Watch her go

Cynthia and Prisca are recipients of the Watch Me Go scholarship. Photo by: Watch Me Go

Jane Wangari has just turned 14. Her wish: to continue her education and later become an air hostess.

Wangari is one of the more than 30 Kenyan girls Watch Me Go is trying to help to finish their secondary education. The young organization does this through crowdfunding — with a twist.

Unlike other crowdfunding sites, Watch Me Go doesn't seek funds and channel the money through an organization that will use it to implement a project. Rather, it seeks funds for the girls and helps them directly.

"It's not just having a crowdfunding site and here we partner with this, this and this [organization], but we control every part of the operation, from the marketing side down to on-the-ground work," co-founder Ian Stanley told Devex, suggesting that Watch Me Go is the only crowdfunding platform dedicated to girls' high school education in developing countries, especially those living in the slums.

To support a girl, donors first find students that they'd like to pledge funds to. Each girl has her own page that indicates her career aspiration, favorite subject, favorite hobby and when she'll graduate, as well as the amount needed for her to complete her secondary education. Based on research and experience, it would require $500 a year for each girl in Kenya to graduate from high school, with the amount covering tuition fee, boarding costs and school supplies. The page also features letters personally written by the students to tell her story.

In return for the donation, the girls submit reports of their grades. Donors each get a dashboard where they can track the girls' progress, particularly the number of As they receive every trimester. They can then send notes of encouragement to their beneficiaries.

"In a lot of these cases, girls do not receive positive reinforcement at home so we feel its a good way to inject that into their lives and help them succeed but also transparency for the donor, too," Stanley said. "No one wants to donate once and they never hear about where their money went."

The work of Watch Me Go doesn't end there. The nonprofit likewise involves parents and guardians in the process.

As part of the program, it hosts enrichment  workshops, a series of activities that aim to teach the girls about topics they won't normally learn from schools, such as leadership, creative thinking and financial responsibility. Parents and guardians are included in the program.

"The ultimate goal here is reducing the poverty and a lot of that comes from the home of these girls themselves,” Stanley said. It’d be helpful, he added, “if we can empower their parents to even start thinking about saving money and pay for some of the costs on their own and also get involved in their child's education.”

Watch Me Go currently serves schoolgirls in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. It's where Stanley and co-founder Katie Wood, both of whom worked previously with the World Bank, ended up spending most of a backpacking trip in 2012, teaching students for a few weeks. Stanley recalled that they just walked up to a school, spoke with the principal and developed a curriculum that's now the inspiration for the enrichment workshops.

In August 2013, Wood won the first D-Prize Award for social entrepreneurship, which led to the creation of Watch Me Go. The prize provides funding for a pilot phase of the project and promises help finding additional funding "and grow to impact enormous numbers of people."

The plan is to expand coverage of Watch Me Go to other countries. The nonprofit is now vetting schools and locations. But Stanley concedes the organization is still a little far from that.

"We're brand new so a lot of these is learning on the fly," such as the best way to send payments to schools, whether to do that personally or use mobile transfer, Stanley told Devex.

What do you think of this innovation? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and read our previous #innov8aid. Check out She Builds, a month-long conversation on women and development hosted by Devex in partnership with Chemonics, Creative Associates, JBS International as well as the Millennium Challenge Corp., United Nations Office for Project Services and U.K. Department for International Development.

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About the author

  • Ejv 150x150

    Ma. Eliza Villarino

    Currently based in New York City, Eliza is a veteran journalist focused on covering the most pressing issues and latest innovations in global health, humanitarian aid, sustainability and development. A member of Mensa, Eliza has earned a master's degree in public affairs and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of the Philippines.