Empowering Rwandan Youth Through Savings Led Microfinance
It is estimated that there are 220,000 children orphaned by AIDS in Rwanda.2 Additionally child headed households (CHH), where the child has lost both parents and has taken over the responsibility of caring for younger siblings, pose a particular challenge due to the 1994 genocide and the AIDS epidemic. These children are at greater risk than other OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) to suffer from malnutrition, illness, emotional distress, abuse and sexual exploitation.
Rwandan youth, especially OVC, have limited access to education. Only 30% of primary school graduates go on to secondary school.3 Of those who do graduate from secondary school, an even smaller percentage is able to continue on to university. As a result, many young people are unable to find work in the formal sector and must instead create their own small businesses to earn money.
The project described in this case study, the CRS Rwanda OVC Track 1.0 project, supported more than 3,151 children with a variety of interventions. The project is implemented in collaboration with local implementing partner, Caritas Rwanda, in the dioceses of Butare and Kibungo, covering seven administrative districts.4 Core services offered to every OVC in the program are education (primary, secondary and vocational training), health care, and psychosocial support. Additional services offered beyond this basic core package are nutritional education and training on bio-intensive gardening techniques, child protection and economic strengthening. CRS is a strong proponent of holistic care and support to OVC.
Among the services offered through the OVC project, vocational training has shown promising trends in helping to build sustainable skills among CHH. Children who are unable or unwilling to participate in the formal school system are offered vocational training in a trade of their choice. A typical training course lasts between six months and one year. The project also arranges for post-training apprenticeship opportunities where children can further refine their technical skills before fully entering the workforce. Many children later find work in the same establishment where they served as apprentices while others decide to work as independent entrepreneurs. For the latter, CRS often provides startup kits containing essentials materials related to their trade, and organizes trainings in business skills development. For example, young women undertaking the vocational training course in tailoring receive a sewing machine, needles, measuring tape, a pair of scissors and a charcoal iron. Youth who chose to follow the course in mechanics receive a full tool box, extra screw drivers, wire cutters, pliers and a pair of overalls.