2023 Widows Social Empowerment (WSE)
Widows in Kenya are experiencing devastating hardships increased by the Covid19 pandemic.
Social empowerment of Widows
The need: The global scale of the problem of widowhood has only just begun to capture international attention, most notably with the celebration of the first United Nations International Widows Day on June 23, 2011. Over the years, the concerns of widows have been overlooked in women’s empowerment thesis (Nwokoro, 2017). It can be said that there is no group more affected by the sin of omission than widows in the 3rd world and developing nations. Widows are painfully absent from the statistics of many developing countries, and they are rarely mentioned in the multitude of reports on women’s poverty, development, health or human rights published in the last twenty-five years (United Nations, 2001). A starting point for addressing the issues of widows’ well being within their community is the topic of their vulnerability, and how it can be responded to theoretically (Nwokoro, 2017)
Growing evidence of widows’ vulnerability, both socioeconomic and psychological, now challenges many conventional views and assumptions about this “invisible” group of women (United Nations, 2001). Today, millions of the world’s widows, of all ages, endure extreme poverty, ostracism, violence, hopelessness, ill health and discrimination law and custom. A lack of inheritance and land rights, widow abuse and the practice of degrading, and life-threatening mourning and burial rites are prime examples of human rights violations that are justified by“ reliance on culture” and “tradition” (United Nations, 2001). Widows’ vulnerability in developing societies is said to be multidimensional. Given that the various vectors of vulnerability that widows endure in most rural areas affect their self-esteem, dignity and self-sufficiency, it is relevant to address the autonomy concerns in their vulnerability.
Effects of Covid-19: As data from the COVID outbreak is analyzed, there is an emerging scientific consensus that men are dying at a dramatically faster rate than women. The explanations for this trend vary, from the naturally stronger immune systems of women, to men’s tendency to engage in more risky behavior. COVID-19 is exacerbating widows’ vulnerability. Already on the periphery of decent/secure work, global lockdowns have resulted in widows’ sudden loss of employment. Deprived of an income, widows have been forced to live off of meager savings, to the extent that any exist at all. As widows have been disinherited from their land and property, they do not have any fiscal source of backstop or support. The absence of any form of government issued social protection for widows in most developing countries further exposes their immediate and acute financial vulnerability.
The intervention: To address the above-mentioned needs; especially the loss of social status and reduced economic circumstances, Agape Orphanage and School seeks to economically empower disadvantaged widows and female heads of households in Gendia village, Homabay County, Kenya. Objective 2 will thus focus on enhancing the social empowerment process of widows to ensure that they achieve a secure and enhanced income and effectively participate and contribute to decision-making in domestic and community spheres.
Given the various constraints, difficulties and contextual challenges faced by female heads of households in developing countries such as Kenya, livelihood programs with a developmental and empowerment orientation emerge as a viable strategy to improve the lives and opportunities of widows and female heads of households.
Capacity building and skills training
Recognizing that more than cash is needed to sustainably economically empower women, the AGAPE project shall provide female heads of households with a range of resources and supports to establish a micro enterprise to sustain themselves and their families. In addition to small loans, women shall be provided with skills training to aid them in setting up their businesses, according to their interests. For example, widows seeking to raise poultry or small livestock receive training from licensed veterinarians in breeding, nutrition, and disease detection. Widows seeking to set up vending enterprises learn how to buy wholesale and sell retail, inventory management, and best customer service practices. Other widows will be trained in hairdressing, soap/detergent making, feed stock production, and food production. Along with vocational training. The Agape project will conduct financial literacy training with all widows. Additionally, representatives from AGAPE ministry and leadership teams shall conduct informational sessions to educate widows and female heads of households about their rights
Once this education and skill-building takes place, widows and female heads of households enrolled in the Agape Project will be able to access investment capital either in the form of a micro loan or micro-social capital (savings and lending groups). The average size of the loan will be determined based on the funding available with an interest rate of 2%. We anticipate a high repayment rate on these loans, testimony to the strong underwriting practices and dedicated management of Agape Orphanage and School, but also to the diligence, drive, excellent vocational and financial literacy training, congenial support of other widows, and “no-option but success” culture adopted by the widows. In addition to increasing income and economic self-sufficiency, Agape shall strive to foster a sense of community and a group ethos of solidarity among its target group, whom are often isolated and marginalized. When first receiving a loan, women take an oath to support other women once they have achieved self-reliance, helping to promote sustainability as well as a thriving network of support.
Project Beneficiary: Widows and female heads of households
Project Requirements: The ministry is seeking Consideration for financial support in the following;
Facilitators and trainers
Seed capital/funds for micro loans and micro social capital
Richard & Julie Cox