Catholic Sisters in Eastern Africa Gain Project Managements Skills in Pioneer Training

A section of participants who completed a Project Management course of the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA) in collaboration with Strathmore University. The training is part of ACWECA's Sisters Blended Value Project (SBVP). Credit: Sr. Celestine Nasiali/ACWECA

Sr. Leah Nelima Nyongesa, a member of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Meru understands the challenge that her Congregation faces amid shrinking resources.

She recalls a recent meeting with older members of her Congregation in which the Sisters were told to be innovative in order to sustain their communities.

“Our Congregation is very young in Kenya.  Not long ago, our Sisters from outside the country held a meeting with us and expressed the fear that vocations in our Congregation are diminishing; our older members are dying and we are running low on funds. They challenged us to start thinking creatively on how we can get funds instead of relying on donations,” Sr. Leah said in an interview with ACI Africa on Tuesday, April 12.

The 24-year-old Catholic Nun was one of the 105 Sisters from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia that completed a Project Management course that has been launched by the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA).

The training is part of ACWECA’s Sisters Blended Value Project (SBVP), the first ever project of its kind in Eastern and Central Africa that aims to equip Catholic Sisters in the region with entrepreneurial skills to sustain their respective Congregations.


Kenya-based Strathmore University, which facilitated the training went around the four countries and took the Sisters through classes that started on March 7 and ended on April 2 with a graduation.

In the April 12 interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Leah said that she had gained a new understanding of the projects that her Congregation runs.

“I never knew our social enterprises could be converted into money-making ventures to sustain Congregations. At the training, we were taught that as we aim to provide good services in the communities where we exist, we also need to find a way to get something from these hospitals, schools, and other projects that we run. This way, we will be able to sustain our Congregations amid dwindling funding,” she said.

In the Catholic Diocese of Meru, members of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ run a variety of projects, including a school, a hospital, a boy’s home for rehabilitation of street children, and a chicken venture.

Credit: Sr. Celestine Nasiali/ACWECA

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At St. Anne’s Mission Hospital that started as “a small maternity centre”, Sr. Leah coordinates staff activities and helps with other administrative duties. She says that her role, which she took without prior training, is not easy.

“It is not easy to lead a team when you are the youngest. The cooperation is not always there and so there are times that I feel like giving up. But this is exactly what we were told during training. Managing projects comes with a lot of feelings of giving up and that you always have to find a way of dealing with the hopelessness,” she said.

In another interview with ACI Africa April 12, SBVP Project Coordinator, Sr. Celestine Nasiali, said that the Project Management training had been started in four countries and was to later be implemented in the rest of the ACWECA region.

The four countries, she said, were those that Strathmore University had selected for a baseline survey that looked into the economic challenges that Congregations are facing in Africa.

Sr. Nasiali said that the training has been fashioned to build the capacity of Sisters in Africa “so as Congregations to help themselves.”


“We are building capacity in impact investments, to help Sisters to transform their social projects into entrepreneurial ventures so that they get the capacity to sustain their communities. We want them to do transactions, to access loans and to run their ventures skillfully,” the member of the Oblate Sisters of the Assumption (OA) said.

She added, “We have noticed that social ministries run by our Congregations are lagging behind in terms of development. You find that a project has been around for more than 100 years and in all that time, the people behind it have not seen the need to make it sustainable.”

Topics that were developed by Strathmore University included proposal writing to attract funding, budgeting, baselining to find out the needs before starting business ventures, problem solving, communication, risks and how to overcome them, innovativeness, among others.

The alumna of the Centre for Leadership and Management (CLM) of the Kenya-based Tangaza University College (TUC) noted that for lack of skills and prior knowledge, some Sisters who are in charge of their Congregations’ projects are not running the projects in the right manner.

“Some Sisters who are in charge of business ventures in their communities lack basic skills such as pricing, marketing and needs assessment,” she said, and added, “You also find a Congregation starting a school at a place that already has a school, without providing any form of uniqueness.”

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Sr. Silvia Faustine, a Passionist Sister in Tanzania’s Catholic Archdiocese of Arusha who also completed the ACWECA training noted that Congregations are not always keen on skilled personnel when assigning Sisters to take charge of their projects.

“In some Congregations where there are few Sisters, you find one Sister acting as the bursar of the school, the matron as well as the one in charge of the school’s chicken business. Most times, such a Sister doesn’t have skills to navigate across all those responsibilities,” Sr. Faustine said in a Wednesday, April 13 interview with ACI Africa.

Her biggest takeaway from the training that was facilitated by Strathmore University is the importance of researching widely before embarking on any project.

“I learnt the importance of carrying out a proper analysis of the problem and identifying the needs of the people before starting the project to meet the needs. But above all, there is the need to align those projects to the charism of the Congregation,” Sr. Faustine said.

She added, “We sometimes struggle a lot because we don’t evaluate our projects. We don’t monitor them because we don’t have the skills and knowledge to do so.”

Credit: Sr. Celestine Nasiali/ACWECA

After the training, the Passionate Sister says she had a meeting with the Superior of her Congregation who she says appreciated the skills and knowledge she had acquired.

“I walked my Superior through some skills and knowledge I had acquired and she identified some areas that had not been going well in the management of our projects. We all realized that we had erred a lot by not communicating our progress with our stakeholders, among other things,” she said.

Sr. Nasiali said that Sisters who had undergone the ACWECA project at Strathmore university will always receive support in the projects they are running in their Congregations.

“Our doors at ACWECA, and I believe, at Strathmore, will always be open for the Sisters whenever they need mentorship or to consult in any given area of Project management. Those who need help with proposal writing, budgeting or anything at all, will receive the help they need,” the Kenyan-born OA member said.

In her message to Superiors of Congregations, Sr. Nasiali said, “We call on them to encourage their members who are interested in entrepreneurship to come and get the relevant knowledge and skills to scale up their community projects.”

She said that the ACWECA Project Management project should be an eye-opener for Congregations “to think outside the box” and to encourage their members to acquire knowledge in other fields outside the popular health and education areas, provided the areas are aligned to their respective charisms.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.