staff provided support to 1,098 community members over the past 9 months, and 100% of the Komera girls enrolled in secondary school and university returned successfully to school!

KOMERA'S IMPACT BY THE NUMBERS
EDUCATION

Scovia's Story

Scovia smiles at school

Scovia describes her early life as uncertain. Raised by her elderly grandmother, she didn’t know how she would find money for food, shoes and clothes, transportation, or school fees. But thanks to Komera, she has been blessed with everything she needs, including the opportunity to attend FAWE Girls Boarding School, receive ongoing training through Komera leadership camps during school breaks, and gain continuous support from caring mentors.

Scovia has emerged as a strong leader within Komera and within her community, not only during the past two years, but especially during the pandemic. Returning home to Rwinkwavu when the COVID-19 outbreak closed FAWE and all of the other boarding schools, she has demonstrated all of the skills the program has worked to cultivate in her— including gathering a group of girls in her community to mentor and support during this difficult time.

“BEFORE I JOINED KOMERA, I LACKED CONFIDENCE,” SCOVIA CONFESSES, “BUT SPEAKING ENGLISH DURING THE KOMERA LEADERSHIP CAMPS HAS GIVEN ME THE TOOLS TO SPEAK IN FRONT OF A CROWD AND ACHIEVE HIGH GRADES AT SCHOOL.”

“When I returned home in March of 2020, I saw a big difference between the other girls in the community and me and decided to start a program for those left behind,” Scovia explains. “I wanted to show them what is possible. First, I gathered five 13-year-old girls and began educating them in the things I knew. Then I told each of them to find five friends who needed support, and now we are up to 30, not only from my village but also from other villages, and our group is increasing.”

With help from Ruth, Komera’s social worker manager, Scovia is able to arrange regular phone calls to see how the girls in her group are doing. These girls face the same problems she faced — not enough materials to achieve their goals, no resources to pay school fees, and parents who do not know how to get help. They fear that they are weak and lack someone to guide them, causing many to despair and turn to the streets or early marriage for a way out. The older scholars and Komera staff (whom Scovia calls “Aunties”) provide inspiration, ideas, encouragement, and support to help them face these challenges.

“DATIVAH LOVES GIRLS AND WOMEN; SHE HAS TAUGHT ME THAT NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE IF YOU WORK HARD,” SCOVIA BEAMS.
Scovia (far right) walks with friends
“KOMERA IS A LARGE FAMILY THAT INSPIRES AND SUPPORTS US. MY HOPE FOR KOMERA IN THE FUTURE IS THAT ALL OF THE GIRLS THEY REACH WILL RETURN TO THEIR HOME COMMUNITIES AND BECOME SOCIAL CHANGE AGENTS.”

What is Scovia’s educational goal? “I want to become a doctor, and therefore I am working hard to earn high marks in my combination subjects — math, chemistry, and biology.” She has one more year of secondary school and then plans to attend university.

“I DON’T KNOW HOW I CAN THANK YOU. YOU SAVED ME—FROM TROUBLE, PROBLEMS, NO PARENTS, NO MONEY...YOU CHANGED MY LIFE.” Scovia expressed appreciation for support from Komera.

“I want to see that everyone is in a good position, free from suffering; I want to be an agent for social change,” she asserts. When asked what leadership qualities she values in herself, Scovia answers, “Passion, kindness, honesty, neutrality, and respect for time. Komera has shaped me in all ways, changing me from a young girl who was too shy to stand in front of a crowd to someone who can do anything without fear, knowing that she will succeed.”

SECONDARY SCHOOL

Annually, Komera selects young women to join the Komera Scholar program with a full scholarship to a local secondary school, starting at Senior 4 through graduation of Senior 6. We select bright scholars who are dedicated to continuing their education, but would not be able afford the fees associated with secondary school. Our scholars attend public boarding schools and receive all the materials needed for success, including school supplies, uniforms, and personal feminine hygiene products.

POST-SECONDARY TRANSITION PROGRAM

For the past five years, this program has provided recent secondary school graduates with the tools they need to build their own bright futures. Whether entering university, developing a business or joining the workforce, Komera’s Post-Secondary Transition program fosters the individual growth of young female secondary school graduates to be able to achieve their full potential. Over the past decade, Komera has used education as the access point to support the challenges in our rural community in Rwanda.

TO DATE, WE HAVE SUPPORTED 174 YOUNG WOMEN WHO GRADUATED FROM SECONDARY SCHOOL AND TRANSITIONED TO UNIVERSITIES FOR HIGHER EDUCATION AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT.

Our education program provides full scholarships including tuition, school supplies, personal hygiene and health coverage for 83 young women in secondary school and 73 young women in universities across Rwanda. Scholars are given opportunities to expound their career choices in business development and entrepreneurship prior to their university education during our Post-Secondary program, where they are supported for their long-term career development.

The Post-Secondary program focus includes new skills in information and communications technology, which are in high demand in the job market, as well as English so the girls can compete favorably in interviews, scholarships, and jobs. We focus on business and entrepreneurship for them to think widely about how to empower themselves and their families economically. We also provide career guidance for the girls so they can evaluate their different career options as they apply for tertiary education and opportunities available on the job market. The program fills the gap between graduation from high school and before students can apply to university, a period of nine months.

MENTORSHIP

At each of Komera's partner boarding schools, Komera trains a teacher to serve as a mentor, who will meet with scholars one-on-one as well as in a group every week. Mentors provide the support necessary to keep scholars in school, including handling financial, social, and academic challenges as well as providing training in financial and entrepreneurial literacy, sexual and reproductive health, and gender-based violence.

Throughout 2020, Komera worked with Creative Action Institute to start a Safety Circle program. Small groups of 15 girls were connected with a Komera staff person to join weekly calls three times per week. In between calls, girls received virtual trainings and support through text messages. This mentorship program proved critical in keeping students connected while out of school.

LEADERSHIP SUMMIT

Though Komera was not able to carry out the holiday leadership summits for our secondary scholars as before, we are proud of our Safety Circles that paved a way for one-on-one discussions amidst the pandemic restrictions. These were further expounded by our three-day leadership summit in small groups as the scholars were about to return to school after this long break. The scholars were given more counselling and lessons on sexual and reproductive health and best practices on remaining resilient, focused and determined in their careers even amidst such disruptions.

UNIVERSITY

In addition to the exciting news of our nine scholars being selected to enter university, we are happy that all of our current university students are continuing with their academics online, even amidst different challenges with internet and personal computer access problems. Our first-year students have not yet started due to the COVID-19 challenges but will begin as the environment improves.

We currently have 18 scholars who are in their final years, some of whom are working on their dissertations. Others are attempting courses of their last year, hoping that, if all goes well, they will be graduating by the end of this year. They receive content and support messages through texts. Topics covered include COVID-19 safety measures, child rights, and sexual and reproductive health.

COMMUNITY

Beatrice's Story

Beatrice, a participant of the Parent & Guardian Cooperative program

The past few years have been difficult for Beatrice, the mother of Komera scholar Chantal. “In the past I couldn’t support my children in their education like today, because Chantal had passed her primary level,” said Beatrice. “But, I never managed to take her to a boarding school she was admitted to due to financial challenges.”

After the death of Beatrice’s first husband, life was hard, as she was left with three children to care for. Change entered Beatrice’s life when she remarried and had two more children with her new husband. However, the relationship with him did not last since he had another wife in Tanzania.

When he left her, Beatrice was responsible for five children, with no way to sustain them or herself. During a year that has been difficult for many around the world, it wasn’t clear how Beatrice would feed her children or support them on her own. “My life was very miserable, hopeless and I had no plan for the future,” Beatrice told us. However, it was in the same year that a door opened to Beatrice through her daughter, Chantal.

Beatrice (right) and with her daughter Chantal (left)

In 2020, Chantal was enrolled in the Komera scholarship program. “I heard about Komera through application forms delivered by Komera at schools,” Beatrice said.

Along with the opportunities this created for Chantal, it also meant Beatrice had the opportunity to join Komera’s Parent & Guardian Cooperative. Through this essential program, Beatrice started learning how to save money for her future.

In 2020, Beatrice was a part of one of 13 cooperative businesses started by parents and/or guardians of Komera scholars. Her group was later able to get a loan from the umbrella cooperative and she started her very own small business, where she sells different commodities, including shoes, body oil, soap, clothes, books, bags and other small items.

“MY PARTICIPATION IN THE COOPERATIVE PAVED THE WAY TO START THE SMALL BUSINESS I’M HAVING TODAY,” BEATRICE TOLD US.
Beatrice working at her business

She now has a way to support her children and herself. Komera is proud to have an impact on women like Beatrice by addressing different generations that have immense potential.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS

COMMUNITY ADVOCACY PROGRAM

Komera car traveling through the markets

With the limitation of convening people as before, we carried out our advocacy campaigns remotely every month using a traveling van through the markets playing a jingle over a loudspeaker. We worked to sensitize the community on how to fight and prevent COVID-19, combat gender-based violence, and overcome teenage pregnancy. The goal was to raise awareness in the community of the pandemic and its likely consequences. On average, our messages reached over 500 people per day!

HEALTH

Grace's Story

*Name changed to respect privacy

Grace preparing a meal outside her home

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!

Teen moms at a socially-distant meeting
TEEN MOTHER PROGRAM

Komera supports 270 teen mothers in a community-based mentorship program. We train locally based female mentors to meet with teen mothers in their communities twice a week to support them in health, education, economic empowerment and childcare. The young mothers learn self-acceptance and mentors counsel their families to reconcile conflicts and rebuild trust within the family. Komera uses yoga and meditation as tools for confidence-building and empowerment. Teen mothers are running successful small businesses to earn income for themselves and their families!

NABACCU PROGRAM

Komera works with local students in Primary 5, using soccer and games as a tool for development. Games are used to educate students on their health, rights and gender equity. We meet with local partner schools twice a month educating 1,300 boys and girls.

Due to COVID-19, we shifted this program to become the Prevention Program, meeting with 160 girls in small, socially distanced groups of 10-15, to specifically address the rise in teen pregnancy. In addition to the weekly training sessions, the girls also received sanitary pads, knickers and a uniform through our partnership with Tailored for Education.

2020 KOMERA GLOBAL RUN

Komera held the annual Komera Global Run virtually in 2020 through a fun four-day fitness event called the “Virtual High Five-K”. We partnered with a dozen amazing fitness instructors to lead virtual classes over the event weekend, including bootcamp, yoga and runner self-defense. We collected photos and combined high-fives from all across the globe to share our support!

We had participation in the 2020 Virtual Komera Global Run from locations all over the world, including Rwanda, London, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, New York, and 24 cities across the United States. We encouraged runners to make their miles matter even more this year as we took a stand for justice globally.

THE KOMERA LEADERSHIP CENTER

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

In 2019, we embarked on an ambitious initiative to build a home for Komera, the Komera Leadership Center. Throughout 2020, we worked towards making this dream a reality with the support of generous funders and partners. We are proud to have the support of the Rwandan government as they have donated the land for the Center, showing their investment and commitment to Komera’s work.

COVID-19 proved a setback for our progress and timeline on this initiative. As we battle the pandemic globally, we know now more than ever that young women need our support. As economies and livelihoods are decimated, as families can no longer afford to send their children to school, and as young women struggle to access the health services they so desperately need, we are committed more than ever to not just build back better, but to build forward together.

Ground-breaking on the Center is set for Spring 2021.

A HOME FOR EDUCATION

In Rwanda, 43% of students completed lower secondary school and only 6% were enrolled in tertiary education in 2019, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Our goal is to help young Rwandans graduate from secondary school and university. We see a need to focus on quality education, since schools are crowded and after school programs that help young boys and girls excel are limited.

The Komera Leadership Center is poised to close this gap and will:

• Impact over 10,000 students

• Host after school programs and weekend classes

• Provide early childhood development programs

• Include a modern computer resource center

A HOME FOR COMMUNITY

Over the past decade we have worked with over 5,000 community members through training, community activation events, and one-on-one support. Komera launched the Komera Parent & Guardian Cooperative with one business. Today, we support over 50 businesses across Kayonza District.

The Komera Leadership Center will provide:

• Community classes reaching 10,000 people

• Small business training

• Local markets serving 29,000 people

• Nutritional education

A HOME FOR HEALTH

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 777,000+ girls under 15 years old give birth each year in developing regions. The 2019-2020 Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey reports the proportion of teens who have begun childbearing rises rapidly with age, from less than 1% at age 15 to 15% at age 19.

The need to support vulnerable teen moms in our community is great. Komera has helped 86% of our teen mothers access contraceptives through an innovative community-based mentorship program. With the Komera Leadership Center, we will reach over 25,000 girls over the next 10 years and young women will be able to access:

• Peer counseling services

• Reproductive health education

• Community advocates escorting young women to referral services

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.

FINANCIALS

PARTNERS

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Thank you for believing in Komera!

SPECIAL THANKS TO THE FOLLOWING FOR THEIR SUPPORT OF THIS REPORT

Robbi Hartt, Former Director of the Writing Center at Greens Farms Academy, CT

Rose Odengo, Communication Consultant

Hilary Butler, Chair of Komera Canada Board

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