HOW ADULT EDUCATION IS EMPOWERING WIDOWS IN RURAL KENYA IN THEIR EFFORT TO OVERCOME MARGINALIZATION
The Goat Foundation has taken note of how the Kenya Adult Learners’ Association (KALA) plays an important role in promoting micro-enterprises and advancement in the informal business sector as a way of alleviating widows’ unemployment and high rural poverty in Kenya. We are cognizant of the fact that helping widows in the pursuit of socio-economic emancipation is a multi-pronged approach that requires the input of many stakeholders.
The World Bank states that strong job growth is only possible with the legitimization of the informal business sector, which can increase household productivity. Accordingly, the Economic Empowerment Programme implemented by KALA tackles the vulnerability of farmers to climatic conditions – a serious challenge to development in rural Kenya – by equipping widows with skills which allow them to engage in other income-generating activities besides farming.
By focusing on widows in rural areas as a target group, KALA’s literacy programme addresses some of the country’s major problems: educational shortcomings, poverty, unemployment and social marginalization.
The Economic Empowerment and Functional Adult Literacy Programme has been implemented by the Kenya Adult Learners’ Association (KALA) in various rural areas of Kenya. The programme aims to provide hands-on training to economically empower widows by equipping them with basic literacy and functional skills. Economic empowerment refers to entrepreneurship and management training, which enables the target group to pursue income-generating activities. Such activities lead to important supplementary income, thereby reducing the dependency of households on income from weather-dependent activities such as farming.
Aims and Objectives:
- Improve the lives of widows through functional literacy by increasing the enrolment of learners in literacy classes;
- Facilitate entrepreneurship and management training for widows and facilitators;
- Improve networking and sharing of experiences among groups/members through peer learning exchange programmes;
- Initiate a capital savings grant to widow groups;
- Provide learning and teaching materials for the literacy classes; and
- Monitor and supervise small businesses and literacy classes.
The first area is the empowerment of widows’ groups through the application of economic and literacy skills (functional adult literacy).
The second aspect is based on developing economic literacy skills where adult learners acquire reading, writing and arithmetic skills, while KALA integrates supplementary entrepreneurship and management training outside the traditional reading and writing context.
The third component of the KALA literacy programme is a supplementary kitchen-garden programme, which is meant to improve widows’ knowledge of agricultural production and food provision. In addition to contributing to widow’s empowerment, the kitchen-garden programme has domestic importance, as women are the main providers of food at the household level. Due to unpredictable weather patterns, subsistence farming cannot always guarantee a sufficient food supply, or indeed a surplus income. Issues of poverty and hunger in rural areas are therefore alleviated through the kitchen-garden project.
The fourth aspect focuses on health. In order to improve health conditions in rural areas, the KALA literacy programme includes primary health education, as well as information on HIV and AIDS control, prevention and care. Widows also learn about the care of orphans and vulnerable children, enabling them to provide children with basic health care services.
The empowerment of widows through literacy has meant that they have become more actively engaged in decision-making at the household level, and widows can pursue and advocate their own interests. One impact of the programme has been the alleviation of women’s marginalization within society, as improved literacy has given widows’ a greater level of social, economic and political status.