A skill, a job, an income gives a sense of independence.
Financial independence is obtained by women who learn skills in beading and sewing, pattern making and cutting, packaging and presentation. The income earned as a result of learning these skills helps women provide for themselves and their families, to free themselves from the customary ties that often bind them to poverty or servitude to males in the tribe. It transforms lives.
The culture and societal norms do not promote gender equity in Kenya. Women have few rights. They rarely have a bank account let alone own land. Money and assets belong to the male. Polygamy is common and the husband’s prerogative. Domestic violence is estimated at between 43% and 75%. In some tribes, if a husband dies, his wife becomes the property of others males in the family whose duty it is to ‘trial’ her before the choice is made as to which one will inherit her. Two of the women in the LBK program had refused to succumb themselves and their children to this form of sexual exploitation. They were thrown out of the family without a shilling!
AIDS is rampant and if you are HIV+ and female you are often thrown out of the family. A female’s worth is closely linked to her ability to work in the fields. If you have a disability, you have little value, unlikely to find a husband and forced into the illegal trades such as illicit alcohol or prostitution, often which lands them in prison.
It is no wonder that women are raped and forced into prostitution. Or that babies are unwanted, dumped or thrown down latrines. Or that children are left to live on the streets as they lose parents to disease or abuse. These people do not have the resources to help themselves. But give them a chance, give them some skills, some knowledge, some training and they bloom!
Minalyn began with 8 workers, teaching them basic jewellery making. With Minalyn’s creative flair and a little help from SOSK and others, LBK was able to diversify. An industrial sewing machine allowed her to win contracts to supply school uniforms and security guard uniforms. A leather sewing machine meant moving into bags and home furnishings. The number of workers in the program grew. Trainees became trainers. Others moved on to new jobs. Some went out to create their own businesses. What began as a jewellery venture has become a multi-facetted industry employing up to 30 women and young men.
Pivotal in this program is the counselling that Minalyn provides. Life skills, dealing with rape, abuse and other forms of emotional and psychological damage have left many of the workers in need of support and a way to deal with their issues. Indicative of the success of Minalyn’s ministry is the level of chatter and the almost tangible buzz that exists in the workshop.
Learning the skills to make an income.