Rural women decry “illusive” empowerment

Women decry too much talk with no tangible action on the part of lead players in the gender sector

 By Jonathan Teikan

Women in Kajiado have generally made remarkable strides both on the sociopolitical and economic fronts. However, a majority of them, mainly in the rural settings, remain trapped in vicious circle of poverty.

The latter, in spite of various government initiatives, expressly undertaken to uplift their welfare, decry too much talk with no tangible action; on the part of lead players in the gender sector.

A case in point, is Enkong’u-Narok women group in Inchurra village, Amboseli, who by large rely on beadwork to sustain their livelihoods.

The women group, reported to have had much hope with the advent of the Hellen Nkaissery-led Ushanga Kenya Initiative — a Jubilee government project that promises to utilize the natural beading skills of pastoral women by incorporating the normal beadwork into better designs and quality end products that will attract local and international markets.

However, the women say, the project has only turned their hope to dust, as their merchandise are still retailing at low prices, besides having no definite market.

“We only make sales in the months of July and August, when there is an inflow of tourists into the [Amboseli National] park, albeit oftentimes, at very low prices, then we stay with no substantial work to do until the next season,” says Mary Kiuro, the group chairlady.

Efforts to reach Dorothy Mashipei, the initiative coordinator, was futile after messages and calls went unanswered. Ms Nkaissery is reportedly out of the country on an official visit to the United Kingdom.

Ms Kiuro further said, owing to sporadic drought seasons, and frequent human-wildlife conflicts experienced in the area, they have had to relinquish their traditional mainstay — pastoralism — and venture into beadwork and seedling planting.

The idea of planting seedling, which they said, was brought to them by a California-based women empowerment advocate Murugi Kenyatta, has since taken off, and they are waiting to see whether it will pay dividend.

Speaking to Kajiado Star on phone, Ms Murugi said, “Women are more disapprotionately affected by climate change, as they are the ones that carry the burden of household, hence their economy and the community at large.”

Moreover, in reference to her advice to the women, (to plant seedlings) she said, “We can’t just be lamenting and debating about climate change and it’s effects, yet do nothing about it… The little efforts we put today [to mitigate effects of climate change] will in the long-run bring about far-reaching solutions.”

Concomitantly, the women reported that they would wish to try other ventures, but they lack the prerequisite capital, and training to operate their businesses — most of them missed out on basic formal education.

They alleged that they had applied for the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF), and despite presenting their application forms to the office of the Women Representative Janet Teyiaa, they never received the money, which they hoped could help them purchase tents for leasing.

However in a rejoinder, Samuel Saitoti, a county manager at the office, refuted the claims noting that they are yet to receive their applications.

Additionally, he said the Fund is distributed in turns to various special groups across the county: “Just the other day we gave cheques to Nalepo women group… And so possibly, they could be the next on the line, only if they can follow the necessary procedure and avail their documents in time.”

In separate interviews, scores of women leaders   have corroborated with their concerns, and lauded the various sector players for the milestone achieved, however, they said entrenched bottlenecks still exist.

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