Using Resilience Thinking as a Tool To Empower

In rural Kenya, the majority of the population lives at or below the poverty line, in households with no running water or electricity. Livelihoods have traditionally been based on small hold farming, but with declining and unpredictable rainy seasons for the last decade, traditional methods of farming no longer produce crop yields necessary to sustain individual families and provide the necessary income that is normally generated by the sale of commodities, in particular maize. To compound the problem, there is significant resistance to shift to more drought resistant crops such as millet because of the cultural and social norms associated with maize. The result is the continuation or exacerbation of poverty. 

One approach that is commonly used to address this is an infusion of capital into an area, whether that be charitable contributions from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), micro-loans from financial institutions, or large-scale aid interventions from governments (both domestic and foreign). Despite these efforts, poverty has actually increased in Kenya from 31.8% in 1997 to 43.4% in 2005 (World Bank, 2015). These interventions are often targeted at women, yet their level is unclear, as well as the actual benefits they receive. 

At Zawadisha, we engage women as active agents in articulating and processing the various events (both natural and human-created) and entities (individuals, organizations, non-human animals, and all other living and non-living artifacts in the natural environment) who have impacted the various systems that sustain their lives. The learning that occurs in our workshops is itself a process of building resilience because of the shared sense of place, social learning, and meaning making that occurs.

By collaboratively exploring how economic, social, and environmental issues are entwined, we are able to co-create services and trainings that meet the real needs of Kenyan women. 

Click here to learn more about how we define resilience and what we're doing to cultivate it in rural Kenya.