FROM THE LENS OF A WIDOW’S SON- STEVEN MATHEKA.

A widow and her son.

” My mother is 94 years old. She cannot walk much so I have come here to represent her and thank The Goat Foundation for their donation.” Says a bubbly Steven Matheka.

When Kalama was identified as our 5th giveback area, we were excited to meet the widows. In the area, the red soil would occasionally mix with the wind and blow towards the hilly slopes of the region. A closer look at the vegetation indicated how climate change had negatively impacted the area. Farmers had resorted to planting drought-tolerant crops like sorghum, pigeon peas, and millet. Previously, maize and bean plantations could be seen from afar. But farmers had learned to adapt to the harsh weather patterns.

” We are a family of 7. Our father died in 2000 and left my mother the responsibility to care for us. 4 are girls, married now with children and 3 are boys. I stayed home because I could not find a job. Everything has become so hard and my mother requires a lot of attention. She developed high blood pressure and her hearing isn’t as good. Now, I do everything around the household. This requires money; buying her medicine, ensuring her nutrition is on track, and looking after the pair of goats you gave us.”

The direct beneficiaries of widows are their orphaned children. Like Steven, many youths across developing countries are struggling with finding means of survival. The high unemployment rates have made it hard for them to find active sources of income. Uplifting widowed households ensure their beneficiaries too are assured of sustainable sources of income.

What next for this family?

“The goats have not reproduced yet. It has been very dry and their feeds have been hard to come by. But we are hopeful that the next mating season will present kids. They have given life to our small compound. When we hear them bleat, it gives us the energy to own the day. For a long time I had wished to buy cattle for my mother, I wanted to start a business for her so I could be like other children who support their families. But The Goat Foundation heard my prayer and came in just before my mother was bedridden.

I believe I will have built my small house next year from the goats you gave me.

Down the memory lane: Our giveback in Bondo — Growth, learning, and a new perspective on life.

The Founder Goat Foundation, Steve Down, his wife; Coleen Down- while visiting Bondo

The first time we decided to travel 300 kilometers away from Nairobi, Kenya’s Capital we did not know what to expect. We were a small team of 6 people trying to preach about Cause Capitalism to strangers who thought “Who are these people again?” Small beginnings can be very discouraging, especially for start-ups, but we stood our ground on changing the world with what we now believe is a revolutionary way of business operations.

Bondo is a small fishing town that lies in the Western part of Kenya. A small center with vibrant and welcoming people. We arrived late in the evening to witness the economic activities that take place around the markets in the areas. Women were selling fresh produce across the roads while men used motorcycles to ferry passengers across. It is easy to notice fish is a major delicacy in the area as most open markets had it in plenty.

From afar, Bondo looks like a township without hurdles but poverty in the area is evident when civility ends in the town center. Deep in the rural areas, grass thatched huts stand far from each other. Almost every household we visited had a graveyard. Families with very young children and elderly caretakers who were left behind. HIV/AIDS in the region remains a menace that has left many widows and orphans at the mercy of the government.

Gender Imbalance

Widow groups in the region are common. At the shores of Lake Victoria, we met a group of women preparing a boat to set out to fish. It is uncommon for women to take part in such labor-intensive activities but the women around Bondo have been left with no option as they are the sole breadwinners.

“We started a widow support group to prevent more deaths,” said Akinyi, one of the widows in the group.

She added, “ Here if you do not have a husband, you cannot own land. So most widows are forced to remarry. A woman whose husband died has no voice. We have lost so many widows to wife inheritance. They get married as second to fourth wives, then move in with children from their previous marriages to their new homes. Only to die from HIV/AIDS. Some are forced to give their bodies to some of these fishermen to get fish to sell in the markets.”

True to this, The United Nations Human Settlement Programme report indicates thatThere is a pervasive sense of women’s powerlessness in the face of profound gender discrimination. For example, women who are barely able to act in their own interests to prevent threats to their land rights. Even very elementary measures, such as consulting local authorities or educating themselves as to how the land office works, seem beyond their capacity. Widows appear isolated and dependent on information from men whom they do not even trust. Due to their place in society as well as lack of social capital, generally, women are unable to address land problems. Many widows whose brothers-in-law, don’t maybe give them enough land especially those with HIV. It is possible that a woman may refuse not to be inherited then the brothers-in-law decide to take the piece of land.’

The Goat Foundation found out that widows in Bondo are among the most discriminated against in Kenya. They are powerless when it comes to land inheritance and property ownership. With very low literacy levels, they can only start out ventures that feed their families on a daily basis. This inhibits wealth creation in the region as income goes directly to catering to basic needs.

So what next?

On July 19th, 2022, we made follow-up calls to some of our widow beneficiaries in the region. We are happy to announce that our giving hope by giving goats initiative has enabled 25 low-income widowed households in the area.

When we started out, we thought about the immediate needs and pleas of the widows. But we came to the conclusion that a long-term sustainability model that addresses wealth creation was the only way to narrow the inequality gap.

Most widows have happily responded that their pair of goats have reproduced and they are actively looking for markets to sell them.

“I have 6 children. When you last visited, I did not know how I was going to put 3 of my children through high school. I am so happy because my goats reproduced after 5 months and I have been able to sell them and raise school fees for them. It has not been easy but it has been possible.” Says an elated Ruth Oginga.

Learning Curve

After Bondo, we have been able to give 500 more goats to households across Kenya. Watching Cause Capitalism impacts households has been fulfilling. Believing that such a small token can go a long way in giving hope to families that had been despaired by demise has been the fuel to our ambition to grow The Goat Foundation.

Our journey to empowering 10,000,000 more households across East Africa continues.

Widow Poverty

KENYA: HUNGER CRISIS ACROSS WIDOWED HOUSEHOLDS AS PRICES OF FOOD COMMODITIES GO UP. 

Widow Poverty

Widowed households across Kenya have asked the government and supporting organizations to cushion them from an impending hunger crisis. This is after the price of essential commodities skyrocketed. The government recently reduced the prices of maize flour by 2 shillings which is still insignificant.

17% of Kenya’s population lives below a dollar a day. Widows living in low-income households make up part of these statistics. To afford maize flour, a staple meal in Kenyan households, these populations have to earn twice as much. The World Bank warns that the high food prices have triggered a crisis that will drive millions into extreme poverty, magnifying hunger and malnutrition while threatening to erase hard-won gains in development.

An unending cycle of poverty.

Given this, rising food prices have a greater negative impact on low- and middle-income households as they spend a majority of their earnings buying food.

“Everything is so expensive. I have 5 children who I have to take care of alone. My husband died and left me with nothing so I have to work very hard. But all of my earnings go to buying food and paying school fees.” narrates Joyce Tabitha, a widow beneficiary of The Goat Foundation.

Like Joyce, many other widows are experiencing the impact of inflation. Left alone to cater to households with some having no sources of income; they can barely afford food.

When the gross income of a population goes to expenses rather than investments, debt arises. If not, the quality of life will not be improved as all earnings are spent. This creates a wealth gap as the poor continue earning to meet their basic needs.

The Goat Foundation support

In the face of this crisis, The Goat Foundation in partnership with Financially Fit has deployed short-term and long-term responses to address food insecurity. This is by strengthening the capacities of widows across rural communities to efficiently cater to themselves.

So far, we have;

  1. ) Donated 500 goats to 250 widowed households living in extreme poverty across Kenya.

     2.) Partnered with Financially Fit to educate our beneficiaries on social enterprises they can grow from our goat donations.

Equally, we are working to partner with agricultural-based organizations to help us in educating widowed farming communities on best practices to increase their total farm outputs.

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.

 HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

During the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya, hundreds of lives were lost and thousands got displaced from their homes. The disputed elections were contested by leaders from the two of the largest communities in the country. 

Displaced by Conflict

As tension rose around the country and violence grew at an alarming rate, Joyce was advised by concerned friends to move back to her rural home in Murang’a, Kiambu County, from where it was assumed her security was guaranteed. 

Leaving her two children behind was one of the hardest decisions she ever made. She figured they were safer staying in one place, rather than traveling around in those unpredictable times.

While in Murang’a, her husband sadly passed on in a complicated story that requires a book to detail.

Donating a pair of goats to widows

Donating a pair of goats to widows

Joyce recalls how she was verbally attacked and kicked out of her husband’s funeral by her in-laws who thought she had visited their home to claim his property. In truth, she had braved danger and uncertainty to travel across the country to collect her children.

“What are you doing here? Why did you come? don’t you know your people killed my brother!!??” he fired off in a staccato of ruthless ire that made Joyce recoil from his presence in sheer horror.  

“You think we don’t know your agenda?” she had been told, “you will get nothing from my dead brother. His property belongs to us, his children are ours, leave before you follow him to the grave.” 

Scared out of her wits, her instinct of self-preservation had made her flee that home and city never to return.

In Machakos County, sad and confused, she settled at a nearby market center known as IIyuni where she worked as a cleaner at a local school and tended to a small farm around the house that she rented. 

Through her church, Joyce learnt about The Goat Foundation. Her pastor had presented her name for consideration as a likely recipient of a pair of goats.

Excited and intrigued Joyce attended the ceremony and was touched by the speeches exhorting generosity.

“Why should I act generously yet I am just a poor widow, shouldn’t I save all my money?” she wondered.

However, after deciding to adhere to the simple instructions of giving as spoken by donors at the meeting, she began offering herself to assist in church, buy meals for guests and even clothe a destitute child. She also donated the kids to her goats after they gave birth. 

New Beginnings

What followed was a series of miracles that bring tears to her eyes whenever she remembers. 

In a chance encounter with a family lawyer during a revival meeting, Joyce was advised of her rights concerning the custody of her children was concerned. Fellow church members got wind of her plight and got together to fundraise and hire a lawyer for her. 

Meanwhile, as her goats grew in number, she decided to try her hand at the restaurant business.

It is now three weeks since the custody hearing concerning her children began. Joyce believes good tidings await her. 

At the moment, she has to prepare for a meeting with an investor who wants to expand her hotel to a storied structure offering 3-star services. 

“So this is what giving is all about?…you give to receive!” she muses smiling.

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 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. 

 

For Sidi John in Kilifi County, Kenya, a future of hope for her children’s education was rekindled.

Hope is restored when we enable the vulnerable to stand and be the change they want to see. For Sidi John in Kilifi County, Kenya, a future of hope for her children’s education was rekindled in our 5th Goat Foundation giveback.

For Kanze Charo, all it takes is an opportunity to have a means of sustainable income to change her life and that of the ones she cares about.

Many vulnerable households struggle to meet basic needs. For widows with dependents, this poses a challenge. But when companies partner with nonprofits for a cause, this challenge can be met and lives can be transformed. Our women have the potential to strengthen our communities. For Kanze Charo, all it takes is an opportunity to have a means of sustainable income to change her life and that of the ones she cares about. The social and economic inclusion of marginalized groups such as widows can be achieved. This restores hope in their lives and the community and builds the foundation for community and national development. The Goat Foundation is committed to initiatives that make a socio-economic impact and give hope by providing a means of sustainable income.

Hope at last as Joyce rebuilds courtesy of Cause Capitalism

Our 6th Goat event in Kitui brought Joyce Kimanzi as one of our beneficiaries. As we interacted with the beneficiaries, I noticed one woman who sat in solitude. She was struggling to balance tears as she smiled while holding her pair of goats. Joyce’s story is a representation of the unspoken realities widows across Africa face.

“When my husband died in 2019, a dark cloud hovered around me for days. I felt like my whole world had crumbled. He died in our matrimonial bed and that was the last time I set my eyes on him. I never had the opportunity to bury him because his family came the morning after his death and sent me and my children packing.”

Still visibly heartbroken by the chain of events 4 years ago, Joyce takes us through her journey of re-building and finding meaning in life again.

“ My in-laws took everything away. We had acquired 2 pieces of land in Mombasa and Kitui. Everything was taken including the house we lived in. My children were asked to leave with me too, without a clue of where we should go. I was a housewife for the 10 years that we were married, my husband paid for our children’s school fees and ensured we never lacked. Still, we lived as farmers and made the most of what we had.

When you say you are a housewife, people never really understand the value you contribute to any household. Automatically, everyone thinks your work is waking up, cooking for your family then going back to sleep. I contributed to my husband’s growth by helping him on the farm. We would wake up early and dig huge tracts of land to have enough for harvest. But no one recognizes this, my inlaws accused me of killing my husband to retain his wealth. And you wonder, how is it possible that you are accused of ending the life of someone you loved deeply?

After leaving, I moved back to my parent’s house. Imagine the shame of going back to your parent’s house at 44 years? I became a laughing stock. I cried myself to sleep for almost 6 months. I grieved for my husband and former life every day. Life was meaningless. I remember entertaining suicidal thoughts and wishing that I died. But every time I looked at my lastborn child, I was reassured that things would get easier eventually.

My father gave me the capital to start a small business. I started selling tomatoes and onions by the roadside. Slowly by slowly I started finding the meaning in life again. Then a joined a widows group and realized that my story is better than other widowed women who still haven’t come to terms with everything.

When The Goat Foundation identified me as a beneficiary, I was elated. I am building from scratch but I have the means to this time. It has been a journey and this gift is an indication that better is coming. I have been taught about cause capitalism, the first kid I get from my goats will go to a widow like me who is trying to rebuild.

Thank you Steve Down and The Goat Foundation. ”