Those of us working with the Community Breakthrough Support Mission often get asked why we are focusing so much of our efforts on helping women co-ops and youth groups to build successful small-scale businesses. Recently, Rev. Wasike wrote the following about our work in general and empowering women and youth specifically. I'd like to share with you his thoughts on the matter for the eloquently argue the matter:
The essence of all of our work is to make the community a self-reliant and independent collective. This compels us to initiate programs that may be realised by the women in the local community. Women in Kimilili and the surrounding area have not been allowed to partake in running business es because their husbands do not approve. They believe women should stay culturally apart where they can bring up their children in the homes; irrespective of whether there is food available or whether their children are attending school or not. Traditionally, women have been competing in the number of children they give birth to as a form of status since polygamy is still practiced.
For as long as I can remember, youth 's work in our community was to take care of the livestock. Tragically, this livestock no longer exist in large scale as used to be, hence make this group is left idle and hence a source of violence and crime in the community.
My understanding is that what a child needs most today in order to be self reliant tomorrow is food and a good education to unlock potential of the child. A child also needs shelter for security and health when sick.
Most men in Kenya, and this is culturally approved , believe it is okay for them to inclusively use any income increase they earn to increase the number of wives. The bigger their families are, the more respect they earn in the community. This is unlike women, whose first priority is the wellbeing of their family (parents and children).
I believe that by empowering women and youth in the community, we are doing something similar to doing an overhaul on an engine that we can always count on for the rest of our long journey. Thankfully, it is becoming more common to see women running business than it was previously. Yet, without proper knowledge on how they can best do business and without the proper capital their journey is arduous.
Hence if a chance arises for us to empower one woman who has 10 children, what we are doing in creating this opportunity is taking care of the 10 children. In fact, starting the women empowering program has already created real help. For instance, during the last school term almost all the vegetables the school cooked for the children came for free from the women co-ops we trained in our first two CBSM Gardening Vocational Training Program workshops. During the workshops, we taught them best business practices and gave them water pumps and seeds.
This term we have avoided the cost of cooks, as four women who had applied to be enlisted for workshops and our facility was not able to accommodate them, offered to do the cooking at CBSM school for free for children this term . They did this on the condition that they would be able to attand the next series of workshops. They have done wonderful work this term, reduced the cost of running the school as salary for cooks is recurring cost and recurring costs are very painful always come when one one is not ready. Fortunately, we are happy to be giving our next workshops in August, which they will be able to attend.
It is our belief that through collective will and work we will offer our children a safe and happy environment to grow in.