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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.

INJUSTICE: WHY WIDOWS ACROSS AFRICA FACE OMISSION ON LAND RIGHTS.

A widow beneficiary of The Goat Foundation receiving a pair of goats

A widow beneficiary of The Goat Foundation receives a pair of goats.

In traditional African society, sons get to inherit property from their caregivers. Daughters on the other hand suffer the sin of omission as it is believed they will be catered for by their husbands when they are ready for marriage. This reflects the general belief around land ownership across Africa. Land rights tend to be held by men. For women of all ages to access land, they have to have a male relative; either a husband or father.

For many widows, the narrative changes as soon as they lose their husbands. A study conducted by UN Women found that in Zambia, more than one-third of widows lost access to family land when their husbands died. This is a representation of what happens across the continent. Given the cultural beliefs that surround property inheritance, widows are left destitute with no one to turn to.

Often, the families of the deceased are the perpetrators. They may want another male in the family to take over land and property. In other regions, widows are forced into ‘inheritance’ to protect the family assets. This means that the brother or any able male related to the deceased marries the widow and takes over property rights.

What factors contribute to this?

1. Low literacy levels:

Tertiary education uptake across Africa has been slow over recent years. For women especially, incentives like lowering university entry marks have been able to see many take up education. But across rural regions, girls drop out early due to poverty.

This makes them vulnerable to early marriages. Having no self-sufficiency skills, their roles are limited to child-bearing and tending to domestic work that is unpaid. Over the period, their most productive years are lost, and at the entry of the job market – only minimal jobs are available.

2. Knowledge of land inheritance and property rights is unknown.

Although most African countries are trying to embrace progressive laws on property rights, the implementation is slow.

Most women across rural regions would quickly go to local administrations to solve land disputes. Settlement is expensive and takes a lot of time. According to one of our beneficiaries, they do not believe in justice systems as men intimidate them into bribing their way to victory over land disputes.

Given that most widows living in extreme poverty now have wills, they have no rights to claim over the land.

3. Patriarchy and Cultural beliefs.

The role of women across rural Africa was previously limited to caregiving and nurturing. Although times have changed, patriarchy remains a cultural force that bars women from rightful land inheritance.

How should widows be protected against harmful rights?

Widow’s voices have to be united by a movement that impacts their lives. From a local standpoint to a magnified international level, it is upon us to ensure that we humanize widow’s rights by;

1.) Coming up with favorable policies that support widows access to land rights.

In Kenya for example, forcibly evicting a widow from her matrimonial home and land is considered illegal. More countries need to ensure widow rights are upheld and justice is easy to come by.

2) Create more awareness on laws that protect widows.

The Kenyan constitution calls for parties in a marriage to have equal rights during and even after a marriage ends.

  • The Marriage Act: This act calls for registering all marriages. It immediately grants women a legal basis for land ownership claims.
  • The Matrimonial Property Act: This protects women’s rights to property acquired during marriage.
  • The Land Act: This provides spouses protection from having their home or land leased or sold without their knowledge.
  • The Law of succession: This law gives both male and female children the same inheritance rights.

3) Educate against discriminatory social and traditional practices and beliefs.

More young girls should be empowered to attain education and gain self-sufficiency skills. This liberates them from depending on male relatives on land rights.

Further, men should be educated against the notion that sons are to be bestowed land rights and daughters  should negotiate use of land through male relatives.

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.

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.

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.