Isiolo Empowerment Center

Kenya

Isiolo Empowerment Center

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The Village 

Isiolo is located in central Kenya, roughly 175 miles (285 km) north of Nairobi. It is a hard place. For people of villages in the bush around Isiolo town, life is carried out one day at a time. Men are charged with tending herds of cattle, goats, and camels – these providing milk, food, and income. Women carry the burden of most all of the household duties. In the bush, this means carrying water, often over long distances, every day. They tend garden plots, care for children, and even oversee construction of simple homes. Some women have managed small, home-based businesses, but most have little time or energy for activities which might earn income for the family, and even less for learning and practicing new skills for more lucrative business and employment opportunities.

 

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Transformational Community Development©

Villages joining Transformational Community Development© (TCD) participate in projects that remove the most difficult barriers to escaping the grip of cyclical poverty. Nearby access to clean water, and training in wellness and agriculture improve health and relieve women of the strenuous and time-consuming activities of providing for their families one day at a time. This sets the stage for a village to become self-sustaining.

 

The income element of TCD leads women to organize groups. These are mentored in small business principles appropriate for local markets and culture. The groups are given loans for their members to start businesses and proceeds are put back into the group. In this process, women earn income using their commitment and new skills to improve their family’s lives.

 

It was in this environment that the Empowerment Center was established – it was a place for women in the area to get professional training in useful job skills and small business principles. The early days saw the start of a Tailoring and Dressmaking program housed in a small room at the GHNI-Kenya offices. Five students could be accommodated in classes led by a professional tailor and trainer. The two-year program provided students with advanced skills; those completing the class were able to pass the national Grade III Trade Test exam recognizing them as Dress-Makers, giving them access to a wider variety of employment opportunities.

 

Seeing the benefits to graduates, more people sought to enter the program. To meet growing demand, property was acquired for an expanded Empowerment Center. A three-room retail outlet facility was completed in 2016 to provide a place for students to sell their goods, earning income for themselves and, eventually, for supporting the training program. Then, in 2018, an eight-room training center was created. Now, there are 16 students attending in split sessions for four hours of training, five days a week, all year for two years.

 

As we continue support for training programs, we are looking to bring focus on developing the retail outlet to provide employment for graduates, contribute support for overall operations, and call attention to the benefits the Empowerment Center provides to the community. We are a long way from full sustainability, but we believe the school and outlet working together with the villagers will develop a plan that works.