Why I set up a leadership programme in Kenya to empower women

Written by
David Bernard-Stevens

30 Jun 2016

30 Jun 2016 • by David Bernard-Stevens

I was asked to come to Kenya over six years ago to help an NGO understand why their trainings for abused women in the Kibera slum had not changed their abusive environments in spite of being trained. What I found was:

  • They did not believe anything they did would matter in the end and that trying to escape the abuse would only make things worse.
  • Some believed the abuse they were suffering was their punishment for some unknown sin in the eyes of God. Since in their mind God was merciful the only way to rectify their suffering was it must be their fault and trying to end the abuse would make things worse in the eyes of God.  Theirs was to endure.
  • Leaving their abusive environment would take them away from whatever financial support they were receiving and with no education or work skills they feared what would become of them and their children.

So I went and began teaching concepts of true self leadership, how to create lives of meaning and joy regardless of one’s circumstance and above all, how to think differently in order to change their behaviour from reacting and repeating to that of responding and creating.

And there is the key that so many training programmes miss. They teach and those taking the trainings understand, but they match the information given with what they have been taught and their own experiences. Thus the outcomes of trainings fall way short from their original intentions of empowering, creating new entrepreneurs and ethical leaders and all information is processed into what they already know with new ways of thinking and processing ignored. 

In Kenya so many women have not received formal education compared to men. This is changing as primary education is now free for all, yet there are millions of youth (women and men) who still do not receive any real education in secondary school which are all fee based. There are also very strong tribal and cultural mores that men are the “Simbas” of their home and the woman is to obey with it being perfectly acceptable to beat a woman if she does not. And yet also in Kenya, it is the women who are the backbone of most of the small businesses, the moral standard bearers of a nation and more likely than not the real future of their nation.

So we began helping women learn what true empowerment means and how to achieve it. We began to help them discover for themselves the power to be who God created them to be and walk the path they were meant to walk. And along the way we discovered that it is not just women who need this training… but young men as well. 

Thus our leadership programme is now a Kenyan company with four other amazing Kenyans trying to make a sustainable difference there and in the world at large.