With the global success of Black Panther, audiences are sending a clear message – representation matters.
But it extends beyond Hollywood.
Representation is important in all fields. When a young girl sees herself as a director, scientist or business owner, it affirms that her dream is valid, and more importantly - possible.
Too often, women have been written out of their own stories. That’s why representation is integral. It completes the story through visibility.
Jane Maina knows how important representation is in her community.
Jane is the director and co-owner of Vert Limited, a private, for-profit company in Kenya. Its core business is the production, grading, packaging and export of fresh fruits and vegetables, mainly to the European market.
Vert sources fresh produce from small entrepreneurs, taking an integrated approach to increase efficiencies from farm-level production through to transportation, processing and marketing activities.
As director, Jane wanted Vert to be a safe place for women to work, learn and be empowered.
With patience, dedication and perseverance, Vert has grown to employ 73 permanent staff, 65% of whom are women. Under her management, Vert also employs 1,760 farmers, 36% of whom are women.
“We’re excited to partner with MEDA to promote gender equality in a society that is traditionally patriarchal,” said Jane.
With M-SAWA’s mentorship, Vert has expanded staff mobilization and recruitment. Vert advocates for inclusivity and ensures that women are represented in the top three positions of each group’s leadership. With M-SAWA’s support, new positions have created employment for both women and men, with a significant increase in the numbers of women who will be employed in the packaging factory.
The M-SAWA project has also fostered sensitization and awareness among staff and farmers about the importance of women’s leadership and participation in business. The training provided by M-SAWA has enabled many Vert suppliers and employees to articulate gender issues, both at the farm and management levels.
“The future of Vert is bright! My vision is that Vert would be the workplace of choice for millennial women and men. I see a workplace that is united in their desire to promote gender inclusivity at all levels of society,” said Jane, “and that’s important.”
M-SAWA will continue to support Vert as they work to expand and deepen their impact in the community.
Women have important things to say. Our world needs to reframe how women are seen around the world.
We are not a “voice for the voiceless” – we are striving to make a deaf world hear.
-- Betty Mutua & Katie West