Raising Women Leaders through Economic Empowerment programmes

Patricia Wanjiru, small business owner of Raha Diaries and member of Vision Makers CBO
According to the United Nations, the theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” This year’s Women’s Day celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Under her objective of creating income-generating opportunities for the young people, the Jonathan Jackson Foundation (JJF) partnered with Kibera Shoes and Fresh Cuts Foundation, both community-based organisations, to offer training on entrepreneurship, and hairdressing and beauty therapy respectively. Youths (60% male and 40% female) from Mathare, Huruma, Kayole-Soweto and Mukuru kwa Njenga communities were trained. The training centred around how these youths and women can successfully venture into and upscale their social enterprises. The programme focused on multiple barriers to employment, combining skills training with access to capital to combat youth unemployment in Nairobi, Kenya.
 
The Mini MBA offered in partnership with Kibera Shoes and Lehigh University is structured in modules combining Servant Leadership, Personal Development, Conflict Management and Resolution, Decision Making and Self Confidence with an aim of cultivating successful young entrepreneurs, community leaders and custodians of change. Leadership is key in any enterprise and represents one of the essential aspects which can lead to success and the achievement of set goals. As we celebrate the International Women’s Day 2021, we look back at three ladies that have benefited from this economic empowerment programme.
 
The skills attained from the training gave these women a platform to make their own personal decisions without having to consult others. This is reflected by the Vision Makers community-based organisation in Kayole-Soweto with 22 of its members being female and 17 being male. These ladies have now secured many roles in community leadership positions. For example, Cheryl Achieng is the only female leader in the group executive committee.
 
“The leadership skills and knowledge that I gained from the JJF training have earned me a leadership position as the only lady in the group executive. I also gained business idea skills that fuelled me to start my personal fish business which is now profitable and expanding greatly.” Cheryl, Vision Makers.
 
Women have been empowered with business skills and knowledge which has enabled them to start and run their SMEs besides the group businesses. Popcorn selling, second hand clothes shop, salon parlours, beadwork, baby diaper selling, scrap metal business and traditional mat-making have given these ladies an extra source of income amidst Covid-19 pandemic.
 
“JJF’s training content on business branding, customer relations, customer acquisition and retention enabled me to start my shop, RAHA DAIRIES, where I sell milk, cakes, bread, and juice. I am incredibly happy that I got empowered socio-economically through JJF”. Patricia Wanjiru, member of Vision Makers.
 
“I started my M-PESA business which I now plan to expand by opening a shop within the same structure after receiving JJF training. I now get a source of livelihood without being dependent on others.” Catherine Mumbe, member of Vision Makers.
 
With job readiness skills acquisition, the women who graduated from the training are now confidently aiming for better and greater job positions in their communities.
 
“I work as a community volunteer on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) activities with an NGO but I am eyeing a permanent employee position with the same organisation,” added Cheryl.
 
Women have also risen in group governance positions such as moving from a group secretary post to holding a group vice-chairperson position.
 
The know-how received from the training also helped the women have self-control and not involve themselves in vices for self-sustenance such as prostitution. The women were also empowered to shun the marginalisation and discrimination of fellow women that dominates most Kenyan communities. Gender equality, gender equity and the aspect of inclusivity now became part and parcel of the women’s songs as they undertake their daily activities. Women have also been in the forefront of creating awareness in the society against gender violence acts and early marriages.
 
JJF held an Experience Sharing Workshop for the youth and women groups on 5th February 2021 and received the above outlined feedback regarding the 2019 training. The workshop aimed at upscaling the impact created to a wider reach.
 
Author: Boaz Onyango, Programmes Director, Jonathan Jackson Foundation (JJF)