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Operation Bootstrap encourages self-sufficiency

In Tanzania, less than 13 percent of graduates from the primary school system pass the national exam allowing entrance into secondary school, said Diane Jacoby, interim director of Operation Bootstrap Africa. “Many of the people who pass the exam do not go on to secondary school because they have nowhere to go,” Jacoby said.

Fewer of the secondary students are women. When Operation Bootstrap Africa began the MaaSae Girls Lutheran Secondary School in 1995, Tanzania’s population was 28.9 million according to the Web site www.UN.org. At that time fewer than 24 Maasai women were enrolled in secondary school.

Operation Bootstrap Africa supports Maasae girls’ education, which bears fruit in the development of sustainable community jobs. Photo provided by Operation Bootstrap Africa

Faraja Kurubai is one of those students. Kurubai is also a woman, making this accomplishment more unusual.

“There are not many opportunities for women. Usually women work to support their children,” Faraja said.

Kurubai is from the Maasai tribe, in the village of Matebete. After being enrolled and graduating from the MaaSae Girls Lutheran Secondary School, Faraja received a scholarship for Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota. She recently completed her degree work there and graduated in May.

At Concordia, Kurubai studied international business. Last year, while still a student, she began a microfinance project which consisted of loaning $50-$70 to women in her village. The microloans support women who begin small, sustainable businesses, such as selling breakfast, milk and rice, or making jewelry, which Kurubai then sells in Moorhead. To help make the businesses sustainable, the women who receive the loans save $2 each month, which helps create saving habits. Also, after the original loans are repaid the money is redistributed to the village so other women in the village can invest.

Sheldon Green, a board member of Operation Bootstrap Africa and employed in the office of communications and marketing at Concordia College, said this project is part of Kurubai’s full-circle experience. “First Faraja graduated from the MaaSae Girls school, and then came to Concordia with a scholarship. While she received her education, she continued to stay in contact with her family.”

Faraja Kurubai. Photo provided by Opperation Bootstrap Africa

“Now that I have graduated I want to take this very seriously,” Kurubai said. “My hope and prayer is to be able to incorporate women who are interested in receiving a microloan, but we cannot support [that] yet.”

“It was natural for me to do this,” she explained. “Our culture is very communal, and taking care of one another is common.”

There are not many opportunities for women. Usually women work to support their children

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