Donkeys in Kenya prove to be a means of empowerment for rural women

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For women in the small Kenyan town of Mwingi, donkeys have become an important means of generating economic empowerment.

Mwingi is partly semi-arid with less developed road networks compared to other regions of the country. Therefore, donkeys are playing a great role in the transport sector and this is being spearheaded by women.

Animal support organization Brooke East Africa and Catholic development group Caritas Kitui have been at the forefront of helping women maximize the benefits of donkeys and ensuring working animals are kept in good health.

Caritas beneficiary Pricilla Mutheya says: “I have used my donkey to sell water, firewood and sand.

“In a day I earn like five dollars but on a good day I can earn up to 10 dollars. The income allows me to cover all my basic needs and also educate my children”.

Caritas-Kitui director Florence Ndeti believes her organization has helped people appreciate donkeys more.

“Based on our observation, most of the donkeys were not being cared for in the right way,” says Ndeti.

“People were just taking them as beasts of burden, so we realized there was a gap and we decided to go into that and bring all the stakeholders together, which is the donkey owners and users, the community at large and also the professionals, to begin to appreciate the economic value of the donkey in the region and to ensure that we promote their well-being in their daily operations.”

In the village, Josprinta Mwemdwa heads a group of women who pool resources from donkey earnings to achieve financial milestones while promoting members’ personal growth.

She says: “When I get a contract for the water supply, I call the women in my group so we can get money to buy food and take care of our families.

“From the income from work, we use our donkeys; we have been able to raise funds to pay our children’s school fees”.

The number of women adopting the use of donkeys to facilitate transport and income generation is increasing and the success stories are the motivating factor.

The project leader at Caritas, Ambrose Musyimi, says they have some ambitious goals.

“Our goal is to reach 18,250 women in a year and we also aim to reach 35,000 donkeys each year,” he says.

As much as donkeys are used to economically empower women, Caritas has raised concerns about the decline in donkey numbers due to the installation of a slaughterhouse in the region.

Stakeholders fear that the women’s income streams will be disrupted as donkey theft increases.

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