Women around the world, and especially rural women, still face a lot of discrimination in employment. Because of legal and social barriers, it is much more difficult to find a job for a woman than it is for men. Many researchers have pointed out the benefits of women employment, on the whole society. That is why we, at Solid, believe that economic empowerment is key to improving the wellbeing and livelihoods of women worldwide. When a woman has a steady income, she is able to support herself and her family, to make decisions on her own and to help others along the way.
We would like to introduce you to Lilian, a woman who is working in one of the Hadithi workshops in Kenya. She has never had formal employment, but she has always dreamed of having her own business. She was skilled as a tailor but lacked the finances to start a tailoring shop. Her husband lost his job some years ago and together with their three children, the family was depending on agriculture, planting corn and beans. But with global warming and irregular rain fall, farming has become very unreliable at the Kenyan coast.
When Lilian joined the Kiteghe women’s group affiliated with Hadithi crafts in 2006, Lilian realized her skills could be applied in basket weaving. Her life and that of her family changed for the better. She became the main wage earner of the household supplementing her income through basket weaving with agriculture. She is proud of the camaraderie they have in the women’s group as they offer each other support and as they help each other out with group saving and loans. All the women share the same aspirations for themselves and their families.
Lillian’s typical day starts with preparing her kids for school, the oldest being 14 years old. Then she makes baskets till her kids come home from school and even while they do their homework she keeps to her baskets. When she is on her way to the farm, she makes small baskets which are easier to carry on the way. Lilian is proud that her kids can go to school and that their future is bright because she is giving them education, something she couldn’t, due to her family’s situation.
Although the pandemic has reduced the sale of baskets, Lilian is hopeful that this year Hadithi will buy more baskets and have regular market days as they used to have pre-covid.
Lilian’s message for this year’s International women’s day, is for ladies to share their stories about the power of employment, to take care of their communities and to cheer for other women, as they are the backbone of society and if they thrive, so does everyone else.