On March 7, 2017, Sr. Jane Wakahiu, LSOSF, Ph.D., is leaving African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) after six years as Executive Director. She comments, “...thank you for your friendship, stewardship, commitment and hard work that has made ASEC grow and impact more sisters in the past six years. It is my pleasure working with you to increase access to education for sisters in Africa. “
We would like to welcome our new Interim Co-Executive Directors - Sr. Margaret Gannon, IHM, Ph.D and Dr. Jane Farr, Ph. D., both members of our board of directors. Moving forward, Sr. Jane is committed to supporting a smooth transition. Although she is leaving her position at ASEC, she will continue to be a part of the ASEC family and partners in her new position with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. So, she says, “this is not good-bye, but merely see you next time.”
We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Sr. Jane on her new position, and reflect on her many accomplishments as Executive Director of ASEC since 2011. Over the past six years, ASEC has benefited from financial growth and stability, dynamic expansion of programs, increased staff, and amplified service to more sisters and partners than ever before. Since 2011, over $35 million dollars has been raised to support ongoing and newly created ASEC programs.
Advances in 15 key program and support areas demonstrate the breadth and impact of ASEC. Over 5,300 sisters have and continue to benefit from ASEC programs.
Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI)
Between 2011 and 2017, SLDI had expanded from operating in five initial countries – Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania – to a total of ten today. The expansion into Cameroon, South Sudan, Zambia, Malawi and Lesotho in Southern Africa represent a significant enlargement of the ASEC footprint west and south on the African continent. Funding for SLDI has increased from $2.2 million dollars to $13.9 million dollars. As a result, the SLDI cohort size was able to double from an annual average of 360 sisters to 766. In 2016 alone, 1,144 sisters participated in the program. Impacts of the SLDI are evident in alumnae and their mentees raising over $10 million in grants for their communities. Sisters from 38 countries have benefited, demonstrating that the presence and impact of SLDI is experienced far beyond the ten countries we serve.
Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA)
Since the program’s inception in 2012, HESA, ASEC’s first online education initiative, has grown from 18 to over 500 sisters with 20 partner colleges and universities in the United States and Africa. A total of $19.1 million has been obtained to support the HESA program through 2022. This will enable over 1,300 sisters to graduate with a diploma, Baccalaureate or Master’s degree (or both) in a variety disciplines. More than $40,000 has also been raised to support redesigning over 30 courses for HESA online offerings at Marywood University, Chestnut Hill College and Rosemont College.
Initiated in 2012, ASEC scholarships have continued to benefit sisters who otherwise would not have an opportunity. The program has grown from supporting eleven sisters at Bigwa Secondary School in Tanzania, to over 200 sisters in Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia. The program now offers the option of a high school diploma or a two-year college diploma. Graduates are enrolled in variety colleges including ASEC’s HESA program. Active fundraising to support scholarships has grown each year with over $90K raised to support the project in 2016.
The ASEC Research program was created to enhance program credibility, share best practices through dissemination, and build ASEC’s reputation for scholarship in the field. As a result, $48,300 in funding has been solicited to support research, including research workshops presented in East and West Africa, the publication of Voices of Courage, and a second book, Transformative Partnerships, which is expected later in 2017.
Reflecting on the past six years
Together we take great pride in the record of accomplishments in the past six years. Between 2011 and 2017, our ASEC staff has grown from two to 14 in the United States, and two to 18 in Africa. Over 15 site visits have been conducted in all ten countries to meet partners, participants, and conduct interviews with participants and alumnae. There are now 20 colleges and universities, ten conferences of major superiors, and 17 partner training organizations delivering SLDI programs. 487 congregations of women religious and over 5,300 sisters have benefited from ASEC programs. ASEC also played a leading role in organizing an international convening held in Nairobi in October 2016 that drew leaders from 22 countries.
With the growth of programs and large number of participants ASEC is now using an administration platform to enter data and collect survey information electronically. Over 2,920 laptops have been distributed to sisters in Africa. Six new computer labs with approximately 20 computers each were created in Cameroon, Malawi, Lesotho, Ghana, South Sudan and Tanzania. In addition, labs established in 2006 have been refurbished with new equipment and security.
The process of developing and endorsing the first strategic plan was initiated and completed in 2013. All goals were met in a timely manner. Our second strategic plan, ASEC 2020: Strengthening Capacity of Women Religious in Africa was finalized in March 2017.
Sr. Jane would like to thank everyone involved in ASEC for the opportunity and pleasure of working together, and would like to end this post by reflecting on the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child.” Although we are all different and come from different places, we are united by one commonality – a desire to connect, to take action, to make sustainable difference in society towards achieving the 2030 transformative agenda. Let us search for meaningful ways to collaborate and measure our success together.
Please join us in wishing Sr. Jane success and happiness in her new position. Know that she will continue to be at your service in her new role at the Hilton Foundation.