How we are empowering women in Kenya through cascade learning and mentoring

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Meru County in Kenya has a largely rural population of 136,000. HIV/AIDs are prevalent in the region and many families are headed by women and children.

Life is hard for women and children in Meru:

  • 41% of women and girls are grossly or borderline malnourished
  • 43% live below the poverty line of £1 per day, with more in rural areas
  • 55% live a hand to mouth existence in agriculture using methods which degrade the land
  • 93% use local trees for firewood, impacting hugely on deforestation
  • 22% have no formal education
  • 11% complete secondary education
  • 8% achieve minimum levels for literacy compared to 85% in Nairobi
  • 9% achieve minimum levels for numeracy compared to 87% in Nairobi

What can be done to help the women and children of Meru?

Meru Women’s Garden Project was set up in 2016 as a three year collaboration between Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI), Child.org and the women of Meru.

Meru Women’s Garden Project will support some of the poorest women-led households in Kenya, and is entirely focussed on providing opportunities to women and girls who may never otherwise be given the chance to earn an income, and gives them status within their community.

Improved food production and education will support women and girls to transform their lives and those of others through a process of cascade learning and mentoring thereby reducing poverty, improving health and increasing employment.

Purpose of The Meru Women’s Garden Project

  • To ensure women and girls who are leading households have food security
  • To improve environmental sustainability
  • To ensure economic, empowerment and employment for women
  • To enable girls to complete their education
  • To offer both formal and informal agricultural learning opportunities
  • To reduce the possibility of child exploitation

How this project will help the women of Meru

The women selected will attend educational forums where they will learn leadership skills, record keeping and light agricultural training.

Tools, seeds and other resources will be distributed and they will be encouraged to share these amongst themselves. They will also receive more in depth training on leadership which will empower them in their communities. They will be expected to pass on this knowledge to their peers thus empowering even more women to establish gardens which will provide them with nutrition and a regular income.

At the end of twelve months the original women who have completed the course will attend a graduation ceremony. This occasion will be attended by local elders and villagers and will be the opportunity for new prospective participants who have heard about the course from neighbours, to be invited to attend, see the ceremony and ask questions about how they too can become involved.
All who complete the course will have a mentor for a further twelve months.

Success breeds success and with this success the women of Meru will have an empowered life, they will have a voice in their community which will help them gain the respect of their Elders and Chiefs. This empowerment will allow them to achieve equal representation and take on more prominent roles in their villages.

Another branch of the project focuses on young girls. The main element of this is the hosting and facilitating of the Alternative Right of Passage weekend for 35 girls from Meru.

This weekend is designed to teach the girls about female genital mutilation, to enable them to make informed decisions about their health and their future. Thus empowering them to take control of their lives. Many of the girls stated that in their community most girls choose to be circumcised, rather than being forced by their families, which happens in many other communities.

The weekend sets out to dispel myths around circumcision. By the end of this first seminar the girls had knowledge about the complications which female circumcision can lead to in later life when they reach child bearing age and about sexual health in general.

All who attended said they would recommend the weekend to their friends. One girl said” This weekend has changed my life”.

I am sure they all left feeling empowered and hopefully they will pass on their new found knowledge to their peers.

The project facilitators in Meru are now planning workshops for men and boys to ensure that the lessons on female empowerment are not limited to women and girls only. The young men need to understand as well.

These two elements alone show how supporting the Meru Women’s Garden Project will empower the women and girls in Meru and assure that they feel valued by their local society.

To find out more please visit the website – so far £47,222 has been raised for this worthwhile project.

Patricia Gatherum, Soroptimist International Meru Women’s Garden Project Liaison.