“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”
Roughly 155,000 women live in NRT member conservancies. There is no data to reflect what percentage of them do not have a secondary school education, or how many of them have undergone the horrific experience of female genital mutilation (FGM) – but it is safe to assume that the vast majority of the women of northern Kenya can tick both of these boxes. Seats in leadership roles across NRT conservancies are very disproportionate to the population of female constituents; but this is hardly surprising in a patriarchal society where most women have no idea it is their right, and indeed well within their reach, to aim for a decision-making role in their community.
Working with NRT to change this is Josephine Kulea and the Samburu Girls Foundation. In between rescuing girls from (illegal) early marriages, and harmful cultural practices like FGM, the Samburu Girls Foundation have been partnering with conservancies to conduct Women’s Empowerment Workshops – which aim to inform, educate and inspire women to be agents of change in their communities. The first workshop took place in early March, in Westgate Conservancy, hugely supported by the Westgate manager Chris Lekupe.
A total of 30 women from the surrounding areas attended, as well as two ‘community champions‘ from Westgate and neighbouring Kalama. Mr. Lalantare, of the Education Office, was invited to speak, alongside three members of the Samburu Girls Foundation and the Westgate manager. Focus topics included education, FGM, child marriage, ‘beading‘ and female leadership positions. The culturally sensitive topics inevitably incited debate among the women, who made the most of the opportunity to speak freely and openly. Many of women didn’t know so many medical complications could occur from FGM, and some were able to relate to the symptoms in the talk.
In the child marriage discussion, it emerged that almost all the women present had been married before they were 18 years old. However, there seemed to be widespread disapproval of the practice from all attendees, who took on board the tools they could use to prevent it happening to their daughters.
The feedback from the session was very positive, with some of the women suggesting they organise a debate in their communities as a platform to air their concerns and experiences to the men. The SGF offered support to anyone the attendees knew who had been a recent victim of harmful cultural practices, and plan to roll out similar workshops across more conservancies. Given that the cultural challenges faced by women differ across the diverse communities in northern Kenya, the SGF plan to tailor their workshops accordingly.
With thanks, as always, to our principal donors for their invaluable core programme support: