Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Skillshare International says that its vision is of "a world without poverty, injustice and inequality where people, regardless of cultural, social and political divides, come together for mutual benefit, living in peaceful co-existence." And its purpose is said: "to reduce poverty, injustice and inequality and to further economic and social development in partnership with people and communities throughout the world."

Skillshare says that it does this by "sharing and developing skills and ideas, facilitating organisational and social change and building awareness of development issues."

This organization values the right of self-determination of people and communities and for them to develop their own future. In order to do this Skillshare intends to:
- Respond and adapt to development challenges.
- Promote and protect the rights of disadvantaged communities.
- Support our partners to engage in policy development and debates in line with our shared vision and values.
- Run increasingly effective programmes and continually improve in all areas of our work.

The practical ways in which Skillshare intends to achieve their vision through improving the performance and services of those organizations they assist and also helping them to develop and grow.

Some of the ways in which this is done are listed as:

- The placement of international development workers with their partner organisations
- Financial resource development, such as building the capacity of programme funding
- The Leadership Development Programme (LDP), which is an initiative designed to develop the strategic leadership skills of Skillshare International's partner organizations.

All of this exemplifies their commitment to empowering individuals and communities and working in partnership with those individuals and communities to foster effective economic, social and organisational development.

One of Skillshare International's country programmes is in Lesotho and was launched in 2001 by the Honorable King Letsie II as a result of a merger between Skillshare Africa and Action Health.

Soon after Lesotho's independence, an organization known as International Voluntary Service (IVS) began to operate in that country and eventually became "Skillshare Africa." During the process of going from IVS to Skillshare Africa, the organization transformed itself from a volunteer sending organisation to a development organisation which responded to locally identified needs.

From 1999 to 2004, Skillshare International worked in 4 sectors in Lesotho:

- Education and training for employment creation
- Support for disadvantaged groups including people with disabilities, women, youth and people living with HIV/AIDS
- Rural development in particular construction of rural roads and bridges
- Environment science and technology
- Education, training and employment

The first Skillshare project piloted in Lesotho aimed to bring 11 development workers under the auspices of the Technical and Vocational Training Program. "This project sought to alleviate poverty in Lesotho through the development of improved skills training programmes and to provide new opportunities for income generation activities. A development worker has been recruited to assist the Ministry of Education Technical and Vocational Department with the completion of the policy and law which will pave the way for transformation of TVED. Skillshare is currently exploring an option to continue to provide support in business training and leadership development within the TVET system."

Skillshare International has also supported the "placement of 2 development workers within a period of 5 years to support the Lesotho Society of Handicapped Persons (LSMHP) to strengthen their managerial and advocacy skills within the organisation so that they are in a better position to perform their core function of advocacy for human rights and access to services for their clientele. This fruitful long term partnership with LSMHP also resulted in support to raise funds for LSMHP to expand their services to sensitise the families, community members and health professional about the needs of the children with learning disabilities. The family members have been empowered to advocate for the rights of their children as well as to practice community based rehabilitation to ensure that the children are well integrated in the community."

In order to promote the empowerment of people with disability, Skillshare, working together with the Department of Social Welfare has conducted an extensive needs assessment of the Department of Social Welfare and the needs of the organisations of the people living with disability to develop a capacity building project.

Initially Skillshare's focus regarding HIV/AIDS was on people living with HIV/AIDS. The lack of strong organisations in this sector presented a challenge and there are several initiatives under this sector including education and awareness creation, support for affected and infected people and mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS.

Establishing a very long partnership with the Department of Appropriate Technology Section (ATS), over a period of five years, four engineers and one food technologist were assigned to ATS. Through this partnership they have assisted ATS in the research and development of environmentally friendly and energy-saving applications as well as in promoting the entrepreneurial commercial manufacture of new environmentally friendly products. This component of the work is now coming to an end as we feel that we have given ATS support over the last decade.

In their partnership with the Lesotho Council of Non Governmental Organisations (LCN) Skillshare has committed to change public attitudes towards environmental degradation through fostering support for LCN, the Environment Commission, NGOs who deal with environment and government institutions involved in environmental awareness-raising programmes.

In order to alleviate poverty the organization's focus has been on assisting government with qualified, highly experienced engineers to offset the high shortage of engineers in Lesotho. This partnership was to support the department of Rural Roads Construction with a total of seven engineers for the last five years who were based in Maseru, Mohale's Hoek and Thaba Tseka. The objective of this was to support the government's overall policy to have a road network that is capable of supporting national economic activities, connects all district towns, and provides better access for isolated rural communities.

I have given only the briefest of sketches of the programmes mentioned above, but if you go to Skillshare's website, you can read more about them.

Skillshare has several new programme areas as well.

In a new regional initiative that incorporates their offices in Botswana, Swailand and South Africa, Skillshare International's country office in Lesotho has recently completed an assessment of the status of handicrafts produced in Lesotho. "The information gathered from the needs assessment is being used to develop a regional project which will support handicrafts producers in all areas of their businesses which will include:

Product development and diversification
Acquisition of supplies of materials
Quality control
Market development
Financial management
Electronic communication and business English
Facilitating smooth boarder crossing."

Another needs assessment revealed that "there were a number of individuals who were sick and dying in their homes and yet they were not receiving medical attention or food supplements. The pilot Basali Moho Project, Women with Women, will support 20 single women who are very sick together with their 60 children and their family members. The project aims to establish a network of women, which will be composed of family members, community health volunteers, clinic and national level staff to support the affected women and their families to live longer despite HIV/AIDS. We have recruited a development worker with palliative care experience to provide technical expertise to the Basali Moho Project. A long-term proposal for a hospice at Mohatlane is being developed."

One of the things that Skillshare does well is to partner with other organizations. And this is one of the reasons for their great success and effectiveness. Here is a brief description of Skillshare's Partner Organisations. More about these organizations can be found at Skillshare's Lesotho web page.

Lesotho Council of NGOs (LCN) is an umbrella organisation which was founded in 1989, the primary mission of which is to stimulate, promote and support NGOs in Lesotho in their development efforts.

Katlehomoho Community Eco-Tourism Project is a youth project of 120 young people from 6 villages.

Department of Rural Roads' mission is to build rural roads, foot bridges and air strips in the highlands of Lesotho using labour-based methods.

Rural Self-Help Development Association (RSDA) strives for self-organised community organisations that are able to run their own affairs so they can work towards improving the standard of living and contribute to poverty reduction in Lesotho.

Lesotho College of Education aims to train student-teachers in areas that will enable them to feature in schools as efficient, competent and professional teachers who will be able to convey knowledge and life-survival skills to pupils and society.

Taung Skills Training Centre was founded in 1998 to provide skills training to young people, who for one reason or another failed to complete their formal schooling, leaving them at a disadvantage in the labour market.

There is a lot to learn about Skillshare, they operate in many other countries besides Lesotho. And hopefully I can write some more about them in the future. But for now take a look at their web sites listed below.

Skillshare International

Skillshare International Lesotho

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