While in the West women’s rights have made great progress, in Africa, even the most basic of rights aren’t available for women in many tribes and communities.
In Kenya, women lack access to financial capital, and trail men in gaining opportunities for education, knowledge and the skills that will help them achieve economic and social advancement.
The gender norms within the region are limiting, disadvantaging women from competing to secure full time work, and adequately provide for themselves and their families.
In 1995, African Enterprise Kenya initiated a women’s rehabilitation and empowerment program, supporting former commercial sex workers, unskilled and vulnerable single mothers, and women living with HIV AIDS, empowering them with the skills needed to find alternative work, and in the case of HIV AIDS, manage the effects of their diagnosis.
Every year the project trains at least 45 women with various vocational skills, from dressmaking and design, to soap production and entrepreneurship. Incorporating physiological support for the trainees, and working with local organisations to arrange subsidised healthcare for HIV AIDS patients.
Over the years the project has transformed the lives of over 500 households, equipping women with critical economic and social skills.
One of those women, was Beatrice who came in to the program with an incomplete education, a background of poverty and no formal training or job experience.
At the time Beatrice said, “My life was miserable – I kept thinking about my future and got more and more depressed”.
Wondering what she had to offer, just two months in to the program Beatrice began to have a change of heart.
“I [learned] dressmaking, design, customer relations and marketing!” Beatrice said excitedly. “…and have come to understand that despite my dropping out of school, God has gifted me with potential and talents, and through the skills I am learning, I can improve not only my own life but also my children’s”.
It’s this same hope African Enterprise would like to afford to more African women.
Sadly, in recent years many have been forced into prostitution due to low employment rates and a high cost of living. Slum dwellers, especially single mothers, find it difficult to provide for their families, leaving them highly susceptible to engage in crime and other vices to survive.
Through the Mathare Women Rehabilitation and Empowerment Project, women who receive support can operate their own income generating projects, guaranteeing them and their dependents a livelihood, breaking the cycle of poverty.
In Africa, there’s a popular saying that when you empower a woman you empower a whole village, and with your help we’d love to see that continue.