What you need to know:
- The mothers are beneficiaries of the Ujuzi Manyatani programme that offers three-month training in tailoring, dressmaking, hairdressing and beauty therapy, among other courses.
- The US-Aid-funded programme, implemented by the Northern Rangeland Trust, seeks to enable pastoral communities to earn a decent living.
At 13, Naomi Apokor’s parents had already released her to the ‘marriage market’ and rich suitors had started offering hundreds of cattle to her father as bridewealth.
As fate would have it for many Pokot girls in Tiaty constituency, Baringo County, Ms Apokor was married off.
“In the traditional Pokot culture, the value of a girl is [reverse] dowry. A girl means wealth and wealth is measured with cattle. Therefore, the more daughters a man has, the richer he will be,” explains Naomi, now 32.
The mother of four noted that their father had opted to keep his daughters away from school, given their nomadic way of life. They move from one place to another in search of water and pasture for their livestock.
“Another reason is the belief that rich suitors preferred uneducated girls. There is a belief that an uneducated girl knows how to look after livestock, feed children and make sure that household needs are catered for and would follow her husband's commands,” Naomi says.
“I was married off immediately after I sat my KCPE exam,” notes Ms Susan Kalengo, another young mother.
Susan, whose dream was to be a teacher, tells Nation.Africa their culture had made it less beneficial for a girl to be educated.
Naomi and Susan are, however, among 30 young mothers and morans from Baringo who recently received vocational training under the Ujuzi Manyatani programme.
The two underwent three-month training in hairdressing and beauty therapy.
The US-Aid-funded programme, implemented by the Northern Rangeland Trust, seeks to enable pastoral communities to earn a decent living.
Programme Director Peter Nkuno says they target uneducated young men and mothers from Marsabit, Samburu, Isiolo, Laikipia, Baringo, West Pokot, Garissa and Lamu counties.
“The Ujuzi Manyatani model has been lauded for its flexibility as it is tailor-made to enable members of the pastoral communities to acquire practical vocational skills. The training facilities are provided without disrupting the community’s way of life in their neighbourhoods,” he says at a graduation ceremony.
Also read: Unicef: War on child marriage far from over
Young women and men from Kaptuya Conservancy in Baringo have completed vocational training in diverse fields such as tailoring and dressmaking. Mr Nkuno says 902 beneficiaries have graduated so far.
“About 60 trainees graduated by the end of October, while 140 are undergoing training, bringing the total number of skilled youth and young women to 1,102.”
Mr Nkuno adds that the training is free, with trainees only required to pay Sh3,000 for meals.
During the ceremony, the graduands get their certificates and startup tool-kits to support them in their chosen careers. Beneficiaries inject over Sh60 million annually into the local economy through incomes earned, as per an impact survey conducted in January 2023.
“The survey further reveals that at least 88 per cent of our graduates embarked on self-employment through setting up their businesses.
"The success of Ujuzi Manyattani can be attributed to community involvement, enthusiastic trainees, flexible learning approaches, swift adoption of lessons learned, commitment from trainers and institutions, government recognition, and ongoing support from donors and partners,” Mr Nkuno says.
He says the programme has improved livelihoods and addressed socioeconomic challenges in arid and semi-arid lands.
Naomi says she joined the training after talking with her husband. “At first he was adamant, but after I persuaded him to allow me to undertake the course, he softened his stand.”
She notes that though she was proud to be married and bearing children, she will ensure her daughters acquire education. “I do not want my daughters to go through the same suffering I went through: being married off against my wishes.”
Ms Emily Emijin, another young mother who graduated with dressmaking, notes that the training and startup kits will make her active economically. “It has not been easy for most of us because we are mothers and we need to juggle between taking care of children and attending classes."
Mr Emmanuel Saipan, who graduated with tailoring, says most young men, who could only herd cattle, are quickly adapting and acquiring technical skills. He expresses hope that besides pastoralism, they will open businesses in their villages.
“Most young men of my age abandoned school and moved with their animals in search of pasture and water. However, when they enroll in this programme, they will gain a lot of things,” he notes, adding that he will sensitise his peers to the importance of technical skills.
Baringo Education Executive for Vocational Training Simon Kiuta says the county government would open more training centres and partner with other partners to see that the skills are beneficial. He said vocational skills were a necessary ingredient in socioeconomic progress.
“We also want to ensure illiteracy levels are reduced. That is why we want to set up more vocational training centres and ensure more young men and women acquire skills that will enable them to earn a living,” says the executive.