Read, Debate: Engage.

A stitch in time

February 29, 2016
topic:Women's rights
tags:#Cherehani Africa, #fashion, #Kenya, #Wesley Owiti
by:Cherotich Kenei
George Monbiot said, “if wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.” This statement echoes the reality for many African women, but one passionate project is helping them to stitch their way out of poverty.

Despite the governmental strides that have been made by African states and the various economic empowerment programs funded through donor aid, the lack of well-structured and transparent channels have meant that poverty in Africa still wears a woman’s face.

But all is not lost. Through initiatives that target poverty from the rural setting a new voice might just have been awakened, ready to showcase a different reality from the norm. One of these initiatives is by the Cherehani Africa foundation, which is helping women stitch their way out of poverty.

FairPlanet spoke with Wesley Owiti, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cherehani Africa about the project.

What is Cherehani Africa?

Cherehani Africa Initiative is a social enterprise that facilitates training on tailoring, leadership, entrepreneurship and financial knowledge to the less-fortunate women in the rural areas and, on completion of their training, provides sewing machines to enable them to start and run successful fashion businesses and become sustainably independent in their income generation.

How did the idea of Cherehani Africa come to be?

Looking at the levels of poverty in the country, the founders sought a way to play a part in poverty eradication, through empowering women with the right skills. The founders were active players in the fashion industry in Kenya and saw the best way to approach it was to use the tools that they understood so well; the sewing machines.

During one of the events organized by the founders, the Africa Brand Summit, one of the speakers explained that brands that will last are brands that touch lives. This was a defining moment because after this message sank in, Cherehani Africa was born.

Why the focus on women and why choose the fashion route?

Women's economic empowerment is crucial. When women are economically empowered, everyone from the family, community, country, and continent feels the positive effect. Moreover the more economically empowered a woman is the more she is brave enough to advocate against oppression, rape, sexual harassment, gender inequality, gender based violence, unacceptable health standards, female genital mutilation, and patriarchal cultures that hinder women from access to opportunities.

African fashion has had a unifying effect in different communities; people identify with it as a way of connecting to their culture and identity. Every market is anchored by the presence of a tailor who does repairs and makes new clothes for people, and we believe that this avenue will help us reach most of the underserved areas in economic empowerment.

So far how many women have benefited from Cherehani Africa’s initiative?

Since 2014, more than five hundred (500) women in rural areas have benefited directly through the acquisition of sewing machines to start their own businesses. 93% of the beneficiaries have so far established their own independent business units, 5% have joined seasoned tailors at their business premises and 2% of the beneficiaries work from their homes as they save towards opening their own business premises.

Highlight to us the journey of one woman who has benefited from this initiative.

Benter Apiyo is one woman, who comes to mind. She is a young mother, and a beneficiary from Siaya County. Before she met Cherehani Africa team, she was unemployed and used to stay at her mother’s house with her daughter. She had been trained as a tailor but was jobless and could not afford to purchase a sewing machine to start her own business. She would at times hire a sewing machine for $5 a month to work from her mother’s house.

After undergoing our training program, Cherehani Africa supported her to reach her dream of starting her own tailoring business in Aram Market by providing her with a sewing machine. She now doubles up as the Community Participatory Manager; working closely with all the group chairpersons and officials in different markets to communicate their desires and aspirations as well as reminding them of the Cherehani Africa policies and guidelines.

What future lies ahead for the organisation?

Cherehani Africa seeks to roll out its operations in other counties in Kenya, and to inspire the uptake of our approach in poverty eradication in other underserved regions in the African continent.

About the Cherehani Africa Foundation

- Featured in the Top 40 Men Under 40 awards by East Africa Business Daily for the tremendous contribution to women empowerment and poverty eradication space in Kenya.
- The social enterprise boasts of having impacted over five hundred (500) women’s live and their families. One of the founders was recently selected as a 2016 Fellow in President Obama’s Young African Leader’s Initiative (YALI) East Africa.
- Greatest challenge lies in dealing with cultural practises that do not encourage women and girls participation in economic activities. - - Due to lack of sufficient funding Cherehani Africaare unable to invest in other expansion programs fast enough.  

Article written by:
Cherotich Kenei
Wesley Owiti, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cherehani Africa
Wesley Owiti, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cherehani Africa
Looking at the levels of poverty in the country, the founders sought a way to play a part in poverty eradication, through empowering women with the right skills.
Call to Action
Support Raising Futures to insure Kenya's youth well-being!
Support now