Butterfly Project empowers African children

The Butterfly ProjectSocial Enterprise Africa CIC is harnessing the power of social enterprise to stretch the potential of African children to become changemakers

Since 2009, they have worked with 20 teenagers aged 12-17 from Uganda, some from remote rural areas, some from urban slums, on a unique project known as the Butterfly Project, which aims to stretch the potential of the young people to become changemakers. In 2012, these 20 young people each have one or more projects with a social purpose that they are to deliver which relate to their own personal strengths and capabilities. Some are doing sports-coaching, some are teaching ICT, some deliver HIV/AIDS awareness, others have a mission to develop self-confidence in other children, by helping them understand their rights. By becoming a leader in these early years, they develop their own self confidence, which encourages them to explore their own potential more.

To this end, the Butterfly Project offers a range of activities to complement its own training programmes, which are designed to help children discover their own interests and passions. This could include art, music and sport, but also more esoteric pursuits, like board games, writing, entrepreneurship, photography, crafts and film and every member is encouraged to use every method at their disposal, including internet, to broaden their knowledge of the area in which they are interested.

In addition to this, members are trained in personal development skills, such as initiative, creative problem-solving and positive-thinking. Coupled with this is a foundation of ethical behaviour, which encourages members to share their knowledge, serve their communities and tackle selfishness, corruption, violence against women and human rights.

The rural members are from subsistence farming families and they are learning how to alleviate poverty, through use of drip irrigation and also how to grow higher value crops. Social Enterprise Africa will then step in to buy products at good market prices and this will help infuse the economy of the whole village over time. Profits made by Social Enterprise Africa in farming will support the training of these young people, as the aim is to cover all of Uganda over the next five years. Social Enterprise thus tackles both the training and personal development but is also there for the trading elements, which are required to provide practical long-term solutions.

Every member of the project is encouraged to write a blog, to express their passion for change. Francis Ssuuna, who is now 16 and a member of the project from a remote rural village in Western Uganda, said, “I want to run a project to develop the vision of children in the village, so they can develop like I have”. Charles Obuk, who is 14 from Northern Uganda, is concerned about children’s rights: “The right to play, the right to education, the right to medical care, the right to eat and the right of freedom are not well cared about and most of them are neglected and denied children from enjoying them.” Nancy Lakot, who is 15, wants to bring confidence to children in the village. She said, “Teaching games to others is fun and helps build their self esteem.”

Ben Parkinson, who devised the project with Ashoka fellow, Emmanuel Nehemiah, in Northern Nigeria in 2007, suggested that Westerners have been brainwashed about African children, having seen so much coverage of aid and AIDS issues, that we do not give enough credit to the capability and passion that African children have.

“The children on the Butterfly Project have never failed to surprise us and outperform our expectations,” said Parkinson. “What was a project devised simply to raise the profile of the capability of children living in remote rural areas has become a phenomenon which could change the way that we tackle poverty and the other Millennium Development Goals in Africa – sustainably, from the inside out.”


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