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Women all over the world are celebrating International Women’s Day. Women from all walks of life, black, white or brown, rich or poor all identify as one on this day. Society today acknowledges that women need to be recognized and empowered in order to have thriving communities.

For many years women were not recognized as having the ability to venture into manufacturing or any other trade that was predominantly a preserve of men. Women were marginalized especially in Africa and it took deliberate initiatives to have them involved and recognized as equal partners.  Women have had to fight their way through a male dominated manufacturing world in order to showcase their skills. Because of this, initiatives have been set up to deliberately help women find a footing in the trading and manufacturing world.

In Kenya, The Women in Manufacturing (WIM) Programme was launched on May 17th 2017 with the aim of enhancing market access for women industrialists in Kenya, provide an enabling environment for them and improve their competitiveness locally, regionally and globally. WIM runs as a Caucus within the Kenya Association of Manufactures (KAM) and involves women-owned, founded and led businesses in Kenya.

WIM, targets women in Micro, Small and Medium businesses to provide them with networks, skills and knowledge to access bigger markets, expand their current businesses and venture into diverse sectors. The benefits of the program include networking and Mentorship, Market linkages, Advocacy- and Entrepreneurship development and management programs.

Today, women entrepreneurs in Kenya are running eco-friendly businesses, ranging from recycling, green buildings, green energy and waste management. These home-grown female impact investors are becoming agents of social change and solving problems in a society in which females make up slightly over half the population.

Manufacturing is a key pillar of Kenya’s economic growth and has a direct and indirect impact on the development of other sectors of the economy. While women are not explicitly excluded from the manufacturing sector, they remain both under-represented and under-valued. Some of the women who have stood out especially in manufacturing in Kenya include:

Phyllis Wakiaga

Phyllis Wakiaga is the CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM). Before she became CEO in April 2015, she was the Head of Policy Research and Advocacy Unit KAM, a position she held since 2013.

She has successfully led the partnership with the National Council on the Administration of Justice to develop the Enforcement Manual to Combat Illicit Trade in Kenya and worked with the Commission on Revenue Allocation on the County Money Bills Project amongst other achievements.

She is on the Board of the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KENGEN), Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), Anti Counterfeit Agency (ACA), COMESA Business Council and is a member of the Kenya Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (KECOPAC). She is also the Chair of the Kenya Water Industrial Alliance and the United Nations Global Compact Network Representative in Kenya.

Lorna Rutto – Founder of EcoPosts

Lorna Rutto is the founder of EcoPost, a social enterprise created in response to the need to find alternative waste management solutions to Kenya’s huge plastic waste problem.

Founded in 2009, EcoPost collects plastic waste and manufactures commercially viable, highly durable, and importantly environmentally-friendly fencing posts. It has also created over 300 jobs, generated over Sh10.8 million in revenue in a year, saved over 250 acres of forests and taken over 1 million kilograms of plastic waste out of the environment.

Ms Rutto, a Bachelor of Commerce degree graduate from the African Nazarene University has won numerous awards for her efforts including the prestigious Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards as their laureate for sub-Saharan Africa She has also developed a community engagement program where she works with marginalized youth and women groups and hopes to create over 100,000 jobs in the next 15 years.

 Joan Tonui

Joan Tonui was just 22 years old when she won the Miss Environment championship title in Bomet. Since she was a child, she always wanted to work with women and children to raise their awareness about living in a clean environment and teach them about waste management in urban areas. She studied Public Health, focusing more on water and sanitation, and learnt how some countries separate waste into different categories, such as glass, plastic and paper. She went ahead to introduce this concept to local primary schools.

She started visiting schools to introduce them to her initiative and taking it beyond waste management, to mobilize them to set up tree nurseries to raise fruit tree and indigenous tree seedlings that the community could later plant on school grounds. This turned into the Green Champions Programme where she sets up competitions, and the students who are most eloquent on environmental issues in their poetry, essays, drawings or school plays win the title of Green Champion. These children in turn take care of the tree nurseries and organize green days at their schools with activities such as collecting rubbish or planting trees. The school children each adopt a tree, name it and take care of it until it matures, and when they leave the school, they hand it over to a new pupil.

Apart from working with children in schools, Tonui also mobilizes youth and women that are living near riverbanks to volunteer and help replace and replant the eucalyptus trees threatening the Mara River and exacerbating problems with drought.

She got these communities to agree to take out the eucalyptus and replace it with bamboo and indigenous trees, including avocado trees. In return, she provides training for them in the provision of alternative livelihoods such as crafting handbags out of bamboo leaves. The volunteers also come up with their own ideas of what they would like including activities like beekeeping.

Wangari Maathai: standing up for women and the environment

We cannot fail to celebrate the Late Professor Wangari Maathai an environmentalist and the first female African Nobel Peace Prize winner. Her contribution to the environment cannot be underscored the impact of what that meant to be a woman in this field of work is still talked about to this day.

Green Belt Movement

This is considered her greatest legacy. The Green Belt Movement is a tree-planting movement that stayed close to Wangari Maathai’s heart, having grown up alongside nature in the rural highlands of Kenya. Established in 1977, it is a grass-roots movement attempting to tackle the deforestation that was threatening the means of subsistence of the agricultural population. It was aimed at women, encouraging them to plant trees in their local environment with a small monetary reward. In her autobiography, she dedicates an aptly named chapter “Foresters without diplomas” to how it came about, citing the ups and downs. Though the Green Belt Movement’s main aim was to introduce ecological thinking, it also empowered communities by organizing civic and environmental education opportunities. This eventually came at loggerheads with local political power’s role on issues of land grab and the destruction of urban parks.

Her Nobel peace prize recognition summarises her contribution in this: “Maathai’s mobilization of African women was not limited in its vision to work for sustainable development; but saw tree-planting in a broader perspective which included democracy, women’s rights, and international solidarity.” The success of the movement can be shown with its ethos that has endured and even been copied in other African countries.


1 Comment
  • נערות ליווי
    Posted at 13:18h, 16 March Reply

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