Blog Post by Elaine Talarski
This morning, leaders of the Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association, Regina, Rachel and Jesca came to our hotel for a meeting with us and with our friend from Kenya, Rose Wamalwa.
Rose, who directs a grassroots women’s water group in Kenya, arrived late last night. She will meet with us over these next few days to talk about potential future collaborations. She shared part of her story with us: she was born and grew up in a rural center of Kenya.
During her years of growing up, she saw a need to work with women. She observed that women were dependent on their husbands and that a woman’s role was to stay home and be there to care for the needs of her husband and family. In Kenya, that meant hard labor like getting water every day, farming your own food, and lots of daily chores.
She married in 2003. After five years of marriage, she had the opportunity to return to school. In 2009, she started working with women and became involved with the Global Women’s Water Initiative, a WGC and BUWEA partner focused on sustainable solutions for the water and sanitation woes of women.
Rose’s organization, known as WE-CAN, became a registered nongovernmental organization in 2012, and there are around 150 women involved in the group.
Rose became acquainted with BUWEA through trainings regionally on the techniques around sanitation and water. Some of the women she works with have small businesses such as tailoring, selling secondhand clothes and farming. In 2014, Rose was in San Antonio for a few months on a national fellowship working with the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. Now, WGC and WE-CAN are exploring potential partnerships and immersion trip opportunities.
Rose cited many challenged about working with women in Kenya, including:
Land generally belongs to men and husbands. Women are often given a small portion of men’s land to grow food on for the family or sell.
Women are on a lower level than men and this position is internalized by many women, who then have low self-esteem.
Government does offer small loans but women are restricted from receiving them because they do not have a title to land.
*Malnutrition and cultural factors
Kenya has very high mortality. Also, some women may exchange sex for food to feed themselves and their families. Although it’s restricted by the government, alcohol brewed using local materials and methods is used by men. Overall, women need alternative ways to earn income.
Rose says she’s interested in helping empower women to break the cycle of poverty through training and transformation. Partnering with BUWEA and WGC, she says, could really help her organization gain momentum and make a difference.
Regina explained to Rose about how members of BUWEA around Bukoba can access a BUWEA bank account to put money in and access it when needed. Each member has a passbook to record money in the account and to track withdrawals for payment of loans.