Invest in women
On a recent Thursday morning in Marungu village, Taita Taveta County Kenya, a group of women with notebooks and pens sat under a tree keenly listening to Selina, one of our Peer Educators, who held a talk on basket making and how to save money. She was speaking to the Tumaini group, whose name translates to hope. It was started in 2015 and meets at least twice a month in efforts to advise each other and find ways of uplifting their community. The main hope is to find ways to generate income and be able to take care of their households.
I got the chance to have a one on one with Selina Mwambogo after her training just to have a sneak peek into the life of a Zawadisha’ Peer Educator.
Tell me a little about yourself?
I am Selina Mwambogo, 35 years old and a mother of two. I have lived in Marungu almost my entire life so I really feel very connected to this community.
When and why did you join Zawadisha?
It was the beginning of last year 2016. My children have grown and I had the desire to do more for my community. I wanted to be more involved with what is around me, rather than just be a housewife depending on my husband. I felt I had a chance to contribute to our society and also to my family. When a friend of mine told me of Zawadisha and the work they do, I got very intrigued. I approached the community coordinator (Monica) here in Maungu to see how I could get involved.
You see, the harsh economic and climate crisis we are experiencing here has made it hard for families to afford daily livelihood. We needed to find additional ways to generate income for the sake of sustaining our households. At the time Zawadisha was implementing the Training of the Trainers program (this is aimed to employ local educators - mostly women, on how to maximise the resources in their County and be able to pass on skills and knowledge to the other women in the region). I was so happy to be chosen to participate in the training. I never hesitated making this decision to be part of this, because I knew this would totally change my life and the life other women.
With my knowledge from these trainings, I can train women, who basically umbrella their families on how to meet their ends. So far so good.
What sort of training have you been able to do so far?
Our aim is to unlock that entrepreneurial spirit and have women being able to earn income.
I have trained the ladies on basket making. A simple weaving of a 'chondo' (which is what we commonly refer to the baskets in our local dialect), boosts their income when they make sales from these products. The baskets are made from readily available sisal which is a resource readily grown in this county.
Our region is a very disadvantaged when it comes to rainfall distribution.This has greatly affected the food security situation in the region. We receive water tanks from Zawadisha which has helped when we experience water shortages. We harvest water and store it in these tanks. There is so much relief when you do not need to travel long distance to fetch water. A lot of time was wasted in these journeys to go the rivers as they are far, and it is also very tiresome. It is my hope and dream that even with water shortages in our area, people will always be sustained by this water harvested in the tanks, and that everyone eventually will own one.
The water tanks have opened up other avenues for us, in that we have been training the women to take on small kitchen vegetable gardening. You have to understand that this would never be viable before, we did not have this reservoir water. If one started a small vegetable patch, it would wither away because there was no water to sustain it. However, kitchen gardens provide households with food provision throughout the year. They are also actually simple and effective way to reduce your impact on the environment because you are planting your garden in a place that was not earlier covered with plants. Not to mention the experience of pleasure that comes from growing your own food.
The aim of my training is basically to impact knowledge on ways to make ends meet, like in the gardening case, a small idle land that would otherwise continue laying idle is put into use.
Sukuma wiki (kale), carrots and onions are some of the plants that can be readily grown.They can easily sustain feeding families or sold whenever their is a surplus, and life continues.
How else has Zawadisha been helpful?
Oh! The Solar products we get from Zawadisha have have come in so handy.
See, families were a bit reluctant to try the solar products. It is said, “a habit is a disease,” some ladies were more accustomed to firewood light at night and kerosene lamps. Until they discovered the health benefits of solar. Not only do these lamps give proper illumination in comparison to the kerosene ones, they work out to be way cheaper in the long run. The amount of money we spent on buying kerosene is now saved to cater household uses or even for school fees. We have noticed they also provide cleaner energy than the traditional methods. Our houses are not smelling of smoke anymore.
We keep encouraging the women to take on these solar lamps and radios as they come with added other benefits. We live on the off-grid lines, so we do not have access to electricity. We urge people to be creative and value these products as resource to make money. Most of us have mobile phones and apart from providing light, these products also have added charging ports. A solar radio/lamp will not only provide entertainment, but will be a money-maker. Women can earn money when others ask to charge their mobile phones. They could easily make even Ksh 200 from this.
Still, I am tasked to reach the more traditional people, who need more convincing. Through organisations like Zawadisha, people are eventually breaking away from the norms and embracing cleaner and sustainable projects.
What do you hope for?
I want to prosper, for my family’s sake and I have the realisation that this can happen through hard work. Each month I train 4 groups each composed of approximately 30 women. I am working to train more and assist more people. At times you look at someone who is richer and doing better than you in life, and you wonder why your life is not like theirs, but the whole reason is that these people work hard. Your efforts can change your life for the better and I too can achieve a lot as well.
Any last words from you?
I hope that our supporters within the whole Zawadisha will never tire of holding our hands, it is because of their efforts and our efforts that we succeed. The trainings we are giving the women help educate us all. You find that there are women who had no skills prior, and are now gaining and learning so much from it.
It has been eye opening for me working with Zawadisha. I have the hope to see my kids succeed, I am learning alot from Zawadisha, and I feel I have set a strong trend for my children. One of them is actually an employee for Soko Kenya, an international clothes manufacturer. I am really proud of myself and of them too.
When we teach them, we engage a lot and want them to ask questions. It matters to hear what the women want. We also have fun whilst at it, we love a good dance and this is how we keep them keen to want more trainings. They always tell us they want more of these trainings when we leave. It feels really good to be able to work with these women. We have a saying “Umoja ni nguvu, utengano ni udhaifu” - together we are strong, apart we are weakened - which makes us feel like we have a bond and we can achieve what is needed to uplift our households. Thank you.