By Jane Okoth
At Wildlife Works’ offices in Maungu, two women’s groups recently visited the project for a day of mutual knowledge sharing. As part of the visit the women were shown different departments including the eco-factory, soap factory, and printing factory, among others. After the tour, they all gathered at the greenhouse for a quick discussion with our Greenhouse Manager George Thumbi, after which the group received 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 co-developing capacity building programs for women and girls in the Kasigau Corridor in a number of ways.
How Wildlife Works is Driving Investments towards Women and Girls in the Kasigau Corridor
Women increasing their agency through organic farming
Wildlife Works has been co-creating avenues for women to fight against poverty and hunger. Every week, our Greenhouse team, in collaboration with the Community Relations department, has been hosting women’s groups in our project area to increase access to information about conservation agriculture. The women learn about organic farming methods, drought resistant crops, crop rotation and vertical farming. They then practically make the vertical gardens themselves under the guidance of our greenhouse team. The women then take these techniques back to their homesteads and pass along the knowledge to other women’s groups.
Wildlife Works has also teamed up with organizations such as the Kering Foundation and Elephant Cooperation to invest in local women’s groups that are setting up greenhouses within surrounding communities. These women’s groups also co-develop knowledge sharing sessions on crop planning, plant reproduction, and 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. Women often stay silent for fear of being persecuted or judged, and justice is rarely sought after.
Wildlife Works’ Community Relations department co-created a program that encourages women to have the confidence to speak up. Alongside discussions on climate change and the importance of preserving the environment, information is shared with women on their rights and they are 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 gain access to information on managing ones’ finances and reconnecting with the society.
Veronica Mkawasi, a HIV/AIDS survivor, is one participant in this 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 co-created new jobs for 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 invest in 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 local partners to invest in a girls’ program in our project area. The program dubbed GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) teaches 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 investing in 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.