Lucy’s family was not poor. Her father operated his own business while her mother was a teacher. She was the first born in a family of 4; 3 girls and 1 boy. All of them attended good schools. Lucy met and fell in love with Joe while she was waiting to join college. She had lived a fairly sheltered life and ended up pregnant within a few months of meeting with Joe. She was afraid of the repercussions so she ran away from home and moved in with Joe, without adequate preparation for marriage. Needless to say, she did not join college as she had anticipated, since she was now married.
Challenges of Early Marriage
Getting married at the age of 20 and without a college education proved to be not all rosy. She had two children by the time she was 25. As time went by, it became apparent to her that there was so much she and Joe should have discussed before embarking on the journey to marriage. Joe worked for an international organization and his job was good. But he had a lot of responsibilities from his side of the family since he was the first born of 5 children and his family was not well off. Life was a struggle for them.
Lucy realized that she had taken too much for granted, that she should have brought up the issue of the extended family while they were still courting. Their lives took a turn for the worse when Joe’s mother was diagnosed with kidney failure and moved in with them. The house was small and crowding was not comfortable, but the biggest challenge was the toll on their finances. Affording basic necessities was no longer guaranteed. After her little kindergarten daughter missed basic items for a period of time, Lucy picked herself up and started to do what she could to earn income. She began by selling second hand clothes in her neighborhood. She could only manage to do this during the periods when her mother in law was at her rural home otherwise Lucy was her caregiver and could not leave her unattended.
Struggling to earn some money was not easy at all. Lucy would wake up very early and leave the house by 5.00 a.m. She had requested her neighbour to be keeping an eye on the house for her since she would leave her little boy sleeping and would be back to give him breakfast. She sold the clothes by walking around the neighborhood with the little boy on her back. Being a hardworking woman, her business was doing well and she was gradually improving the standard of living of her family. Lucy’s first priority when her business started to pick was to buy a smart phone, to help in the business. When she finally bought one, she set up a business page on Facebook. She would take photos of the clothes she had in stock and post on the page. Orders trickled in and grew steadily. Business was generally good though there were low seasons especially at the start of school terms. She went round it by having school items for sale at such times, including used text books.
Five years from the time Lucy first ventured into business, she had a successful online business which was still evolving as she responded to the needs of the market. The family was well fed, the children did not lack personal or school items and the family was generally happy because their finances had improved tremendously. They had even moved to a slightly bigger house in the same locality.
What is Women Empowerment and What are The Benefits of Empowering Women?
I encounter critics who view women empowerment in a negative light. Women empowerment means empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors. Why do I consider educating girls and supporting them to get involved in gainful ventures – whether formal or informal – important? Why don’t I support the mentality of keeping women confined to traditional roles such as having their lives revolve around domestic chores?
Women who are not financially independent are more likely to lack self confidence, to be poor communicators and to be left out of important matters of decision making for themselves and their families. A woman who feels left out in decision making in the home is unlikely to be supportive of the decisions and neither is she likely to be a happy and fulfilled wife and mother. Being part of the decision making processes makes the woman own and support those decisions for the good of the family as a whole. Women who are more in control of their lives and not feeling like victims of circumstances are more supportive of the family than those who are not.
According to a survey, which was conducted in 2003 by the Ministry of Planning in Kenya, about half the women who were a part of the survey had faced domestic violence. They had faced it since the age of fifteen, and although the forms varied, they did feel the brunt of domestic violence from their own family members. Furthermore, a survey in 2008 (The Kenya Demographic Survey) suggests that 39 percent of the women who were a part of the survey had been abused by family members, and especially their partners.(1) One such form of conducting this violence is by using ‘controlling behavior’ namely, restricting access to financial resources. 1 in 3 women and girls worldwide – one billion – will experience violence in their lifetime. Women who face abuse often have no option but to continue living in the same house with their abuser as they lack financial independence, which would otherwise enable them to have choices in life.
Violence is a major cause of poverty. It prevents women from pursuing an education, working, or earning the income they need to lift their families out of poverty. Women and girls make up half of the world’s population. According to the United Nations, 70% of the 1 billion poorest people in the world are female. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by discrimination, violence, and exploitation. Too many are deprived the opportunity to an education and to basic health care services including access to contraception. Empowering women – besides creating lasting opportunities for women to lift their families out of poverty – reduces the burden of poverty in communities. Investing in women and girls makes economic sense for individual families and communities.
(1) The ugly face of domestic violence in Kenya, and laws against it; www.glad2beawoman.com
This article is written by Susan Catherine Keter, life coach, mentor, network marketing professional, freelancer and blogger.