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Executive summary.

Tap and Reposition Youth (TRY) was a multiphase initiative undertaken by the Population Council and K-Rep Development Agency (KDA), the oldest and largest microfinance institution in Kenya. The overall aim of the project was to reduce adolescents' vulnerabilities to adverse social and reproductive health outcomes, including HIV infection, by improving their livelihoods options. The project was launched in low-income and slum areas of Nairobi, Kenya, where rates of HIV infection are alarming and where young women are disproportionately affected.

TRY targeted out-of-school adolescent girls and young women aged 16-22. (1) Initially, the microfinance model was an adaptation of the adult juhudi group-based savings and lending model. The TRY model evolved over the course of the experiment, moving from a minimalist savings and credit model to one that expanded upon social support and eventually responded to the particular needs of its vulnerable clientele.

Phase One

The Minimalist Model: Focusing on Group Formation and Credit

The pilot phase of TRY began in 1998 and lasted until 2001. Based on the adult juhudi model, roughly 25 girls came together to form a self-help group that was registered by the Ministry of Culture and Social Services (later renamed the Ministry of Gender, Sports, Culture and Social Services). Within the larger group of 25, subgroups were formed of five members each, termed watano, the Kiswahili word for five.

Groups received a six-day training that included business management and planning skills, entrepreneurial skills, life skills, and gender roles. The pilot was designed so that starting in the initial group meetings, girls contribute weekly savings to a group account that will eventually constitute collateral for microloans. Although members' contribution to the group's savings continues throughout their participation, access to savings is restricted; funds can be withdrawn only when a girl leaves the program. In order to obtain a loan, a participant devises a business plan and makes related applications that are reviewed and agreed upon by the group members. Girls received loans in turns; two watano members receive initial loans, and the remaining members receive loans once their comembers have demonstrated their reliability through regular weekly repayments.

In this first phase, loan amounts ranged from US$40 to $200. Repayment began the week following loan disbursement at a 15 percent interest rate. The businesses undertaken were of the girls' choosing and included hairdressing salons, food stands, petty trade, and construction of simple housing for rent.

Girls' participation in this first phase was very active, and repayment rates were high. Eventually, however, repayment rates dropped, the groups dissolved, and girls started to drop out of the program. The initial model placed heavy emphasis on the provision of credit as the driving force of TRY, with little recognition of the girls' vulnerabilities, their need for social support, and the importance of their having safe and accessible savings as a cushion against emergencies. The first phase of TRY was evaluated, and collaborators devised modifications to the model for the program's second phase.

Phase Two

Strengthening the Social Intermediation Components within TRY

The default and drop-out rates that ended TRY's first phase forced K-Rep and the Population Council to reexamine the conditions of girls' lives and the diverse circumstances of TRY participants. Only 12 percent, of TRY participants lived with both parents. The remainder lived in a variety of situations: in single-parent households, with a boyfriend, or heading their own households. More than half of the participants had migrated to Nairobi, mainly in search of jobs; only about half reported having many friends or people to whom they could turn for support. Only 37 percent of the girls reported that their first experience of sex was wanted, and 24 percent reported that they had traded sex for money, gifts, or support.

The first phase of TRY focused on the provision of credit, but for many TRY girls, the solidarity of the groups represented a surrogate home and a source of much-needed social support and camaraderie. The program's collaborators decided to expand upon the social support they offered by adding a number of adult mentors to work in parallel with the credit officers. While the K-Rep credit officers focused on financial functions, the mentors provided social support and counseling, organized events, seminars, and day trips, and provided referrals when they were needed. Nine mentors were recruited from diverse backgrounds, such as social work, community development, the health sector, and successful small businesses.

As a group, the mentors and credit officers organized larger educational seminars to which all TRY participants could come together for information and discussions with guest speakers. Large group seminars were organized concerning HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and gender-based violence, women's rights, drug and alcohol abuse, male-female relationships, and family planning. In the context of HIV/AIDS, considerable information on a variety of topics was provided, including voluntary counseling and testing, nutrition in HIV management, mother-to-child transmission, and antiretroviral therapy. Initially, the girls responded enthusiastically to the mentors, taking their presence as a sign that K-Rep cared about them and was not interested only in providing financial services.

Nevertheless, girls continued to drop out of TRY, largely because they were concerned for the security of their savings, especially when comembers defaulted on loans, or because they needed to access their accumulated savings quickly in times of emergency, savings that were locked up as group collateral. Moreover, although most girls valued the group meetings and friendships they gained, they were not interested in the continuous lending that the program emphasized. Project managers, therefore, devised a way to offer girls safe and accessible savings together with safe and supportive peer-group experiences.

Phase Three

Forming Young Savers Clubs and Providing Safe Spaces

In early 2004, the Young Savers Clubs were established as independent from the TRY juhudi groups. Young Savers were recruited through existing TRY members, the credit officers, mentors, and other community members such as social workers. As with TRY, members of the Young Savers Clubs form themselves into groups consisting of 20 to 25 members and conduct weekly meetings that are led by a credit officer or a mentor. By the end of 2004, 123 young women had become members and were contributing savings, even if not oil a regular basis.

The club meeting is organized like the TRY groups with an initial roll call of members by the group chairwoman. The girls deposit their savings with the treasurer, using the passbook system. The clubs meet on a weekly basis and hold group discussions, engage with mentors, and participate in recreational activities such as sports and games. The savings are held in one large account maintained by K-Rep for all of the savings groups. Should an individual wish to withdraw money, she fills out a withdrawal form, and the money is given to her the following week. Girls appreciate being able to store their money in a safe place, and many mentioned that the group helps them to become disciplined in money matters. As with the TRY groups, the girls also appreciate the friendships they form:
 I have tried [saving money at] home
 many times, but I see something like
 shoes, and I break the tin and use it [the
 money]. With Young Savers, the money
 is safe because it is in the bank. It cannot
 be given to someone else, like my
 husband when he sees something he
 wants to buy with my money.

 --Age 19, married, no children, nine
 years of education

 What attracted me, apart from saving,
 are the seminars. I especially like the
 way we are taught about how to run
 businesses and about nutrition and how
 to keep fit. We do exercises for about
 20 minutes. It also takes away my idleness.
 In the group, problems--even
 individual problems--are less troublesome
 when we share them.

 --Age 20, married, one child, eight
 years of education


Young Savers Clubs offer girls an integrated livelihood and social support experience without the pressure associated with loans and repayment. When the voluntary savings option was also offered to TRY clients, nearly all joined Young Savers in addition to their regular TRY membership, demonstrating the importance of and demand for safe, accessible savings for girls and young women.

Phase Four

Programming for Differing Conditions and Evolving Capacities

The experience of TRY underscored the vulnerability of girls and young women and highlighted their diversity despite their common residence in a poor urban community. It also underscored girls' differing capabilities and capacities during their transition to adulthood. The initially rigorous microfinance model piloted for TRY was appropriate for only a small subset of the most capable and least vulnerable girls and young women. For the majority of young women, entrepreneurship and repeated borrowing were not primary concerns. Rather, their fundamental needs related to acquiring social capital, including social support groups, friendships, mentorships, physical safety, and the opportunity to save their money in a safe, accessible place. When these needs are met, entrepreneurship and use of credit opportunities may follow.

A reliable and safe group structure should form the core of programs for vulnerable girls, with participation constructed as a positive experience. The most vulnerable girls need a place apart from their families for dialogue, support, crisis intervention, the protection of savings, and the development of rudimentary livelihood skills. Only when such fundamental elements of social capital are in place will girls be able to take advantage of economic options.

Program collaborators suggest a livelihoods program model that takes account of the capabilities and evolving capacities of girls and young women. Programs for younger, more reticent, more vulnerable girls may begin with rudimentary safe venues, basic education, and skills training, and perhaps savings and financial education. Programs for older, more experienced, and less vulnerable girls may include vocational, technical, or business-skills training, and microcredit and other financial services (see Table A).

(1) In the first phase of TRY, the target age group was 16-24.
Table A Staged program model for adolescents, by type of program,
according to type of beneficiaries and providers

 Program activities for
 younger, more reticent Program activities for
 adolescents living older, bolder
 in constrained adolescents living in
Type of program circumstances better circumstances

Social Group meetings in safe Vocational training
 intermediation and appropriate Technical training
 venues Business-skills
 Age-appropriate training
 learning activities
 Literacy and numeracy
 training
 Life-skills training
 Health education
 Financial education
 Leadership/group
 participation
 Simple technologies
 Livelihood-skills
 training
 Rights education
 Social support provided
 by mentors
 Organized sports and
 recreation

Financial services Promotion of savings Credit
 linked to financial Other financial
 education services (insurance,
 money transfer)

Other Exposure to world Work experience through
 beyond home through facilitation of
 visits and exchanges apprenticeships,
 business mentoring,
 and other on-the-job
 training

Type of program Providers

Social Youth-serving
 intermediation organizations
 Vocational, technical,
 or business training
 institutions
 Sports organizations
 Informal education
 programs
 Other organizations
 providing
 nonfinancial services

Financial services Microfinance
 institutions
 Credit unions
 Banks

Other Youth-serving
 organizations
 Business-development
 organizations
 Business associations
COPYRIGHT 2006 The Population Council, Inc.
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Publication:Seeds
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:1802
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