Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Creating Opportunities for Marginalized Women

By Margaret Lewis-John, 2nd year MDP student

For the last couple of weeks of my field placement I was involved in a seminar on Girl Child education and development.  The aim of the seminar was to identify challenges affecting the development of the Girl Child in nomadic pastoralist communities in Kenya and to make recommendations on the way forward to the difficulties they experience. Through various focus group discussions, relevant strategies which could remedy the situation were identified for implementation. Additionally, the workshop allowed past scholarship beneficiaries of Indigenous Information Network (IIN) to share their experiences and challenges in completing their education.  This enabled us to recognize successful interventions which can be used to address the Girl Child education and development now and the future.  From the seminar deliberations, a work plan was formulated, a report was compiled and a proposal developed from the findings and submitted for possible funding.

Margaret (L) sharing a moment with Girl-Child participants

Based on my experience it seems natural when a child is born the parents start thinking of a school they will send the child and the potential of a career which is articulated to the child in toys and story books. However, this kind of prospect is not the reality for many children in Kenya, especially among pastoralist Maasai girls.  The reality for many is milking cows, taking care of animals in the hot scorching sun and walking long distances to fetch water and firewood.  Moreover, some never make it to a classroom since within nomadic pastoralist communities in Kenya there is a low status given to girls as compared to boys.  The preference for boys in pastoralist communities is cultural and historically based on the patriarchal system of inheritance.  Many girls are physically and emotionally abandoned or perceived as less important.  Subsequently, this perception is demonstrated even through celebrations prepared for the birth of a boy as opposed to the birth of a girl.  From the seminar I advocated for the setting up of funds for the education of girls and met with various private sector stakeholders who can assist in support of the girl child education and development. 

Margaret at WYLDE International Seminar on entrepreneurship
Furthermore, it was recognized that low economic status among women makes them vulnerable to continue their traditional ways of life which impacts on girls as they do not have the necessary funds to send them to school even though in Kenya there is a policy on free primary education.  Consequently, I attended a workshop held by WYLDE International on business development, which offers consulting, coaching and training on business as a way to help them to find their edge in whatever business opportunity they pursue.  This allowed me to develop a training manual for IIN which can be used for entrepreneurial training in pastoralist communities, especially among women. Also, going to the Massai market, I made many friends and taught them the hair style of interlocking dreads which many will use as an alternative means for income generation. 
As I reflect on my time in Kenya and with my host organization IIN, I can think of these words: it was truly memorable, educational and informative. It was an occasion in which I can certainly ponder and say, I will return in the foreseeable future.    
Margaret (L) and Maria (R) after hair locking at Maasai Market

No comments:

Post a Comment