Strengthening Skills and Income Generating Opportunities for Youth Living with Disability/In Vulnerability: Local Production and Sale of Educational Toys in Eswatini

This is the second project operated by Palms for Life Fund (Swaziland) with main funding provided by the European Union. The contract for this project was signed in December 2017 and activities began in February 2018.

The Project has a dual purpose:

All Together, We Are Moving
  1. Designing and producing high-quality educational toys;

  2. Creating tangible social and economic opportunities for young adults and youth living with disability and living in vulnerability.

Siya Kanyekanye aims to create a financially viable social enterprise, which will make quality educational toys, by working with people living with disability (PWD) and the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that serve them. The overall goal is to improve resilience and social inclusion for PWD and in vulnerable life situations in Swaziland, with a particular focus on youth, by generating new sources of income and employment, and reducing stigma. The Social Enterprise Project expects 4 important outcomes:

  1. A viable production line of Swaziland-made educational toys, produced at existing CSOs/vocational workshops that serve women and men living with disability/living in vulnerability[1];

  2. A sustainable marketing system for these toys, which generates income and employment, with additional proceeds supporting these CSOs/vocational workshops in their ongoing programming;

  3. Expanded vocational training opportunities for PWD/living in vulnerability based on the production of educational toys; and

  4. Reduced stigma for PWD through an inspiring, awareness-raising media campaign, in coordination with Government.

[1] Gender equity is important to the Project.  The proposed toys will be made of wood and cloth, which can be made by women and men.  Preliminary research at CSOs shows that, while more men tend to work with wood, and more women tend to work with cloth, both women and men can and do work with either material.  PFLF advocates for gender equity with all components of the Project, which should be included in all assessments in the FA.


As adults, we might think [that play] is wasted time, especially since game[s] do not show any significant results.  But for children of all ages, playing is not just a nice way to pass the time, but an exercise for life.
—   Von Simone Leinkauf, Intelligence - A Child’s Play

It is now widely accepted that early childhood education and appropriate play-learning are the building blocks for development (www.unicef.org).  Scientists who study play found that children’s brain activity increases significantly during play (University of Illinois, from Leinkauf, Intelligence- A Child’s Play).  For a young boy or girl, “there is no division between playing and learning; between the thing he or she does ’just for fun’ and things that are ‘educational’.  The child learns while living and any part of living that is enjoyable is also play” (P. Leach).  Playing in the early years of a child’s life is formative for intelligence, and emotional and physical development.PFLF’s Sinaka Umliba Project, which worked with 90 Neighbourhood Care Points and Community Preschools in Swaziland in 2014-2018, found that educational toys are extraordinarily rare at these marginalized Community Childcare Centres.  Swaziland’s Ministry of Education and Training notes that play-learning prepares children for primary school, and children who are not exposed to stimulating, early childhood care and play will be instantly disadvantaged in formal school.  This means that the overwhelming gap between marginalized children- those living in poverty/vulnerability and/or children who live with disability- and their more privileged counterparts will expand, from day one in primary school. A valuable component of the Siya Kanyekanye Social Enterprise Project is to engage the private sector and corporate social responsibility programmes to help lessen this gap by providing and/or subsidizing the purchase of some of the Project’s educational toys for vulnerable children/children living with disability.


Strengthening Early Childhood Development Services among San Communities in Namibia


In 2017, a joint initiative between Palms for Life Fund (PFLF), UNICEF, OSISA, Kalahari Peoples Fund, KIFO philanthropy and the Government of the Republic of Namibia conducted a Participatory Rapid Assessment of Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD) Programmes among San Communities in Namibia. See the report here. The resulting report and recommendations of this Assessment are a crucial contribution to the repository of knowledge available on the status of IECD programmes in Namibia.

This initiative obeyed to two key considerations: the need to provide all San children with access to quality basic education, as a basic human right; and the need to protect these indigenous San populations from the potential loss of their rich cultural and linguistic heritage. Safeguarding a true cultural patrimony of humanity!

All people in this world have the right to grow and to develop, to be safe and to thrive, regardless of the circumstances from which we came.
— Hannah Laufer-Rottman, Founder

The report highlighted the fact that San children are dramatically left out of mainstream education, starting with Early Childhood Development (ECD) and that it is urgent to address the many challenges that prevent these vulnerable San children from accessing these ECD services, as a basic human right.  The Government of Namibia invited PFLF to join them in that effort and to host PFLF within their Office of the Vice President, Division of Marginalised Communities. A MOU has been signed with the Government which confirms a tremendous support and endorsement by the Government who sees this as a priority investment.

Currently, we have started with the construction of a new ECD center for mainly San children in the region of Omahke. This activity will be accompanied by a firm government and local commitment to ensure children are being fed while attending the center, that caregivers are being paid and that the new construction will be duly maintained. The idea is to replicate such sustainable model nationwide, targeting mainly San settlements. It is expected that each center, that will comprise 2 classrooms, a kitchen, 2 child-friendly washrooms, one adult washroom and one storage area will have a cost between $60,000 and $80,000. That includes all new construction (in some cases, installation of solar energy), equipment, educational material and playground equipment, training of caregivers and food security. In some cases, septic tank will have to be built. Attempts will be made to ensure internet access to all centers. This will allow for high quality digital educational content to be easily transmitted to the children.