The following story reflects the work of Women in Sustainable Enterprises (WISE) and how QCT supports the organisation to improve gender equality and women empowerment in Kenya.
Founded in 2016, WISE is a non-profit organisation that supports and works with women and girls from the Lake Victoria region in Kenya to lead sustainable enterprises.
The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust has been a funder and partner for the past two years. Through flexible funding, the organisation has received technical support in developing internal policies and projects. QCT’s support has also allowed WISE to gain credibility in serving women and girls through internal systems, including a safeguarding policy, and a financial and monitoring and evaluation framework. These systems have helped the organisation to run effectively.
“Ensuring that we have internal systems in place to run our programs efficiently is a rare support to find”, Caroline Odera, Founder and Executive Director, WISE.
This support from QCT extends beyond training the team at WISE.
Caroline and the team were able to rent a formal office space (WiseHub) that provides a location and platform for training and workshops for women and girls. Adolescent girls continue to use the WiseHub space for learning different skills including computer and leadership skills to become better problem solvers in their communities.
The QCT and WISE partnership has also established 50 conical gardens feeding approximately 300 people. Out of the 50 gardens, 20% of women are now selling food and produce in their communities.
These conical gardens have specifically helped the women wetland farmers. Wetland farmers are often affected by the rising of lake water and the hippos that damage their crops and vegetables. With conical gardening, which is an innovative technology, these women can farm away from the wetlands (their backyards) and grow as many vegetables for food security and sale for revenue generation.
Recently, WISE has trained 30 women entrepreneurs in Kisumu, Kenya who are running ecotourism enterprises, enabling them to digitize their products and services through one-stop online shopping. The women entrepreneurs are continuing to learn how to identify a sustainable enterprise and run it successfully from ideation, to identifying and finding customers, financial management, and pitching for their businesses.
Over 1000 women have been helped over the past 5 years.
This empowerment of women is what Caroline is most proud of when she reflects on the impact of the organisation.
Caroline started the organisation to help women like her mum who lacked capacity and knowledge in entrepreneurship and sustainability and remains humbled that a simple mission has changed many lives.
“I grew up in a single room house using traditional energy sources and watching my mum depend on her fish mongering business to support our family. I realised most women heavily depended on fish mongering as the only livelihood source amidst the diminishing fish stock levels in Lake Victoria.”
“WISE was started to provide women with alternative, sustainable enterprises to lead, expand and grow. Examples of these enterprises included green energy technology businesses, ecotourism and agribusiness, coupled with other cross-cutting interventions, including Information and communication technology for women development, and leadership development,” Caroline Odera.
WISE is on a deliberate mission to increase the number of women in these enterprises through training and innovations by 2030. This mission is complemented by the organisation’s vision to enable women and girls to build, lead, and win without limitations.
“We desire to reach out to more women and girls in the Lake basin region through setting up WiseHub in various counties. With the strong partnership of QCT we are well on our way to doing so,” Caroline Odera.
To support organisations like WISE to help empower women and girls like those in the rural areas of the Lake Victoria region in Kenya, click here.