written by Lia Hadley

I'd like to post a profile of one of the women in CBSM whose hard work and active participation has done much to build a strong community over the last years. Janerose Kuya epitimises how the empowerment of women does not stay with the one, but its goodness spreads to many.

Janerose Kuya is the business leader in one of our Village Phone Salons (VPS) situated in Baraki Area at the Kuywa Junction about 20 kilometres away from Kimilili, Kenya. She and her husband are the main caretakers of their nine children and four grandchildren. They have four acres of land; half of which they plant with maize and beans for livestock fodder and to sell in the market five kilometers away. The other two acres they use as a homestead and kitchen garden. They also keep cows, sheep, and a few goats.

Janerose started in June 2009 the self-help women’s co-op to improve women’s incomes. They opened up their VPS with the help of a private micro-loan (150 USD). In the first six months, they experienced many challenges and successes as local Village Phone Operators (VPOs). The initial challenges resulted from the nation-wide drought, since people
did not use phone services when they needed to use what money they had to pay for food. It was also difficult for the VPS to establish regular customers due to strong competition.

Yet there have also been many successes. Janerose’s co-op was able to pay off their micro-loan early. They received enough income from the VPS that all of the co-op members’ families were given sufficient supplies of milk during the famine months. Since the harvest late last August, there has been a steady increase in the number of regular
customers and, as a result, an increase in income for the co-op members.

Janerose has become a role model of a successful businesswoman within the community. She is now a group leader in a women’s gardening co-op. She has not only discovered new friends through this venture, but she has also achieved a new standing within the
circle of community elders.

If you want to read more about Janerose and her women's co-op please download this pdf.
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The participants were eager to learn and appreciated the fact that the trainers, Millicent and Ericah, could hold the sessions in Kiswahili. Any technical English words used by chance were translated. Since so many of the concepts and subjects discussed in the workshop were new to the participants, it seemed the best way to help facilitate their understanding by holding the workshop in Kiswahili. This made it easy for participants to ask questions all the time and to allow lively group discussions during the workshop.

The amount of topics talked about was very many (see above-mentioned list). The participants were very diligent and motivated, and we were able to complete the amount of material we set out to do. Actually, it was an interesting session and there were no difficulties in delivering the materials home to the participants. We had thought that all the new concepts might overwhelm the participants. This was not the case. In fact, we had a very late lunch, not because the meal was not made ready on time, but because the participants kept on insisting that we continue with the lessons. They did not want any interruptions. Finally, Rev. Wasike went up and announced that he was going to teach the next topic “How to go about the business of eating lunch”, which made everyone laugh and agree that it was time to take a break.

We designed the lessons so that we were not only lecturing, since we thought it could be boring for the participants. Instead, we gave short lectures and asked them to make brief notes on what they were learning, and then we involved them in group discussions and practical exercises and calculations in between. This seemed to work very well.

Since there were so many participants in the course (over 20 persons), it would be better to hold two trainings over two days next time.

• Trainees send their heartfelt greetings to Lia and well wishers who enabled the training and phones.
• Available Youth and Men felt neglected hence requested the trainers to send the word to Lia.
• The women requested for more support to enable business diversification to enable them to be empowered further.
• In the weeks proceeding the workshop, many other women, even some physically not known to Rev. Wasike, are ever calling asking when is the next training is going to be done so that they participate to get knowledge about business.