Jalia club was formed in 2018 by Maria Gitau and Clare Kanja. Jalia is a Kiswahili word, a language widely spoken in East Africa which means to care. The club has evolved with time having started by bridging the gap between underprivileged and well-equipped schools. Initiatives such as Jalia have become crucial at this time when young people are faced with an uncertain future. Majority have been left without access to learning. Not every one of them has access to electricity, digital learning or digitally literate teachers or parents. Employers find that this is the most uncertain time to hire new people.
The International Labour Organization, in the 2020 edition of the Global Employment Trends for Youth, noted that unemployment is more prevalent among young women. In Africa, most youth are in unprotected jobs which are now being affected by economic shock. The need to invest in protective measures for skills and employability of young people is urgent.
“On having conversations, we realised that we had shared sentiments about the confusion and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic posed. The idea to virtually engage our peers in something productive with a bid to drive our attention from the devastating news and numbers was born,” says Clare.
“We sent out an initial interest form and surpassed our initial target of twenty having received submissions from over 70 people. Being our first virtual session, we could not take up the entire group. We accepted 35 girls into a two- week program and 95% of our participants were outside our immediate circles. We split them into smaller groups and assigned them with mentors who are about to graduate or who have already graduated, ” she adds.
Why Design Thinking?
“In 2018, we had the chance of participating in UNICEF’S Generation Unlimited Challenge, where we took part in a Design Thinking workshop. The concept of design thinking led to a paradigm shift on how we looked at problem solving, and we thought it would be great to transfer that knowledge to our participants. We assigned each group an industry which they delved into and applied the concepts we would go through in every stage of the design thinking cycle during the sessions,” Clare notes.
“It is vital for people to conduct research to understand the challenges that a community face. Have a target audience and be open-minded. For every idea or product, there are those who will constantly rely on it and others will only use it moderately. You need to identify both extremes and find a middle ground as you definitely want most people to access whatever you want to provide,” Clare explained to the participants.
One of the sessions was about Intellectual Property led by Wairimu Manyara and Kennedy Mumo. Wairimu, a law student at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya, gave the participants an insight into copyright and the relevant legislation that protect them.
“Most technology companies are moving into open source as it enhances the improvement of existing systems because the public can view and edit. I’d also encourage young people to understand their intellectual property rights when submitting ideas in competitions or university projects because many young people lose their ideas in such instances,” Kennedy a computer science graduate from Strathmore University explained.
“Post the pandemic, Jalia club hopes to liaise with university clubs and high school students during their school holidays, by running similar workshops that will focus on technical skills which will involve taking our participants through design thinking as well as soft skills which will involve bringing guests on board to give talks. This will promote healthy conversations among young people,” Maria concludes.