Investing in Rural Women for Community Empowerment

Prof. Abukutsa addresses the opening session of the workshop

One evening in May 2014, Soster Siliya had just retired from a long day of selling supplementary learning materials. This had been her main source of livelihood for years. As a mother of two settled down to undertake evening chores, she received a call from Kajiado Sub-County Cooperative officer. She had been selected to participate in a JICA sponsored training at JKUAT whose objective was to empower women with entrepreneurship and leadership skills.

Soster then joined other carefully selected women drawn from Kenyan counties to undertake the In-Country training programme. During the training, the facilitator, Mbugua Nyoro, asked the participants to identify a business idea which could be implemented using Ksh. 500. He offered to give the money to the best idea originator.

To most participants, the capital was too small but to Soster, this was a lifetime opportunity. The following day, she presented processed amaranth seeds (Amaranth Cereals) and the facilitator bought the product for KSh. 500 and the rest she sold to other participants in the class.

Ms. Soster displays processed amaranth seeds to the participants of the workshop

Having learnt internet marketing during the training, Soster joined online marketing platforms such as OLX and Mkulima Young and started the Amaranth Cereals and Toasted Amaranth products.

During the training she also learned production of beauty products and detergents which she now sells, thanks to the entrepreneurial skills learnt from the training.  

Now a model woman success, Soster trains and mentors other women not just from her home county of Kajiado, but also from across the country. She shared her story during a stakeholders’ forum to further firm up ways of empowering Kenyan women through the In-Country training programme.

Women in Kenya and much of the developing world face a number socio-economic challenges. Limited access to factors of production, poor education, cultural constraints, burden of disease, single motherhood, and discriminative legislative frameworks, are only some of the challenges faced by women. 

To ameliorate the plight of Kenyan women, JICA and JKUAT launched the In-Country training programme in 1994. A total of 3600 women had benefited from the programme by end of 2016. Repeat studies on the programme have shown that participants have improved their farming activities, increased food sufficiency and wealth creation.

Speaking when she opened the stakeholders’ forum on Friday September 22, Deputy Vice Chancellor in Charge of Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa said the initiative has enabled participants acquire important skills to grassroots women.

Prof. Abukutsa urged the participants to hone effective negotiation skills towards surmounting socio-cultural impediments; that would otherwise compromise their capacity to fully actualize their potential.

“In your entrepreneurial activities, embrace demand-driven and value chain approach; and engage partners that can help amplify your efforts for greater success,” Prof. Abukutsa said.

Samuel Kibe who represented JICA at the forum said the training remained one of the avenues through which the agency hoped to positively contribute to wellbeing of Kenyan women and entire society through ripple effect.

By incorporating Training of Trainers (ToT) component, the programme has fostered peer learning leading to increased adoption of knowledge among the trainees.

The workshop brought together 45 participants drawn from Migori, Kiambu, Kitui, Narok, Machakos, Kakamega, Nakuru counties.