by Betty Mutua and Katie West
In Kenya, land ownership gives rights, privileges and power. However, few women have access to land ownership.
Kache is one of the few women in her community that owns land. Over the years she has rented her land to MEDA partner, Stone Breeze Limited (SBL), a private enterprise involved in the mass production of stone building blocks.
For many years Kache watched her brothers and other workers participate in the mining and stone cutting on her land, “I used to cook and sell food to the workers mining on the site, but it gave me very little return so I started looking for ways to supplement my income.”
Kache wanted to learn the stonecutting craft. She approached her older brother to be trained, but he was skeptical because stonecutting is not viewed as a woman’s job – so he tried to discourage her.
However, because Kache owned land she was eventually able to persuade her brother to train her. He hoped that she would eventually give up due to the strenuous nature of the work – but she persisted.
“I almost gave up on my first day because I was only able to cut 6 stones due to the poor tools I was given. But with new hand tools provided by Stone Breeze and MEDA, my production increased from 6 stones per day to 50,” says Kache.
Working in a male-dominated industry has not been easy for Kache. “When I started stonecutting, the women in the village would come watch me and mock me saying that a woman should not enter a quarry, she would make the ground change color as she was unclean during her menstrual period.”
Kache said that although she faced opposition from both women and men in her community, she persisted and was able to attract five other women. “We separated ourselves from the men and took our section of the quarry. To earn more, we set the target that every woman was to produce 50 stones each day – totalling 250 stones.”
With her group, Kache started a savings group which allowed them to acquire better hand tools which increased their output while also cutting the time spent by half.
More women have since joined her business and Kache’s group now has over 30 members. Through MEDA and Stone Breeze, they have been trained on group governance and leadership.
MEDA works closely with Stone Breeze to identify gender barriers and ensure their business is inclusive of female small entrepreneurs. The M-SAWA project intentionally targets female clients like Kache to ensure that both men and women have access to appropriate tools and technical training that will enable them to effectively participate in this industry and earn an income. Training is also provided to women on other income generating activities, enabling them to diversify their income streams.
Kache has purchased another piece of land and leased it to Stone Breeze. She recently retired from stonecutting, but she has transferred her knowledge and skills to her two sons. “My dream is to own a stonecutting machine with my sons and lease it out. I talk to them about the importance of saving and I know that soon we will be able to afford it.”