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For #InternationalWomansDay this year, we are celebrating the women who are critical to our work at Loisaba. Damaris, Leah, Rita, Doreen and Antonellah tell us about some of the issues women still face in Kenyan communities…

Damaris Jeruto, Operations

 Tell us a little bit about yourself:

“I am from Elgeyo Marakwet County. I have a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and a passion for conservation. I am a woman of substance, a go getter and am proud of the woman I am today because I went through hell to become her.”

Do you feel like women have disadvantages in Kenya?

“Yes. There are family and community obligations – women have no voice especially in the public forum and no authority within their homestead. Their main role is to do the house work and take care of the children. In the case of career women, I believe that whatever a man can do, a woman can do it better, but they are not given key positions in the workplace.”

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

“One of the problems women face is lack of sanitary products. It kills a women’s confidence and lowers their self-esteem every month. Girls also end up not going to school during this time. Lack of products forces women and girls to use other alternatives which are not as hygienic, leaving them susceptible to disease.

 “Another problem is single parenting due to early pregnancies before marriage. I have had to overcome this through working hard to balance motherhood with completing my studies. I love working at Loisaba Conservancy as it has assisted me in so many ways. There is nothing stronger than a broken women who has rebuilt herself.”

What can women achieve if given the chance?

“Women are the real architects of the society and they can build nations and make a huge difference if given the chance.”

What message would you like to send other women?

Let us dream big and stay focused!”

 

Leah Mutiso, Procurement

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Leah Mumbi Mutiso. I was born in the Eastern part of Kenya but later settled in the central region. I started working at Loisaba in 2016 as assistant clerk, and also helped in operations and accounts. I later moved to the procurement department where I currently work as the procurement officer.

How did you start to work at Loisaba?

“I decided to work at Loisaba because I like working in cool areas with no pollution, and I’m passionate about conservation – I love animals.”

Do you feel women have disadvantages in Kenya?

“In Kenya, most men feel that their wives should remain at home and take care of domestic chores. They feel threatened if women want to further their education as they don’t want to feel inferior and looked down upon. In government, most of the top positions are occupied by men and when women come up with ideas, no one supports them.”

What are the problems that women face in your community?

“Women are facing many challenges, such as Female Genital Mutilation which is carried out between 8 and 12 years old and can lead to many health complications. Lack of education is another issue. Most people support educating boys rather than girls, as they believe girls bring wealth through marriage rather than jobs. This also causes a high rate of child labour in girls e.g. fetching firewood and water from long distances and helping their mothers take care of their younger siblings.”

 What message would you like to send other women?

“Education is the key to success, you are capable and you can do whatever a man can do (but better!)!”

 

Rita Orahle, Security & Conservation

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

“My name is Rita Orahle from Maralal, Samburu County. I currently work at Loisaba Conservancy as an Assistant Security Administrator and I am passionate about conservation.”

Do you feel like women have disadvantages in Kenya?

“Today, we have women educated and holding leadership positions that were previously held by men. Women are being empowered and this has brought a change in the view of women in society. However, I feel that women and girls still face challenges such as gender-based violence, harmful cultural practices such as FGM, early marriages and not being fully represented in decision making.”

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

“I come from the Rendille community, and have interacted with the Samburu culture which is similar to the Rendille’s. In my community, women face challenges such as early marriages and FGM, which hinders education. Luckily my parents valued educating their children, and have been very supportive of me. I hope that many parents from my community will embrace the importance of educating their daughters.”

 What can women achieve, if given the chance?

Women can achieve a lot. I believe that if women are empowered, the whole society is transformed as it will not only benefit individuals but the entire community.”

What message would you like to send other women?

“Women are equally important in society, and have the power to change the world!”

 

Antonellah Kaparo, Security Control Room

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

“My name is Antonellah Namunyak Kaparo from Kimanjo village in Laikipia North. I am a Maasai lady. I completed my O Level education at St Francis’ Girl’s Secondary school and now work at Loisaba Conservancy in the security command centre.

Do you feel women have disadvantages in Kenya?

“Yes, they are not given equal opportunities in the society.”

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

“Many are not educated, so it is hard for them to have a job to support their families. The community is still very much pastoral, and the women are expected to look after the livestock which makes their lives harder since they are also expected to perform household duties, and take care of the family. I personally overcame this challenge by working hard to get an education and a job, in order to provide for my family and employ a herder for the livestock.”

What can women achieve if given the chance?

“Women can do great things, due to their patient spirit.”

What message would you like to send other women?

“Take courage to understand yourselves – you are important. Stand firm to support yourselves and others who have been left behind.”

 

Doreen Lekalasimi, Security

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

“My name is Doreen and I am from Oldonyiro in Isiolo county. My parents were incredibly supportive of my education and ensured I went to school. I have always been pushed to work hard for a better tomorrow. I now work at Loisaba’s security command centre. 

Do you feel like women have disadvantages in Kenya?

“Yes. In most cases, they are not given equal chances in the society and that makes them appear and feel inferior to men.”

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

“Gender bias, lack of education for girls, early pregnancies and forceful marriages are all issues in the community. I myself overcame some of these issues by striving to work hard in education to achieve economic independence.”

What can women achieve if given the chance?

“A lot. More women are becoming literate and pursuing higher education which is creating an opportunity for them to work and support their families.”

What message would you like to send other women?

The world has changed. You can be anyone you want to be and do great things!”

 

Read about more members of our team in last year’s blog post here.

 

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!”