Project Africa: Raising Women out Of Poverty
Ahead of the 2015 Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) prime time, the promotion of gender equality, equity and empowerment of women remains a key to the overall goal of ending poverty. Actually, all MDG’s are tied to the realisation of women empowerment.
This argument is based on the fact that women all over the world make up the backbone of society. In Sub- Saharan Africa, the role of women in food production, and market economy boosts national economy and their contribution in overall social change and community development cannot be denied.However, women remain marginalized from mainstream development projects and are vulnerable to poverty. In Kenya, for instance, this vulnerable situation that affects women is characterized by high illiteracy rate, high HIV/ADIS infections amongst women aged 15 – 50 years. Despite the fact that they work for long hours in family and commercial agricultural farms, women and girls in rural Kenya eat least, the last and the most poorly paid. they are denied the right to inheritance and even to own property. The attrocities denying their basic human rights and freedoms are countless.
In assessing these needs amongst rural women and girls, Project Africa a non profit NGO was established in Kenya in 2007 with an aim to promote gender equality, equity and empowerment of women and girls. That women will be equipped with the power tools of education, information, participatory comunication and enterprise development.
Being present in four Districts in Kenya; namely Lungalunga in Msambweni district, Mumias, Kakamega, and Mitaboni,the Organization has established the Women’s Leadership Academy which offers both Literacy Education and Vocational Skills Training to rural women. Our model of learning by doing and earning ensures over 100 women have been enrolled in the Adult Education programs are able to learn Literacy, Financial Literacy and are provided with skills and resources for enterprise development so that they can rise improve their livelihood out of poverty.
Apart from learning how to read and write, other vocational skills such as tailoring, computer skills, catering and container gardening have been incorporated in the training model of learning by doing and earning which has seen the initiation of cottage industries that give the women trainees resources to practice their new skills and start production that may earn them an income.
Recently, Project Africa started a community Media Training dubbed Mama Media Project in which 40 women are being empowered with skills in Media and citizen Journalism so they can report on issues of Women and development from the grassroots.
By learning skills in Photography, and Journalism the Women can earn an income by selling their Photography and Journalistic material to outlets organizations in and out of Kenya. The women have also targeted to start community media centres where they will use video to educate the general public on interventions in the fight against poverty.
The Biashara Camp ( Business Camp) is a program of Project Africa that offers business education and financial literacy to women. Key in this training is for women to identify viable business ideas that they can engage in to provide social amenities needed in their communities at the same time earning an income. In January 2010, Women in GODO, a centre of Project Africa in Lungalunga were involved in the Biashara Camp. By March 2010, at least 20 women had collectively found an abandoned house in their community which they turned into a women's business centre. They each agreed to renovate the house, contribute collectively towards the rent of USD 5 per month and find space for each one of them to sell her wares. The women in Godo are an example of how empowerment of women with financial literacy and business education can create space for women to earn an income and fight poverty.
The Rafiki Program which is run by Project Africa as tool for literacy eduaction has turned out to be a tool for empowering women to fight poverty. The program involves a letter exchange process between women in Kenya and those from other countries all over the world in which information is shared between the penfriends. Through the rafiki program, women in Kenya have learned that poverty is fought by women who do not wait to be pitied and only be given grants but women who seek ideas on how to do business and how how to find new markets for their handcrafts and services. Through Rafiki Program, Kenyan women are engaging in the discourse of alleviating poverty and are building their self confidence that they too can arise above the hurdles of poor lifestyles like other women around the world are doing by equitably competing to showcase their products at international markets and fairs and seeking partnerships with international entreprenuers who seek producers from develoing countries like Kenya. through the Rafiki program, project africa women producers in the tailoring cottage industry earned a contact to produce dolls from african textiles for a Swedish entreprenuer. Another Fashion Designer from UK also has showed interst in giving women in this cottage industry the opportunity to sew and produce her outfits which wil later be sold in the UK.
In summary, the transfer of skills, resources and technology from the from developed countries in connection with the entreprenurial spirit of wome in rural Kenya under the umbrella of Project Africa is a tool for the empowerment of women that will ensure that women are engaged in the process of ending poverty by 2015. From Project Africa, ours is a story of hope, empowerment, developement and turning the vulnerability of women into Victory. We are women foot soldiers in the battlefield. Our target is to end Poverty amongst rural women and their households.