Groups want to spotlight effects of gender violence on food security

Women's Empowerment Link Executive Director Virginia Nduta

Women's Empowerment Link Executive Director Virginia Nduta makes a presentation on effects of SGBV on agroecology and good nutrition. The effects of SGBV are often listed as both physical and emotional harm.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

The effects of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) are often listed as both physical and emotional harm.

However, while these are the most common, development organisations now want to look at SGBV and its consequences on agroecology, food and nutritional security.

For starters, women, who bear the highest burden of SGBV, are often in charge of making decisions on family meals.

But their performance may be compromised if they suffer physical or emotional injuries, thus undermining families’ nutritional needs.

At a recent meeting that brought together farmers, development partners, gender experts, agriculturalists and others, participants brought to light numerous ways in which agroecology, food and nutrition security are compromised by SGBV.

Francis Ngiri, a crotons farmer

Francis Ngiri, a farmer, recounted how a crotons business failed after women were prevented by their husbands from accessing the market.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Agribusiness idea died

“I remember working as a lead farmer for croton producers in Elementaita,” recalled farmer Francis Ngiri.

“Women would collect and aggregate the produce, but their husbands would not allow them to accompany them to the market in Nanyuki.”

This was how a well thought-out agribusiness idea that would have earned women income ended up dead.

Another farmer said women are often banned from hosting visitors at their farms. This locks out important guests, including agroecology experts who are willing to train them on this line of agribusiness.

“Sometimes men oppose when women want to bring into the farm clients to purchase farm produce, thus depriving [the women] an opportunity to earn income,” noted farmer Beatrice Wangui.

Land ownership

Most women also do not own land and can rarely use title deeds as collateral to get credit from financial institutions.

“I remember when my husband and I bought land jointly, only for him to attempt to transfer ownership to another wife,” recalled a farmer from Baringo.

It took the intervention of local administrators and clan leaders to stop the deal, which could have sent the fruits of her labour down the drain.

Through a project, called Rural Women Cultivating Change, women will be empowered in three aspects – leadership, ending SGBV, and agroecology.

The programme is a joint effort, with Hivos East Africa steering the leadership pillar as Groots drives the agenda of ending SGBV.

Empower women via agroecology

“Seed Savers Network will be empowering women through agroecology in a bid to enhance increased income and healthy diets for households,” said Mr Daniel Wanjama, the organisation’s director.

While the project seeks to reach about 12,000 women, Mr Wanjama said, Seed Savers Network will work with 5,000 women, 20 per cent being youth from Nakuru and Baringo. The other partners will be working in Laikipia and Kitui.

After conducting a survey on seed security, Seed Savers Network will develop a strategy for women to easily and efficiently access seeds as opposed to being over-dependent on their male counterparts.

A survey to find out which agro-enterprises are suitable for women and their challenges is ongoing.

Save and borrow

Through a newly established Seed Savers Sacco, women are being encouraged to save so that they can borrow and raise capital to start small agri-enterprises such as mills, water pumps and cottage industries.

“We will also be engaging village elders and sensitise them on the need to be more receptive on SGBV matters,” said Mr Wanjama.

Gender experts say most women have no access to land and this bars them from land use and management practices such as agroecology.

Virginia Nduta, the executive director of Women’s Empowerment Link, says only one per cent of title deeds were in the names of women, according to 2018 data from Kenya Land Alliance.

“Women are barely owners of land and other factors of production but instead they are providers of labour,” said Ms Nduta.

SGBV and food security

Participants during an outdoor activity.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Women breaking barrier

But she noted that women are steadily breaking the barrier of land ownership by purchasing through groups.

“SGBV deprives women of self-esteem and confidence, yet they are burdened with household chores,” noted Ms Nduta.

By involving both men and women in agroecology, there will be opportunities for common understanding and breaking barriers that hinder women’s empowerment.

There is also a need for inclusivity in the religious, legal, educational, administrative, security and other arenas in fighting SGBV.