Goodbye, 2022 – welcome the new year 2023!

5 min read

Last year was a challenging year for the global world, and its effects were seen within our work on behalf of women’s and girls’ rights. Despite this, we also witnessed many accomplishments and steps forward in collaboration with our East African associate organizations.

How did the previous year look for International Solidarity Foundation (ISF)? Read on to hear about the highlights of our work throughout last year.

Sustainability as a solution towards women’s economic independence

Through our initiatives in 2022, we improved women’s opportunities to employ themselves as small business owners and thus, as part of their communities’ value chains. In Kenya, we witnessed promising results when we joined forces with Nyamira North Women Sacco (NNWS). “In the eight years since its founding in 2014 NNWS’s membership has grown from thirty to 1604”, describes our livelihood field coordinator Douglas Moenga.

Through this collaboration, the women of NNWS were able to attain information on the farming of different vegetables and valuable oyster mushrooms, as well as develop their technical and entrepreneurial skills. Independent income improves women’s ability to make decisions within their households. To guarantee women’s and local communities’ income in the future as well, we focus on sustainable solutions in farming development. In 2022, in collaboration with NNWS and Bosinya Women CBO as well as Kenyan experts and organizations, we researched solar power as a mean to better respond to the needs of female small business owners.

Lucy Gisempe (left) and Sophia Momanyi (right) are actives in the NNWS co-operative. Photo: Browline Omondi 2022.

Attitudes are permanently changed through dialogue

Throughout last year, in partnership with our local associate organizations, we trained teachers, chiefs, religious leaders, and healthcare professionals on recognizing and rooting out gender-based violence.

Kenya-based Muungano Gender Forum, which was founded in partnership with ISF and our local associates, is one of the ways in which we have an impact on the norms and attitudes within communities: weekly forum brings together state agents, experts, and residents to discuss topics around gender equality.

At these training sessions, women are able to learn about their own rights. Throughout last year, we collaborated with local Kenyan authorities on themes surrounding women’s right to own property, as disagreements regarding these issues often form a catalyst for domestic violence. Men, too, learn about their position in rooting out gender-based violence and their significance in promoting equality among genders.

Muungano Gender Forum, founded by ISF, gathers members of the community together with experts in different fields to discuss themes surrounding women’s and girls’ rights. Photo: ISF

Influencing the opinions of religious leaders produces long-lasting results

In Somaliland, together with our associate organization SOYDAVO, we educated religious leaders on the harms of female genital mutilation. The opinion of religious leaders is very influential in communities where religion dictates everyday life but only a few are able to interpret the articles of faith themselves.

Results gathered from Somaliland provided a reason to believe in the possibility of positive change: based on the information from our associate organization NAFIS, as much as 98 % of religious leaders in the targeted area no longer see FGM as a religious obligation.

Safe camp as an alternative passage rite to the tradition of mutilation

In 2022, we founded safe camps for girls in danger of FGM. In Kenya, in the camps led by our associates Manga Heart and CECOME, girls were able to learn about their own rights and the dangers of mutilation in an age-appropriate way – through play. The camps were arranged especially during school holidays in summer and over Christmas when the risk for mutilation is often heightened.

“The safe camps are called the alternative passage rite. Instead of going through mutilation, the girls come here. They learn about the dangers of mutilation and acquire different life skills. The girls dance, sing, and are free to express themselves on the camp, and at the end they graduate and can be women” describes the expert Grace Kerubo from Manga Heart.

In 2022 nearly 200 girls took part in a safe camp supported by ISF.

At the safe camps girls in danger of mutilation learn about their rights. At the end of the camps, parents commit to sparing their daughters from mutilation. Photo: Browline Omondi 2022

What will the year 2023 look like?

In 2023, our operation will continue with already running initiatives as well as through the implementation of new projects. In the coming year we will extend our projects to Ethiopia by four initiatives and to Puntland by one.

Originally, projects were meant to start at the beginning of 2022, but the armed conflict in Tigray in Ethiopia as well as the lengthened permit process complicated this plan. In October 2022, however, we were able to attain the permit and complete our preparations.

The new initiatives will focus on preventing gender-based violence especially by stopping FGM and promoting opportunities for independent female livelihood.

The Russian attack on Ukraine impoverished Eastern Africa as well

The Russian attack on Ukraine in February 2022 provoked discussions about it in relation to Finland. Do you know how the war’s effects can be seen in our project areas in East Africa?

Both Kenya and Somaliland are incredibly dependent on the global food markets and networks: grain ships sailing through the Black Sea deliver a lion’s share of the area’s food supply. According to a report published in Spring 2022 by NGOs, the amount of East African people in extreme hunger threatened to double from the previous 10 million to over 23 million people.

The hindered arrival of the grain ships combined with the catastrophic drought faced by East Africa translated especially badly on the plates of women and girls since they often hold the lowest position in the family hierarchy.

In terms of a certain area’s food security, a higher equity ratio in food production would be vital. However, the farming of plants meant for human consumption is often small-scale and without the necessary resources: vegetables are generally grown by women only for the need of their own families.

Guaranteeing food security in local communities and improving women’s income go hand in hand. The key to success is in strengthening the women’s knowledge, skills, and opportunities. This benefits especially women in rural communities that have been most affected by the drought. If local women can make a living through entrepreneurship, it not only promotes food security but also the realization of women’s rights.

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