Keeping Girls in School: Meet Lila Kiwelu and Mdada

by | Jun 8, 2016 | Archive

How does a seed grant grow and sprout into sustainable, and fruitful impact?

Travel with us to Kenya, where a lot of young girls are missing days, or months of school because they cannot afford it. Grantee Lila Kiwelu and her project Mdada, strives to keep girls in school by helping them pay school fees. What’s so impressive is the creative change in their business model, from initially selling fashion items themselves to raise money for school fees for girls, to now teaching girls how to make personalized, eco-friendly bracelets to earn their own income, enabling them to contribute to their own school fees, and academic success.
In their final Grantee report, Lila noted that they were challenged with their initial fundraising efforts, which included paying event and merchant fees to display and sale merchandise at a local mall. After weeks of trying this avenue, they realized they needed to change their approach to maximize their impact and to reach their goal of helping more young girls with access to financial support for their education. That’s when they had the great idea of introducing a “new” product to their market–eco-friendly bracelets. Using recycled plastic, they teach girls to make personalized bracelets that they sale during the holidays and on weekends to earn an income. For every 4 bracelets sold, Lila and her team are able to buy a mdada kit for a students to use to make her own bracelets, and each student receives support and training as long as she remains in school.

“The grant gave us an opportunity to experience a journey that is challenging and fulfilling at the same time. We have had to trust the process and believe that things will work out even after we had put so much effort and nothing seemed to work.”
From a humble beginning, training just four girls, to securing The Pollination Project Seed Grant, and shifting their operational model, Mdada has been now able to train 109 students in entrepreneurship and financial literacy. Even more remarkable, with reusable materials, and the courage to change, they learned how to spend less and earn more, and have managed to provide many girls with the tools needed to increase their potential for both economic and educational achievement.
Learn more about Lila and her project at their website.


“I truly believe that to create impact, money is not a precursor for success but rather a tool for us to learn.”


Written by Carolyn Ashworth