FROM THE HEART OF A WIDOW

The Goat Foundation Founder, Steve Down at a Goat Giving ceremony in Machakos.

Losing a loved one is hard. Imagine losing your all abruptly. Losing your partner, your support system, and your greatest cheerleader. Life as you know it takes a drastic turn and believe me it becomes dark. The partner you lose is like losing a part of you. No book written under the sun can prepare you for this. It is a heavy transition and really, there is no getting used to it. You just learn or is it re-learn how to live life.

When my husband died he left with me. Ironical right? It was crazy, it was as if I was in a trance. How? He was not sick, he was whole and hearty. Got into his car, kissed his newborn child and me goodbye, and left for the day just like any other day. Before he left as if he could tell he would not return, he left his phone only to return and spend a few more minutes that turned into an hour and a half playing with his new daughter. He was running late but that did not seem to matter. When the phone calls became too many to bear, he left gave us his daily dose of affirmations and dad jokes, and left. That was it.

He went to work and the next time I would see his car it would take a minute for me to tell what type of a car it is. He had an accident on his way to work and his short life was cut short. Through the mourning period, I was in a trance, I was in a daze, and I barely remember any conversations I had at that time. It was difficult but here I am whole and hearty with a well-raised and blessed child thanks to God and generous and giving foundations such as the Goat Foundation. As a widow you need a village, you need a support system and a sustainable one because what next?

The Goat foundation is that village for many widows across the county. It is breaching the gap for widows who would otherwise have been forgotten. It is returning pride and smiles to the widows. The Goat foundation is not your ordinary nonprofit, it is a nonprofit that lives and pushes cause capitalism. Through their for-profit institution Financially Fit they channel resources to caring for and empowering widows in marginalized communities. No, they do not give them money because in today’s economy money comes and goes very easily and fast. They provide an empowering avenue for widows through goats. YES…. GOATS. For this cause, they give 100 widows 2 goats each. A male and female and I dare say this is a neat idea because goats, as you know, have the shortest gestational period and within no time a widow can move from having two goats to multiple with proper care of course.

As we marked International Widows Day a day that is hard for all widows alike. However, this one is a special one for the widows across the country that have so far been impacted by this great cause. The Goat Foundation’s promise is that 10 million widows will receive 20 million goats in the next 10 years. Now that is what we call Capitalism with a cause. Cause Capitalism brings abundance and a fair shot at wealth creation for all widows. God Bless Cause Capitalists worldwide.

Veronica Kanini speaking to the Goat Foundation

SHE DARES TO DREAM

A Chance Meeting

During a donation exercise by The Goat Foundation in Kitui Central, Kitui County, I was drawn to a lady of about 30 years. She wore jeans, a gray hoodie, and open slacks that were rather too fashionable. 

I watched as she energetically marshaled her local group of widows through the set program. She embodied the enterprising hope envisioned by conveners of The goat Foundation. I made a mental note to request an interview with her and find out what her story was. 

Six months later I sat across the bubbly lady named Mwende whose story was quite an eye-opener. 

“I am a businesswoman, so I have trained myself to read a customer before they open their mouth. This intuition has guided me to succeed in business and once, it saved my life”  

The Goat Foundation

Some recipients turned their lives around and begun giving as cause capitalists

 

She pauses for effect to see if she has my attention and then begins her narrative. 

“Let me tell you my story. It began ten years ago when…”

Tragedy and Redemption

Mwende got married right after finishing high school. Her husband was from Mwingi, a town that was near her rural home. He worked as a clinical officer at the Level-5 hospital in that town. Musyoka (not his real name) had courted her through her secondary school and after finishing her ‘O’ level examinations, she promptly packed her bags and moved in with him.

For the next 8 years, they lived happily as a married couple though they never got to formalize their union. The one consternating factor in her marriage was her inability to conceive. Her husband’s relatives whispered loudly urging him to get another wife. Her in-laws had performed medical telepathy that somehow diagnosed her, and not Musyoka, her husband as the offending culprit in that childless union.

As animosity grew against her, her husband remained faithful and refused to entertain village ‘advisers’ who made regular trips to their homes to consult on ‘family matters.’

Tragedy struck in July 2018, she lost her husband in a road accident. He had traveled to the capital city for an interview with a large private hospital. The grief and sorrow that soon overwhelmed her were compounded by the fact that her in-laws wanted her out of her matrimonial home as soon as the burial ceremony was over. The house she was being thrown out of had been fully purchased by her husband before he died. 

Clinging to Hope

Determined not to lose everything in her life, Mwende vowed to stay put and never leave the house and property she shared with her husband. What followed was a series of orchestrated threats, beatings by unknown intruders and social media bullying and verbal assaults. It appeared like all of a sudden all members of her husband’s family had something rude to say to her. 

With no one to turn to, since she had run away from home to get married, Mwende decided to visit an old friend from school. On her way out she picked up a bottle of water that she had left standing on her table. On her way out she took a sip of the water, disliked it for tasting funny and threw the bottle away. That was the last thing she remembered. 

Waking up three weeks later in a hospital a doctor told her how lucky she had been. A good Samaritan had seen her collapse as she walked and got assistance to take her to the hospital. Mwende was quite sure who and why she had got poisoned. Her in-laws wanted the house and property left by her husband. 

After being discharged, she traveled back to her hometown in Kituyi carrying nothing but the clothes she wore on her back. 

The journey to Fulfillment

“How did you manage to survive, get an income and become the woman you are today?” I ask her.

“At first it wasn’t easy, I suffered from the side effects of those drugs. Later on, I did menial jobs for a small fee.”

Through her hard work and determination, Mwende scraped enough money to purchase a plot where she currently resided. 

“The Goat Foundation gave me hope for a prosperous future that I frankly believe in,” says Mwende with a smile. 

My two goats have been through two gestations. I have five goats. I gave one out to a needy friend. I hope that by the end of the year, I will add two more goats to my herd. If all goes according to plan, I will use these goats as collateral to get a loan and open a salon in town. 

Then she told me one of the most astonishing things I have heard in a long time. 

“My salon will offer free hair services to needy children. I will give one free service for every customer that I serve” she says confidently.

“How can you afford that?” I ask her, still stunned. 

“Don’t worry about that. The universe has plenty of abundances. You give to receive, and I believe blessings will keep coming my way as long as I keep giving.” 

She smiles brilliantly and rises to signal the end of our interview.

What a lady!

The Goat Foundation: Widows have a reason to smile

UNPRECEDENTED PROGRESS FOR KENYAN WIDOWS

Progress Beyond Expectations

The Goat Foundation crossed milestones and made history in groundbreaking achievements that reflected the intention of their vision. By offering a pair of goats valued at $100 per family of widows, the foundation changed stereotypes about widows and transformed the thinking of entire communities about wealth and wealth creation.

A notable achievement was in the diet of families of widows who received these donations. They acquired food security and a chance for a balanced nutritional diet. The milk taken from goats was a crucial source of protein when consumed. The manure from goats was spread around vegetable gardens and this led to increased crop yields. The variety and resilience in food availability acted as insurance against starvation and hunger. 

Sustainable development brought by socio-economic empowerment

Sustainable development brought by socio-economic empowerment

Due to proper and regular feeding habits, children became healthier and were less susceptible to common infections. Healthy households implied that money that could have been spent on seeking treatment was saved or invested. Children were now able to attend school regularly, as absence due to prevented illnesses was reduced.

Education, Health and Nutrition

As mentioned earlier, families of widows started attending school regularly and were not sent home for lack of school fees. The family could now afford to sell their farm produce to pay school fees, with the knowledge that milk from goats could be harnessed to supplement their diet. 

School attendance brought new standards of hygiene, safety awareness and government recognition. In Kenya, it is illegal for a school-going child to be employed as a laborer, married off or subjected to any form of exploitation. This guaranteed legal protection to the children of widows.

The Goat Foundation has noted the uptick in commerce and vocational activities in some villages. It follows that before these donations were made, traditional players in the market were familiar with each other’s needs and trading became routine and even unprofitable.

The sudden infusion of new capital and market for goods and services revived industries that had sat idle for years. Basket making, weaving mats, fishing and a host of local industries sprung up to compete with one another. 

The social awareness that attended the emancipation of Kenyan widows made communities around them seek out other forms of social injustices and uproot them. An example is the legacy shops that for ages extorted their customers by charging exorbitant prices because of their monopoly.

The arrival of competing businesses mentioned earlier meant that old shopkeepers were shunned and new shops that offered fair competitive prices became the new hit. In the end, it benefited the rest of the community who were now able to access more goods at cheaper prices.

Environmental Sustainability & a Green Economy

These donations are also able to help widows and their families mitigate the socio-economic impact of climate change in their lives. Goats are a hardy breed and can survive drought conditions. During bountiful rains, the crops will do well and during drought, the goats would thrive, so families were cushioned against these two extremities.

In a community whose reliance on cultivated land was reduced by a fraction, there was less land cleared for agriculture and more trees planted. The practice of goat husbandry in these communities, therefore, meant that the impact of natural disasters such as floods was reduced as vegetation cover protected the soil from being washed away during heavy rains.

Children’s Rights

Widows' children have opportunities for education, training, balanced diet and legal protection.

Widows’ children have opportunities for education, training, balanced diet and legal protection.

A crucial and demonstrable impact of empowering widows through the donation of goats was the protection of children from exploitation. Families no longer required their young ones to work for food. Children could now spend their time at school or playing.

As widows became empowered and acquired a say in the community, they were now able to protect their daughters against gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and early marriages. Sexual exploitation that was visited upon needy girls especially young widows and daughters of widows was eliminated as they now had the economic means to fend for themselves. This had the impact of reducing HIV transmission, child trafficking, unwanted pregnancies and school drop-out cases. 

Clearly, a lot has been achieved, but there is more still to be done. The generosity of The Goat Foundation partners, and donors is what brought about this success. 

                   

THE FUTURE OF THE GOAT FOUNDATION

From Humble Beginnings Great Milestones

Beckon

The socio-economic changes sweeping across villages and rural communities once visited by The Goat Foundation have been unprecedented, and according to Dominic, a community leader from Kisii town in Western Kenya, akin to a social revolution.

The donation of a pair of goats to widows and orphans in far-flung areas across the country opened societies to the potential of women, and widows in particular. Communities bore witness to the improved livelihoods and general well-being of widows, who once empowered by the initial investment of two goats, chose to apply the bargaining power that came with it towards wealth generation.   

Paradigm Shift in Perceptions

Perhaps the most cited achievement was the elimination of the inequitable gender power relations. Economically empowered widows acquired a voice and were included in decision-making in discussions that affected the community.

Loan disbursement, land rights, and inheritance rights got advocated for by community activists. By elevating widows from a whispered and shunned demographic to a celebrated group of achievers, The Goat Foundation allowed women and widows to access land ownership and resources. Widows were now able to contest for the property of their departed husbands. 

Changing lives and communities all over the country

Changing lives and communities all over the country

These attainments not only had the universal effect of eliminating extreme poverty, violence, and health risks, but they also advanced the cause of women towards education, training and awareness about their human rights. 

With the increased legal literacy, these widows are now able to confront long-standing exclusionary ideals born out of patriarchal customary and religious norms. 

During a peace and reconciliation process in Kisii County, Western Kenya, neighboring communities sat to negotiate compensation and deterrence against future atrocities. Among the items on the agenda was the payment of restitution to widows whose husbands had been killed during a raid conducted by a neighboring community.

The fact that the welfare of widows was discussed in a traditional ceremony long reserved for male community elders was a game-changing event that resonated throughout the Abagusii community.

Future Plans

The Goat Foundation has not sat on its laurels with a congratulatory grin of satisfaction. In future, they envisage a partnership with donors, Cause champions, Corporates and Businesses in endeavors across the African continent and the world. 

In the meantime, as the winds of change blow across the sunbaked landscapes of rural Kenya, it is hoped that intransigent voices of traditional patriarchy will shift their allegiance from the outdated customary norm of female domination to the caring and just idea of equality for all.

Steve Down, the founder of The Goat Foundation, his Business and Corporate partners, and friends who donate and contribute towards Cause Capitalism look forward to yet another year of fruitful engagement with widows, community leaders and all those who believe in the art of giving.