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Image credit: Fly Sister Fly

Vane Aminga: Using technology to change mindsets

Vane Aminga: Using technology to change mindsets

“It’s a big, big change”

Image above: Vane Aminga with Fly Sister Fly staff and members for the Samburu tribe

Fly Sister Fly works with nomadic communities to encourage them to send their girls to school. Its founder, Vane Aminga, says that before the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme, she was doing things “in a haphazard way”. Now she’s leading her team better and innovating using technology.

Reflecting on 2014, Vane Aminga says, “I had challenges. I’d try to do something. It didn’t work out, so I’d try something else.”

Then she lists all the ways the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme helped her develop her leadership skills. “So many little details that have really built the organisation,” she says, that include reworking Fly Sister Fly’s Facebook page and creating a mission statement.

But Vane believes one of the most important developments was learning to separate herself from the organisation.

Team building

“I took myself aside, worked on myself, and now I have better interpersonal skills – a better understanding of how to handle challenges. And I’m able to make more informed decisions.”

Vane says she’d always assumed that when she talked to her team they understood where she was coming from. “I used to get angry because they’d say they were going to do something, and then they don’t do it.”

So she shared content from the first module of the course with them – the Start with Why video by Simon Sinek. “I got them to watch it and understand why they are doing this. They’re not doing it for me, you know.”

Once the team had a better sense of motivation, Vane encouraged them to apply for opportunities. “Now three of my members are in the Young African Leadership Initiative – a programme for Africans headed by President Obama.”

This programme includes training from the Amani Institute. “So they’re really happy. We’re working as a team now. Everyone is contributing.”

Technical innovation

Another huge benefit came through the Queen’s Young Leaders Mentorship programme. Vane contacted advisory mentor, Neil McCartney, Chairman of the Independent Film Trust (IFT) and Managing Director of McCartney Media Limited. She wanted to talk to him about how she could use videos in her work with the Samburu community, the nomadic tribe she works with.

“These are people who don’t know how to read and write, so I was thinking of using video to pass information to them and to fundraise.”

She explains that the Samburu are poor and don’t have access to technology. “We can’t use mobile phones, internet, or email because poor people don’t have access to that.”

The logistics of using video proved to be too complicated and expensive. But even so, Vane was determined to show the Samburu “what is happening in the outside world to change their mindsets”.

The idea for radio came after a conversation. "I developed the project after talking to a Mr Franklin Huizies of Radio KC," says Vane, "Franklin is still working with us on the project as a mentor."

Small yellow radio

Using the skills she’d developed on the course, Vane got funding from the YALI TechCamp, and the M-PESA Foundation in Kenya to finance the purchase of 100 radios. Then it took three months to find radios that fitted the specifications Fly Sister Fly were looking for.

Back of radio showing crank

The crank on the back of the radio provides an alternative power source to solar

“They’re small and portable, solar powered and also have a crank so you can power them up if there’s no sun,” says Vane.

Solar panel on the side of a radio

The solar panel on the side of one of the radios

The radios also have a socket for memory cards, so that when Samburu families aren’t listening to the local radio station, “we have content for women’s empowerment, especially for girls”.

In Kenya it goes dark at seven o’clock, so the radios have torches. “This extends the evening,” says Vane. “They get to have stories and everything.”

Vane Aminga demonstrates the torch on one of the radios

Vane Aminga demonstrates the torch on one of the radios

The 100 radios are being distributed to 100 families. With an average of ten people in each Samburu family, that means the radios will benefit 1,000 people. And in return for the radio, families must commit to sending their daughters to school.

“So we’re seeing 100 girls joining school in the next few weeks for the first time ever.”

Planning expansion

The Fly Sister Fly team are seeking funding to measure impact, which is the next stage, says Vane. This includes the number of girls who attend school and how the radios affect the Samburu’s attitude to female genital mutilation.

“Because if it’s had any impact on the people, we want to give out at least 1,000 radios,” says Vane adding that her target for May 2017 is to reach 10,000 people, and bring 500 girls to school.

“If we get more funding,” she says, “we want to expand our projects to work in different areas, and also to support education.”

There is also a social enterprise element to Vane’s plans. “We have talented people who never went to school. And for them to feel like it’s too late, we don’t want them to feel like that.”

Samburu women make beautiful beadwork and Vane says some of Fly Sister Fly’s partners want to work with them.

“We want them to, instead of making the beads they make for their cultural purposes, to make beads that people in other parts of the world would be interested in buying,” says Vane.

Samburu necklace and key fob

Samburu necklace and key fob

The money from this beadwork would help pay school fees and allow the women buy food for their families.

“It’s all interlinked,” says Vane. “It’s about economic empowerment for these women.”