by James Kamuye Kataru

International Women’s Day, which was celebrated on Friday, March 8th, 2024, left me appreciating the immense power and strength of African women’s leadership. Having a first-hand experience of what feminine resolve and focus can achieve in matters that touch on the well-being of their families and community in general, I am convinced that African is ready for more women in top leadership positions.

I have watched women grow in stature as they exhibit an unparalleled ability to decipher situations and formulate solutions. A good example of a case with a feminine touch is the growth and expansion of the SAWBO volunteer network in Kenya and Africa. In the last four years, we’ve experienced momentous growth in regions led by female volunteers.

This is because the women are quick to take on challenges intended to improve their families’ well-being without hesitation. They are always heard pointing out new things they’ve learned from the videos, while their male counterparts are always asking how the technology would “add more money to their pockets.” Indeed, the African woman has a golden heart that needs to be given time and space to shine.

Top Left: The women leaders of the SAWBO network. Top right: SAWBO network deputy team leader Rose Sumaili Opala. Bottom left to right: A SAWBO network volunteer in uniform, chief Truphena Ngochi, and Janet Boke, both SAWBO network members from Kenya. Photo credit: Kataru Concepts

As I celebrate all the “great SAWBO women” who’ve labored to grow the network and impact their communities, I take a look at some of the talking points that drew the attention of women during our volunteer recruitment drive in Kenya.

Video knowledge helps put food on the table.

The African woman in smallholder communities is the fulcrum of the family’s dietary provision. The men occasionally step in to supplement with animal proteins from beef and fish, which require money to purchase after the woman has fetched the rest from her farm and kitchen garden.

Most women, new in the network, seek to understand how the knowledge will increase productivity so that they can have enough food for their families. One video that’s rich in such information teaches farmers basic tips to increase bean production.

Can animations help improve health?

The second worry for an African woman after providing daily food is the family’s well-being. Mothers worry about their children’s health and wives get concerned about their husbands’ state since, in most customs, it’s taboo for a man to lie down because he’s sick!

After watching several SAWBO animations on how to prevent and fight different health conditions, women are more at peace and willing to share certain videos right away. They quickly relate what they learn to families that have certain health challenges addressed in the animations, hence making the process real.

How to ensure the water fetched from dams is safe for domestic use

Another challenge Kenyan women face and always hope SAWBO animations could provide a solution to is having clean drinking water and preventing waterborne diseases. Most women in Kenya bear the brunt of disease outbreaks.

At the top of the list are cholera and dysentery. Finding clean drinking water is a big challenge for most women from arid and semi-arid (ASAL) Kenya because some have to walk long distances and share the same water holes with animals. Finding a way to ensure the water is safe for their family’s consumption is always important.

With SAWBO animations, families can filter water from open water bodies, pans, and dams for domestic use. Other animations that have attracted our women include one on treating the water to prevent cholera.

Extra income for households

Unlike men, who seek to understand the economic impact of animation videos (how much they’ll make from the knowledge), women tend to consider profit last. They are concerned about the other aspects like nutrition and health.

Left: Mrs. Hawa Dunor Varney from Liberia. Right: Miss Tiisetso Sefatsane, who owns AgriHive Gardens, an agricultural enterprise that, specializes in vegetable seedling production at Ha Abia, Lesotho. The two women are Mandela Washington fellows and are an inspiration to SAWBO women in Africa. Photo credit: Hawa Dunor & Tiisetso Sefatsane.

A larger percentage of rural women prioritize farming to feed their families since some rarely have a surplus to sell for income. However, after engaging the women for some time, we’ve realized that using the video knowledge on their farms has improved yields and provided households with enough quality food, with extra to exchange for what they didn’t grow or sell to make money.  

As we celebrate the SAWBO network women, we take note of those we’ve met in villages where there is no electricity, phone or internet network, who packed training halls, filled churches, sat under tree shades glued to television screens, and used the few available internet-ready phones and tablets to attend our training sessions on information access, use, and sharing. Such are the true unsung heroines. They are a testimony to how digital content has bridged the gap for information provision and scaling to ensure a food-secure generation. 

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