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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.

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.”

 

 

 

The United Nations observes 23 June as International Widows Day, to draw attention to the voices and experiences of widows and to galvanize the unique support that they need.

FOR OUR FOUNDATION IT IS ALL ABOUT GOATS

Many have been nonprofit organizations and foundations founded in Kenya. Each of these organisations supports one cause or another while aiming to resolve issues afflicting social or economic well-being, progress or development among communities.

A Unique Solution

The Goat Foundation offers a unique solution to address and empower a group of people that in most societies go unnoticed. For The Goat Foundation, it is all about widows. The foundation noticed a gap in the services that catered for the welfare widows. In most cases, widows were ignored and received negligible support from the societies in which they lived in, therefore, The Goat Foundation embarked on a mission to support and empower them. “How?” you might ask. Through providing hope by giving goats.

The Goat Foundation donates a pair of goats to the family of widows. One female and one male with the hope that the goats will procreate and multiply and from two goats, the recipient will get multiple goats that can support her and her family.

While marking this year’s International Widows Day, according to The Goat Foundation’s Chief Project Executive Anne Musau, the foundation projects to give 20 million goats to 10 million widows across the country in the next ten years.

The Goat Foundation’s Chief Project Executive, Anne Musau with beneficiaries of the goat giveback

Did not go Unnoticed

This great act has not gone unnoticed as women in communities that received these donations expressed their gratitude and applauded The Goat Foundation saying the donations had empowered them and made their families economically secure.

Local community leaders and those from the larger political realm have not let the foundation’s goodwill go unnoticed with most praising the efforts geared towards empowering their communities. The leaders agree that the donation of the 2 goats benefits not just the widow but also those around them as the goats procreate giving the widows an opportunity to empower themselves and those around them by sharing the produce from the goats or some even go a step further to donate a kid to another widow like themselves.

Kitui Member of Parliament – Hon. Benson Makali with other leaders and one beneficiary of the goat giveback in Kitui.

One thing the widows, community leaders, and political ones can agree on is that the efforts by The Goat Foundation could not have come at a more opportune moment. The efforts have seen a once forgotten, very important group of people are empowered and can once again smile in the reassurance that their pockets are a little heavier because of a rather unique avenue of empowerment.

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.