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A promising future for the women of Kenya

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Crystal Huskey
WVoN co-editor 

In an opinion piece published on CNN, Kenya’s “Queen of Radio”, Caroline Mutoko, set out the five things that she believes African women need to succeed.

These include education, economic empowerment, access to health care, exposure to the wider world and hope.

“Anytime I go to an area where there’s poverty,” Mutoko said in her article, “we never give just money, we give seeds so they can plant or animals they can rear. I’m involved in a greenhouse project for the areas where the land is dry.

“The people always have to pay us back in produce and even when they are done paying, they are so excited because they have money in their pockets, you would think they were Bill Gates. That is what happens when you empower a woman.”

Kenya, Mutoko’s native country, is still recovering from the after-effects of colonization. A toddler of a nation, Kenya only received its independence in December 1963.

Government corruption, a lack of solid infrastructure and poor health care keeps Kenya from thriving.

However, according to the World Bank’s projections, sub-Saharan Africa should see a 5% increase in their economy in 2012 and 2013, an increase that is higher than most high-income nations.

Amazingly, by the end of this decade, it could “grow above the levels of Asia,” according to World Bank blogger Wolfgang Fengler.

So how can women benefit from this period of economic growth? How can they avoid exploitation and take advantage of this crucial time in Kenya’s history?

According to a report issued by the Institute of Economic Affairs, despite the fact that women make up 51 percent of Kenya’s population, their role in society and the economy is very limited.

Much progress has been made over the past few years with regard to Kenyan women’s health and education, but rural women in particular fall behind in economic growth.

Project Africa, based in Nairobi, is a nonprofit designed to “support individual women and girls to break free from the chains of limiting patterns of gender inequality that have traditionally suppressed them from manifesting their true beauty, full potential and power to be agents of change.”

Founded by Lindy Wafula, a visionary who is running for parliament on the Kenyan Labour ticket, this foundation seeks to fulfill all five of Mutoko’s suggestions.

By training rural women in marketable skills, they are preparing tomorrow’s leaders for financial success.  Exposure to the wider world, one of Mutoko’s other suggestions, is crucial in bringing Kenyan women to the forefront of their economy.

With the advent of online marketplaces, crafts and assorted products can be manufactured in a rural woman’s home and shipped to the western world.

Gone are the days when Kenya relies on humanitarian aid and subsidies.  Kenyans are learning the skills necessary to truly prosper in the 21st century, and it is crucial that women are trained as well as the men.

It is very likely that western countries will turn to African ones in the continuous search for cheap goods.  As labor costs in China rise, so will their products.

Africa is in the perfect position to benefit from this change.

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