As in many other countries, the rural environment in Kenya can be particularly challenging for women. Traditionally it is the men who control land access while women are used as a labour force. Despite deeply rooted structural challenges – P4P has contributed to a meaningful improvement for women farmers. An inspirational example of this is the story of Elijah Lelei who gave land to his wife Magdelene.
In the Kalenjin community in Rift Valley, women are usually entrusted with childcare and household chores, but this trust is rarely extended to other activities. Women have few assets of their own as they lack right of ownership. It is the men that manage household assets and all the finances; bank accounts and title deeds are in their names. Land rights are attributed to men.
Until recently, Elijah Lelei was no exception to this traditional allotment as he controlled farming activities on the land. He also managed the generated incomes, despite his wife Magdalene’s contribution on the farm.
Visible results of P4P’s gender awareness training
As members of the P4P-supported Kaptebee Schangwan farmers’ organisation, the couple participated in various trainings. Following a session on gender sensitization in 2011, a remarkable shift in Elijah’s perception changed his relationship with his wife, whom he started to see as an economic partner rather than free labour. Elijah decided to give Magdalene full land rights to manage approximately one and a half acres. With support and training from P4P and its partners, Magdalene quickly increased the profits from the land.
After witnessing the positive outcomes in financial terms, Elijah gave Magdalene an additional half acre in 2013, allowing her to harvest over 70 (90kg) bags of maize, more than the household ever produced before. The market opportunity offered by P4P boosted Magdalene’s confidence and ambition which led her to lease an extra two-and-a-half acres, where she intercropped maize and beans.
With the income generated from Magdelene’s agribusiness, the couple is currently constructing a permanent family home. Elijah is supporting his wife by purchasing materials for the roof. With next year’s expected proceeds, Magdalene intends to invest in her children’s education by paying for a boarding school.
In Keiyo, more than 100 km from Elijah and Magdalene’s village, their story is being used to inspire other men to invest in women's empowerment.
“Even though we have noticed some progress, we still face a lot of resistance from the men during our gender awareness trainings. There are many positive examples. Sometimes I show pictures and use the story of Elijah and Magdalene as a concrete example of how gender equality directly can change and improve the lives of entire families” says Lorna Likanga, P4P gender focal point in Kenya.
Women's empowerment benefits families
Magdalene’s use of the farm proceeds allowed her entire family to benefit from the success. It also convinced Elijah that sharing the family resources with his wife was a winning concept.
“In its gender efforts, P4P has often found that men perceive women’s empowerment as being synonymous with men’s disempowerment. This is a grave misunderstanding. When women are given power to develop initiatives around resources, the entire household enjoys the benefits,” says Batamaka Some, P4P gender consultant. He added: "This is why we are trying to show men why giving women land access is a smart economic investment".
P4P’s new tool focusing on family budgets
Notwithstanding P4P and its partners’ work in helping women benefit from their own agricultural labour, improved circumstances is no guarantee as many structural challenges remain.
P4P has identified inclusive household budget management as an important entry point for women's social and economic empowerment in rural contexts. Together with its partners, P4P is planning to introduce a new household negotiation tool. This tool is meant to guide and encourage an inclusive approach to budget management. Such an approach has proven key to harmonious household relationships, enabling women to control part of the family budget.