By Jane Okoth
At Wildlife Works’ offices in Maungu, two women’s groups are on an educational visit around the project. As part of the visit the women have been shown different departments including the eco factory, soap factory, and printing factory, among others. After the tour, they all gather at the greenhouse for a quick discussion with our Greenhouse Manager George Thumbi, after which the group receives a demonstration from our greenhouse team on how to make a vertical garden.
Women and girls living in our project area face a lot of challenges that are linked to gender inequality and cultural barriers. The United Nations Sustainable Development goal 5 advocates for gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls. To achieve this, Wildlife Works has been empowering women and girls in the Kasigau Corridor in a number of ways.
How Wildlife Works is Empowering Women and Girls in the Kasigau Corridor
Empowering women through organic farming
Wildlife Works has been encouraging women to fight against poverty and hunger by conducting training about conservation agriculture. Every week, our Greenhouse team in collaboration with the Community Relations department has been hosting different women’s groups in our project area to teach them about conservation agriculture. The women are trained on organic farming methods, drought resistant crops, crop rotation and vertical farming. They will then practically make the vertical gardens themselves under the guidance of our greenhouse team. After the training, the women are expected to use these techniques in their homesteads and teach other women’s groups.
Wildlife Works has also teamed up with organizations such as the Kering Foundation and Elephant Cooperation to support local women’s groups in setting up greenhouses within surrounding communities. These women’s groups are also trained on crop planning and technical skills on plant reproduction and mentored on business skills.
Awareness meetings to encourage women to speak up
In rural societies, women and girls are victims of rape, incest, Female Genital Mutilation and discrimination despite campaigns against such issues. It is disheartening to note that these actions are sometimes witnessed by women who stay silent for fear of being persecuted or judged.
Wildlife Works’ Community Relations department has been organizing programs to encourage women to speak up. Alongside discussions on climate change and the importance of preserving the environment, women are being educated on their rights and guided on the appropriate actions to take should they fall victim to such crimes.
HIV/AIDS is one of the biggest causes of discrimination against women as they are shunned by society. In these awareness meetings, women undergo financial literacy training on how to be economically empowered and are also encouraged to connect with the society.
Veronica Mkawasi, a HIV/AIDS survivor, is one of the beneficiaries of the program. After going public with her condition, Veronica is now helping to create awareness about the disease and women who face stigma. “This program gives me and other women strength to know that I am not alone and that life must continue even when you have HIV/AIDS. I believe that my fellow women will take this opportunity to encourage and empower others,” she says.
Job creation for women in the Kasigau Corridor
Wildlife Works has provided jobs to women who in the past engaged in unsustainable means for survival such as charcoal burning and bush meat poaching. Wildlife Works has a garment making facility where the majority of the employees are women. Women have also been employed in other departments including rangers, greenhouse, administration and the eco-charcoal among others. Wildlife Works also partners with Hadithi Crafts, a Community Based Organisation based in Maungu to financially support women. The organization buys handicrafts from hundreds of women in the Wildlife Works project area who earlier depended on failed agriculture thereby providing them with an alternative source of income.
Girls’ programs in various schools
Wildlife Works has teamed up with various partners to support a girls’ program in our project area. The program dubbed GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) teachers young girls life skills and is held in local primary and secondary school across the Taita Taveta County. The girls are taught about goal setting, peer pressure, sexual responsibility and the effects of drug abuse. One of the programs also involves teaching girls how to make reusable sanitary towels from locally available materials. The majority of girls in rural Kenya miss school during menstruation because they cannot afford disposable sanitary towels. Teaching girls such skills can help them to be self-reliant in the future.
Wildlife Works is proof that empowering women and girls in rural Kenya spurs economic and social growth in their societies. We believe that everyday is International Women’s Day because women have the power to change the world.