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Kisii Projects

Problem: “Circumcision” (FGM) of women and girls in Kisii, Kenya is nearly universal at 97% and continues to this day (2011). The Kenyan government banned the circumcision of girls 17 years and younger in 2001 but there is no serious, organized and comprehensive system in place to ensure proper implementation of the law. Churches and non-profit organizations have worked to eradicate this practice among Abagusii with dismal success.

This practice which among the Kisiis involves the removal of the prepuce or the partial or complete removal of the clitoris is deeply valued as it is viewed as a means of creating respectable wives and mothers. People also believe that women and girls will be promiscuous if they are not “circumcised.” For this reason Kisii women and families do not consider eradicating FGM to be a top priority even though it has serious health, mental and social-economic consequences on individuals and the community as a whole. Few people will show up if someone tried to organize a forum to discuss eradication of this practice. However, 30 dedicated individual women of Nyaronde village in Nyamira, Kisii community are discussing and eradicating FGM 100% in their families. Click To See Photos

How did this happen? The Grace Women’s Fund Group has brought these women together to address what they consider their top priorities, namely, economic empowerment. Many of these women do not have access to basic items such as running water, electricity, basic decent housing, sufficient nutritional food, proper access to reproductive healthcare and education. In addition, the Kisii culture traditionally does not allow women to own property especially the most valued one, land. Even with the new constitution which allows women equal rights with men, there is no implementation of this law as of yet. These women believe that if they have their own source of income, they can start addressing their basic needs and rights. Having been marginalized throughout their lives they can now start to claim a place to participate in decision making in their families and their community.

Grace Women’s Fund Group was started in 2007 to provide a small loan to five members to start their small income generating projects. In 2009 the group decided to start a merry go round where the group makes weekly contributions of 1 dollar (100Ksh) to empower a member to start a project. HFAW has been helping these women to keep the focus. HFAW’s contribution of a small donation enabled the group to begin a brick project. Membership started to increase from the original 5 to 13, then 19 and now 30.  HFAW founder has sponsored over 40 microfinance loans to enable these women develop their own income-generating projects. Grace Women’s group members meet every Thursday at a public space, Ekerubo Tea buying center to discuss gender  issues impacting their lives.

Tailoring of Back Packs
The Grace Fund women which was also founded by Grace Mose and whose women are working with HFAW took tailoring lessons and made backpacks for sale to achieve their economic empowerment.Click To See Photos

Economic Empowerment Entrepreneurships
HFAW has been working with the women to create economic empowerment activities. HFAW’s discussions with the women revealed that their top priority is the improvement of their economic wellbeing. We realized that educating women who are desperate and languishing in poverty is futile as they lost time worrying about dairy basics. Economic activities have become a springboard to educating them on the need to end FGM, gender based violence, preventing and treating HIV/AIDS, addressing alcoholism in their families, tackling their girls’ problems and learning about human rights. Discussions with the women also revealed that women did not have means to access the traditional bank loans due to lack of collateral as many  of them do not own formal jobs nor land. As a result we have worked through kivazip.org to sponsor over 125 interest free loans which have enabled women and some interested men to set up small scale entrepreneurships. The majority (over 90%) of our current active Kiva loans borrowers are also actively involved in becoming trainers of trainees in popular education strategies in Borabu Sub-County.  Kiva is a nonprofit organization “with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty” (www.kiva.org). Women’s entrepreneurial enterprises include brick-making projects, daily farming, cereal buying and selling and tailoring, and have been active since 2011.Click To View Photos

Designed Bully Vincent