Achieving Gender Equality in Kenya, 1 Farm at a Time
How one organization is tackling cyclical poverty.
This piece was written by Mercyline Masanya, founder of Kenya-based Pro-Empowerment Foundation. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
African women provide approximately 70% of agricultural labour and produce 90% of all the food throughout the continent. However, women benefit the least from the produce because they don’t own land. So women spend most of their time tilling land, yet the proceeds and profits belong to the land owners who are men. This leaves women in a desperate and hopeless situation, sometimes unable to take care of their basic needs. The situation gets worse if a woman is divorced and kicked out of a man’s house. It is believed that once you’ve been married, you can’t go back to your parent’s house. Most often the women will either end up in the street or stick in an abusive marriage/relationship since they do not have their own source of income.
Growing up in Kenya, I could not stand the injustice faced by women. Several questions went unanswered and had always bothered me since I was young. So I went out to seek answers and solutions to these challenges.
Bridging the Gap
Two years ago in 2014, I founded Pro-Empowerment Foundation (PEF) which is a not-for-profit organization aiming to empower marginalized people in society. The organization believes that when people are financially empowered, they are able to take charge of their lives. PEF was established on the basis of nurturing and mentoring segments of the population that have otherwise lost hope, in most cases from situations far from their control.
The organization’s focus is three-fold:
2. School dropouts
3. Orphaned and vulnerable children
The need to come up with this organization was hatched from the prevailing socio-economic gaps in Kenya. The organization seeks to promote entrepreneurship, social and political awareness, health, and poverty eradication.
The organization’s main activities revolve around mentorship for school drop outs so they can secure a sustainable future; economic empowerment for women; quality health care; gender empowerment; advocating for girl child education; and leadership and governance, among others.
Mercyline Masanya, founder of Pro-Empowerment Foundation
Our organisation’s mission is to provide sustainable sources of livelihoods and welfare for poor, marginalized and vulnerable segments of the African population, while our vision is to address cyclical poverty and disempowerment in an effort to foster meaningful and sustainable socio-economic development in developing Africa.
One of the ways we empower women is through agriculture. We provide women with resources and skills to grow soya beans and mushrooms that we then sell. The proceeds of this farming are used to pay school fees for their children and also to be able to put food on the table.
We also set up a resource and information centre. This centre has three major functions. There is the information, communication, and technology (ICT) section where women and their children can learn basic ICT skills. Secondly, there is a library section where people can access information on various topics and, finally, the art and talent centre where we teach women to make jewellery, baskets using plastic bags, and other skills such as tailoring. Once these women are able to learn these skills they are able to set up their own businesses as we also help them in sale of their products.
We need to break barriers that keep women from accessing financial and educational resources. Even though there have been legal efforts to address gender inequality, they usually fail. The existing frameworks are mere paper work as the reality on the ground is different. The government should ensure effective implementation of the 2/3rd gender policy as per article 81(b) of the constitution of Kenya. Article 60(f) that provides of gender discrimination in respect to land should also be enforced.
The traditions and culture deny daughters property rights, hence they cannot inherit family property from their parents and cannot pursue independence. Together, we can change this.