By Hannah Campbell

For a long time, conservation had been a male dominated field. But things are changing. At Loisaba, we have been and continue to be intentional in ensuring female representation across all of our programmes. From security to community outreach, the ladies at Loisaba are shaping a better future for wildlife and people.

For International Woman’s Day this year, we are looking at looking at some of the stories of the women who are critical to our work…

Doreen Ongeri, Accountant

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

“I’m a strong lady and have come a long way. I have two daughters who are in school and I am proud that I pay their school fees single handily. I have made sure that they work hard and value money but will not limit them – they should be able to do whatever they want to do! I love working at Loisaba as it has enabled me to further my education, and has meant that I am working in a field that I trained in.”

Do you feel like women have disadvantages in Kenya?

“Today there are many women in high positions, and more girls are going to school. However, you still hear of issues of men wanting to take advantage of women in the workplace and many communities that still favour boys going to school over girls. The responsibility of taking care of children is also often left with the mother, so she has to now balance education and work with looking after a family.”

What are the problems that women face?

“Many families think that girls should not go to school, and therefore invest more in their son’s education. There are also expectations that there are certain jobs for men and for women such as housekeeping, teaching, nursing and secretary work, which often limits women. There are also some issues with young ladies getting pregnant too young and being expected to get married and look after the children, rather than furthering their education. I think there needs to be more investment in sexual education for children at school.”

What can women achieve if given the chance?

“A lot! Anything a man can do, so can a woman!”

What message would you like to send other women?

You should never be intimidated by anyone. The world has changed from thinking women should be housewives, make the most of it and do great things. You can be anyone you want to be, and soar heights!”

Milly Kwatoya, Loisaba Community Trust (Scholarships + Community Support)

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Milly and I am from Western Kenya. I currently work with Lori DeNooyer helping with the Loisaba Community Trust community outreach programme.”

How did you start to work at Loisaba?

“I started work at Loisaba in 2006 working in the shop. I worked there for six years before starting to help in the office with operations, accounts and reservations. While working in the office, I started working at Lorok Ltd. with Lori DeNooyer – helping with scholarships for children in the local area along with other community projects.”

How Important Is Education for girls?

“Education is the background of everything. Ever since I started at Loisaba, I have always been interested in meeting the girls in the communities and encouraging them to be excited about education so they have a better chance of getting a job. It’s very different to Western Kenya where education for girls is more common. It is very fulfilling to see the girls that have been through the Loisaba Community Trust scholarship program prosper!”

What are the problems that women face in communities around Loisaba?

“Women are often expected to stay in the households and therefore parents don’t see the need to send daughters to school, meaning they do not get the same opportunities as their brothers would. FGM is also still practised here – after the ceremony they are expected to get married and have children rather than stay in school.”

How is Loisaba Community Trust helping girls and women in the community?

“I am proud to say that more girls are attending secondary school with the help of our scholarships. We also run an anti-FGM programme where young girls and parents go through training to demonstrate the dangers of the practise, and offer an alternate rite of passage. We are also planning to organise a walk to raise awareness of the dangers of FGM and encourage more members of the community to attend our workshop and ceremony. We support women in the communities too with a beadwork programme, which helps to empower them by giving them a source of income. During my work in the communities, I have seen parents attitudes change towards both sending girls to school and to perceptions of FGM – which is huge job satisfaction!”

 What message would you like to send other women?

“Keep doing what you are doing, as long as you’re happy!” 

Noryn Nabira, HR and Accounts

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

“My name is Nabira and I am a Christian Luhya from Western Kenya. I studied Economics and History at university as I am good at maths and feel economics opens up many opportunities. I am now pursuing a post-graduate diploma in HR management.”

How did you start to work at Loisaba Conservancy?

“I started work at Loisaba in February 2018. I wanted to work here as I am passionate about conservation, and agree with the mission to protect and enhance critical wildlife diversity, abundance and habitat in the Loisaba landscape while supporting neighbouring communities.”

What are the problems that women face in communities? Have you had to overcome any of these?

“Many women are not educated, and therefore it is hard for them to have an income to sustain themselves. It has meant that women are much more depended on men. There are also many practises such as FGM whereby young girls are taken out of school to marry young which is a challenge. Where I am from in Western Kenya there are fewer issues and girls are encouraged to go to school. In the communities around Loisaba however, the community is still very much pastoral and the girls are expected to look after the households. The work Loisaba does in the communities with Anti-FGM and scholarships is extremely important for women!”

What message would you like to send other women?

“Women should embrace education. Perceptions are changing, people are moving and you need to make sure you don’t get left behind!”

Linet Akinyi Mukoma, Security Control Room

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

“My name is Linet and I come from Busia County in Western Kenya. I like traveling, especially to the beach. I love Diani – it is a good place to visit when you feel stressed as the atmosphere is so relaxing! I also have a son who is turning 8 in May. I would like my son to grow up knowing that women are not weak vessels. A woman is capable and strong, and he should not look down upon women.”

What is your role at Loisaba Conservancy?

“I am a radio operator – my work is to gather information from all over the conservancy concerning wildlife and security threats. I enjoy my work because it connects me to different people and I learn more about the wildlife. I am passionate about wildlife conservation, especially the work in partnership with Lion Landscapes in order to reduce retaliation killing of lions.”

What are the problems that women face in your community?

“Women in some communities are seen to be inferior to men – they don’t have speech. They are considered as weak vessels and their place is the kitchen. Women are not seen as independent.”

What can women achieve if given the chance?

“Women can achieve a lot! They can be leaders, they are capable of doing everything in careers, in education, even work in security like me which is usually considered a man’s job.”

What message would you like to send other women?

“I would like to tell other women to not look down on themselves. They should believe they can do anything and be independent!”

Susan Lentaam, Assistant Conservation Officer

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

“My name is Susan, I’m from Wamba (Samburu East) – a very remote area. I went to school in Isiolo which was 150km from my home. There were no roads so it used to take me 3 days to walk to school, starting at 9 years old. My father was very supportive of my education and ensured I went to school, even though it was sad my parents could not attend any of the parents days and end of term events due to the distance and the fact he could not leave his cattle.”

What is your role at Loisaba Conservancy?

“I work as the assistant conservation officer, focusing on SMART (our monitoring and reporting tool that our security rangers use) and Lion Monitoring in partnership with Lion Landscapes. The most interesting thing about my job has been learning about lion behaviour and how to identify individuals. This is done by taking photos of the whisker spots on each side of the face, as each lion has a unique pattern. Ear notches are also recorded as well as any other distinguishing features to help with the ID.”

What are the problems that women face in your community? Have you had to overcome any of these?

“There is often poor attendance of girls in schools due to early marriages and harmful cultural practises like FGM. There is also discrimination especially in jobs. People think that there are jobs that women are not supposed to do as they are thought of as weak. Sometimes people think women are not good at fieldwork, such as monitoring of lions, as it is tiring work. I want to prove those people that they are wrong and women can do many jobs! Luckily my father was very supportive, so the main problem I had was the distance from school. However, my uncles did not approve of my father’s decision to send me to school and said I should get married instead. My father said “you have to be strong and brave like a lion!” and I am very grateful to him.

What can women achieve if given the chance?

“Women can do a lot of things, even in leadership roles. If a women is given a chance to lead an organisation or community they can achieve a lot as they have the best interests of the people at heart.”

What message would you like to send other women?

Support others, and be brave like a lion!”

Kaltuma Dabaso, Clinical Health Officer

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

“My name is Kaltuma and I am from Isiolo county. I come from a humble background and have always been pushed to work for the better.”

How did you become involved with the clinic at Loisaba Conservancy?

“I have always loved to help people in need, and was excited by the chance to help the communities around Loisaba when the position became vacant. Loisaba has given me the opportunity to help people through outreaches and other projects. This brings a special joy being able to interact and improve peoples lives. Working at Loisaba has also helped me grow through trainings, using different ways to teach important messages to communities.”

How important is promoting women in society using the clinic?

“By helping with the community dispensary, community trainings and holding mobile outreach clinics, we have managed to positively impact women in need and bring changes such as stopping FGM, educating women and encouraging them to attend antenatal and postnatal clinics, providing family planning and improving women’s general health.”

What challenges have you witnessed for women in the communities around Loisaba?

“Early marriage and lack of women empowerment with men making most decisions regarding family planning and FGM. Health facilities are also often too far for them to access for services such as antenatal clinic and other medical services. Women also partake in strenuous activities such as carrying water, firewood and building manyattas during pregnancy which can be very risky to both mother and baby.”

What message would you like to send other women?

“They have power and strength to bring change in society. We have important roles in the family and communities!”

1 reply
  1. Mercy wagaya
    Mercy wagaya says:

    I personally appreciate what you are doing in Loisaba very much. I am very proud of you and the change you have brought about around the world by encouraging and supporting girls education. Keep up the good work. It is beneficial to everyone around the world.

    Reply

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