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Joyce Tabitha for The Goat Foundation

Thriving widows: How Kitui widows intend to put cause capitalism into action. 

 

Joyce Tabitha for The Goat Foundation

Joyce Tabitha narrates her journey through widowhood.

” The rains in Kitui have become short and unpredictable. Look at how crops are wilting on farms and how the earth is cracking. It is dry and to us farmers, this period has been chaotic. “says a distraught Joyce.

Like the 100 beneficiaries who received seed capital of 2 goats, Joyce is happy to have her pair. The region she hails from is categorized as part of the larger Arid and Semi-Arid areas in Kenya. Owing to climate change, the nature of Joyce’s business demands her to close shop.

” I am a farmer dependent on rainfall. If there is no rainfall, I cannot eat. I am also a widow with 5 children to feed. In our small table banking group, we converge with many other widowed women and 1 man to pool resources for economic productivity. The past few months have been hard, we have tried chicken farming and learned how to produce chicken feed from our gardens but still, the high cost of production does not allow us to fully delve into it. We started this group a few years ago when we realized the pain points of single-headed households.” Says a confident Joyce.

“Most widows are chased away from their matrimonial homes after they bury their husbands. They bear the burden of sole provision while they have no jobs. In our group, for example, some women dropped out of school. They do not have secondary school certificates leave alone credentials that will give them jobs. So, they opt to remarry and a few lucky ones start businesses.

Joyce gazes far into the horizon, lost in thoughts as if she was trying to picture the sudden curve her life had taken after her husband’s demise. Her face lightens up with new energy and she bursts out;

“This self-help group has uplifted many women around this area. Now that we have all received a pair of goats from The Goat Foundation, we are going to pool resources after our goats reproduce and start a proper lending system in this area. We are targeting widowed households. After selling the goats we should be able to raise capital for a start. This money will go into lending widows’ capital to start their businesses. We will teach them how to be entrepreneurial and in the spirit of cause capitalism ensure that we buy from their businesses too.”

Cause capitalism as a wave of change in business operations across Kitui.

The Loomba Foundation attributes widow poverty to an immediate loss of income that tips widows and their children into poverty, as well as deepening the poverty of families already on low incomes. To mitigate this, widows have been identified as a vulnerable group in need of empowerment.

Joyce Tabitha says her group’s vision was brought after The Goat Foundation’s CEO spoke about cause capitalism. He taught them a viable model for business operations that is symbiotic and guarantees long-term success.

The self-help group has pledged to empower and educate other widows on the benefits of self-reliance.

“As goats reproduce two times in a year, we will take the second set of kids and nurture them then sell. The first will be given to other widows as a continuing practice of cause capitalism. From selling, I assure you now widows in Kitui in the next 5 years will go to bed hungry or cry about school fees.

I have never witnessed such a project and I want to thank Steve Down and The Goat Foundation for thinking about widows. From Kitui, we say Asante sana.”

 

 

 

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.