A lack of education and standing for women is creating a cycle of child poverty
Margaret Ikiara, leader of CIFORD, our partners in Kenya, has nearly 30 years' experience in crop husbandry, agricultural economics, teaching and community development. She explains this cycle:
"Continued poverty in the society was due to high school drop-out rates among the girls due to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriages and teenage pregnancy. The women continued to be marginalized and could not make decisions which would affect community development. In a community where many women do not complete primary school, high malnutrition and child mortality are common due to ignorance."
- Educate women and girls, increasing their knowledge and skills to reduce extreme hunger and child mortality
- Empower women through education to raise their whole family's standard of living
- Enable women to create their own employment through efficient and effective growing and selling of crops
Meru Marches Forward
Posted on 23rd Mar 2017
Last week we made some big decisions about Meru Women’s Garden Project. Margaret Ikiara, CIFORD’s Founder and Director, travelled to Nairobi to spend a couple of days with me working on the programme plans for the year ahead.
Since launching on International Women’s Day in 2016, Soroptimist International Great Britain & Ireland (SIGBI) have raised a fantastic £40k! Whilst they've been fundraising, Child.org and CIFORD have been working closely together to develop new processes for CIFORD that will allow them to track their impact over the lifetime of the project.
One of those processes was to survey a large proportion of the women we’re working with, to understand directly from the women where and what their needs are. Child.org has helped Margaret to recruit new interns, Eunice and Nancy, giving guidance and training on interview skills and data collection. CIFORD has interviewed over 100 women and we’ve learned a huge amount.
We now know that 56% of the women are living in households that earn under $50 per month. With an average of 8.5 people living in the household, that’s a lot of mouths to feed with very little. We also know from this survey that 76% of the women attribute their household income directly to agriculture, so we know that if we can improve the agricultural capacity of these women, we can directly impact their income.
The survey has also helped us - CIFORD and Child.org - to tailor the training programme to specific need. For example, we know that 70% of the women are sourcing their household water from potentially dangerous sources; rivers, ponds and streams. Of these women, only 50% told us that they treat that water by boiling it before drinking it. As a result of this knowledge, we’ve ensured that safe water and sanitation are a key topic on the course. We also provide safe rain collection and storage facilities to the groups but might look into allocating more resources per group based on this result.
By conducting another survey directly after the course has finished, we will know how things have changed for these women and what has been learned. We then plan to survey the women again a year later, so we can see whether the changes we’ve introduced have had a lasting impact.
With this in mind, Margaret and I met to discuss the next steps. Margaret had been working with five women’s groups since January, running light-touch training with established groups so that she and her team can get to know the women and assess their commitment to the training potentially on offer to them.
Out of the five groups, one was not committed. Margaret’s feedback was that the group as a whole wasn't serious about learning; rather than looking for ways to change their agricultural knowledge, they were looking for donations. Margaret isn’t willing to work with women’s groups that aren’t willing to work for change and as a result, recommended that we stop interacting with that particular group.
We agreed to take the other four groups forward and to enrol them onto CIFORD’s year long course; Meru Women’s Garden Project has therefore engaged with the first intake of four groups of committed and dedicated women. We have a total of 198 participants: 194 women and 4 men.
The groups are:
- Baraka: 69 women
- Mutethia: 43 women
- Lachathuriu : 34 women
- Mwendwa Rii: 48 women and 4 men
This means we’re working with over three times the women we had planned to work with in on Intake 1, thanks to fantastic fundraising efforts by the Soroptomists.
This year we’ll also be running two Alternative Rites of Passage sessions for a total of 80 girls, which educate girls about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as well as a range of topics like HIV and sexual health, female empowerment and drugs.
We’ll also host a session for 60 boys in December that promotes the dangers of FGM to boys, educating them on the realities of the procedure, promoting safe medical male circumcision for boys (rather than the traditional procedure) and drugs and substance misuse.
What a year we have ahead.
With training, women can support themselves, their families and their communities
“Our neighbours are using the skills from us and we believe with the continued training, our community will be food secure, I thank CIFORD for supporting Women in our community.” Margaret Muthee, Akaiga Women group
Child.org supports women like Margaret Muthee by providing the skills, resources and the confidence necessary for sustainable farming.
Our partners CIFORD provide training in agricultural practice and vital tools needed to ensure crops succeed, principally water storage so that during times of drought, their livelihoods aren't at risk and their families and communities can thrive.
Where we work
Meet Margaret Ikiara and the women of Meru
These women live in one of the poorest parts of Kenya, and this is where Child.org's Meru Women’s Garden Project is changing lives, in collaboration with Soroptimist International Great Britain & Ireland.
CIFORD, a local Community Based Organisation will be delivering the programme and is based in Maua (meaning flower) in Meru County, Kenya. The Soroptimists are partnering with Child.org to fund the project. Read more at meruwomen.org
Empowering women can break the cycle of poverty.
By supporting women in the community, Child.org can lift families out of poverty by opening up new opportunities for their children to have enough to eat and go to school.
We work in areas where many women have lost their husbands to HIV/AIDs, or been abandoned by husbands who left to look for work and never returned. In these most rural of areas, women can leave school early for many reasons ranging from child marriage to FGM, and be left without the knowledge they need to grow food and support their families.
Child.org partners work with these women to give them extensive training in growing healthy maize, vegetable crops and fruit trees. This valuable knowledge can be passed on to other women in the community and to their children, effectively leading whole communities out of hunger in a way that is self-sufficient, with everyone able to grow the food they need.
Child.org have supported over 400 women led households to become independent and able to feed their families, and there are many more who need our support.
How you can help
If you want to help give children access to more opportunities by supporting women and girls, we would love to have you on board.
You can support Child.org in the best possible way by becoming a part of Child.org Core, the club for supporters who want to understand how International Development works, and value transparency, not sales spin.
Want to do something else to help women to support their families? Take a look at our Do Something page.
If you're a Soroptimist, we would love to hear about the work you are doing in your group to support the Meru Women's Garden Project! Please get in touch with Amanjit for support and ideas by emailing email@example.com, or find more details and resources at meruwomen.org.