Providing a Future for Women of Kibera

Care for Kenya is humbled to announce the launch of a women's center in Africa's second largest slum, Kibera, in 2013. Having worked with and learned from women's groups in one of Africa's largest slums for the past three years, we are now ready to launch a resource center in the heart of Kibera. Estimates of the population of Kibera range from the hundreds of thousands to the millions, and its families live in desperate poverty. Care for Kenya strives to give women living there a chance to work themselves out of poverty by bridging the gap of gender inequity through three instrumental programs: vocational training, sustainable income generating projects and HIV/AIDS support for women.

Our Annual Fundraiser on December 5th in New York City will contribute to this mission. For the modest cost of $350 (one VIP ticket), Care for Kenya can train and educate one woman through our Kuwawezesha Wanawake (Empower women in Swahili) program. This program provides vocational skills in sewing, tailoring and design as well as financial literacy and business management for starting a small business. We also incorporate education in crucial areas such as HIV/AIDS and women's rights. For more information, please click here.

When I arrived in Kenya as a volunteer three years ago, I worked with many women's groups in the slums and had a chance to listen to their ambitions and dreams. These were simple and heartfelt dreams: to create a business, to send their children to school, or to be able to feed their family just one small meal per day. Many of the women had a similar story to a woman I met, named Anne. Anne is a 43-year-old widow with three children. She lost her husband to HIV/AIDS eight years ago. Her family lives in an unsafe area of the slums with contaminated drainage, no running water, and no electricity. She cannot afford to put her children through middle school, and so her young daughters must work as day laborers. But Anne never gave up hope. We employed Anne at our first women's project and trained her to make handbags, school uniforms and traditional jewelry. Just one year later, her skills have grown so that she earns above the average daily rate of $1.00 a day. This small income allows her to provide for her daughters... but Anne is not content. Today, her dream has grown to start her own small sewing and tailoring business and hopes that through Care for Kenya's training program she will be able to learn the trade and skills needed to start her own sustainable business.

Care for Kenya's new women's resource center will have the capacity to train and educate 180 women like Anne, each year, dramatically impacting the lives of these women and their children forever. The center consists of four departments: a vocational training and educational department which will help women gain the practical sewing and business skills to support themselves and their families; a gender and reproductive health rights department to teach women their rights and give support on issues such as gender-based violence; a maternal health section which will provide services such as family planning and HIV counseling and testing; and an economic development component that provides sustainable income generating projects.

Dr. Edwin Lutomia Mangala, Care for Kenya's chief physician, believes the center will be the first in Kibera to combine women's empowerment and health promotion. "By integrating and prioritizing women's health concerns, rights and empowerment, this project is uniquely poised to catalyze societal-level changes that will yield sustainable improvements in health and well-being for women in Kibera", says Mangala. Our goal is to adopt this comprehensive approach to women's development at the Care for Kenya women's center as health promotion and economic development go hand in hand.

In Kibera, women contract HIV at five times the rate of men due to increased susceptibility and fewer rights in their sexual relationships which makes it difficult for women to protect themselves. The negative effects of HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination can also deteriorate a woman's opportunity and potential. When Anne joined the center, she thought she was going to die but, as she now believes, "all the women in the center have to handle this disease so we manage our conditions together. I now understand that HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence, if you take the antiretroviral drugs every quarter and follow your doctor's advice, you can learn to cope with it and live positively."

The Care for Kenya women's resource center is set to open in early 2013, but it is only with the support of our generous donors that the center will be able to achieve that goal of providing training and education to women, allowing them to actualize their rights and improve the economic and social status of their family. If you invest in a woman, she will reinvest 90 percent of her earnings into her community and family, compared to under 40 percent for men. As Koffi Annan states, "Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance."

Join us at Care for Kenya's annual fundraising event on December 5th, hosted by Kenyan Ambassador Bob Jalang'o, Miss Africa Angela Maina and Cynthia Macdonald. For more information please click here.