Using Value Addition and Cottage Industry Development (VACID) to achieve Gender Equity
In order to ensure gender equity, opportunities for employment for both women and men in rural areas, where gender disparity is most visible, has to be addressed. Approaches that have in the past been used to address gender disparity have sought to help women start enterprises or income generating activities that are women friendly, thereby creating a life for them outside their men, who are said to disempower them. The practice therefore has been that most development institutions have provided finance or other developmental resources to create a life for women remote from their men who only exploit them in more ways than one. Such money has been channeled to the women through microfinance institutions or such financial channels as may be considered suitable to hide as much wealth as possible from the men.
Unfortunately, where resources are involved, there is a cultural leaning which complicates the outcomes of such development thinking. Indeed, in most places in rural Kenya, no matter how much effort is put to empower the woman, the seemingly alienation of the man creates more problems that it solves. It is no wonder that where the empowerment of the woman has been done excluding their men, more gender violence results. It is all too obvious to understand how income disparities can create conflict, but since the outcome of conflict results in violence in which the less strong screams more than the other, the problem is then seen as the calm fighter. Creating micro and small enterprises for women, with a hidden face of the business from the men through women groups, will not solve the cultural dilemma. A solution lies in identifying what both men and women can do at their level so as to help create wealth or sustainable incomes from what they do, or fail to realize they can do, at their domestic or local level.
This article seeks to address how to create an engendered business vehicle to address income disparities, at community or household level, thereby militating against the obvious allure to gender violence. The article is motivated by the observations made in the programme WillPower, the institution I work for, is implementing in two pilot areas for UNIDO with the support of CIDA GESP and UNDP. In the initial phase the programme was designed to empower women through capacity building, and was appropriately named Women Entrepreneurship Development (WED) Programme. As would be expected of any UNIDO programme the focus was on post harvest management which we were left to chart a way forward for as the coordinators.
The two pilot areas are in Meru and Kilifi districts. Culturally, women are not easily allowed to do many things without the involvement of their men. It is no wonder that at one instance, one woman who was a member of a baking group had all the baking machinery bought for her by her husband so that she can remain in the house, making it difficult to market her products and hence killing her initiative, while in another the proceeds from a business were taken by the husband to complete the building of a house thereby killing the business. These are not battered women, but the actions - to an entrepreneurial wife - are as violent as a beating is. In another case, a community was advised to form a daily cooperative, contribute to create a local milk processing plant which every household was allowed to buy some shares. The shares may belong to the man or whoever in the household, but the outcomes in the two scenarios have been very different.
In the first two cases, the intervention was done at the household level, the woman was a member of a grouping that did not involve the man and the man felt his ‘good wife' is being spoilt by the grouping, hence the treatment to their business. In the second scenario, the entire family tends the animal, delivers the milk to a milk collection centre, the money is paid - aha - to the registered member who is normally the man. But the cooperative has also invested in some stores/shops where all the family needs are met so that the needs for cash are met through the milk supplies rather than cash. What this has meant is that the woman gets all she needs for the household and because the remainder is not much, the men do not even bother with the residue