(Vision 4 Youth Housing Cooperative members & Global Communities Team)
Vision 4 Youth Housing Cooperative is located in Kaptembwo Sublocation Nakuru County in Kenya. Members of the cooperative are saving towards the purchase of a plot for a future home while some have already built homes on land purchased through the cooperative. The cooperative also has a series of income-generating activities to support the cooperative and individual member’s economically. The cooperative has embraced gender equity through providing equal membership and earning opportunities for women and ensuring women have equal access to leadership positions within the cooperative, thereby contributing towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality and Empowerment for women. In terms of representation, Vision 4 Housing Cooperative’s goal of equal representation has been met as out of 12 board members, 6 are women. It has also been placed into their bylaws that the chair and co-chair should be one man and one woman.
In addition, strategies such as collaborations with organizations like Global Communities, which has provided capacity strengthening on Gender issues and engagement of Gender Champions to advocate for gender issues in the cooperative and community at large, have contributed to the Cooperative being Gender-inclusive.
Below are some of the activities Vision 4 Youth Housing Activities implements:
- The cooperative organizes gender awareness sessions for members and spouses to discuss issues that bring about conflict in their households and learn skills for effective communication and household management. The cooperatives set aside time to meet and counsel the couples to highlight the importance of membership and assure the conflicted spouse that the economic and social benefits of cooperatives membership. In addition, through these meetings, they have recruited the conflicted spouse to join the cooperative and reap the benefits of membership. These sessions also discuss gender equity, women’s leadership, and GBV.
- The cooperative has a supervisory committee that deals with conflict resolution within the cooperative and extends its support to households of members.
- The cooperative has Land Rights awareness sessions where women are highly encouraged to participate. The awareness sessions provide information on the importance of land rights with a focus on advocacy for women to have more access to land. Women’s land ownership is legal in Kenya but culturally less common.
During one of our Focus Group Discussions with members, we learned that despite Vision 4 Youth Housing cooperative being deliberate about women’s participation and inclusivity, there are several challenges that women members face within the cooperative that hinder them from active participation.
Membership participation: Some women members have expressed that their spouses are not comfortable with the women being members of the cooperative as they perceive their participation keeps them from attending to household obligations which should be their priority. Some women also mentioned that the husbands do not understand why they need money or what they are using the money for.
Childcare and provisions for lactating mothers: Some members cannot fully engage in the Cooperative’s activities because they cannot afford childcare services for their children. In addition, the cooperatives might not have provisions for mothers or lactating women, such as a creche or changing beds for babies, making it difficult for the mothers to comfortably participate in the meeting.
Cultural Barriers: Despite progress, women still face cultural barriers to land ownership. Some women are challenged due to a lack of knowledge of their land rights and cultural perceptions that men should own land and not women.
Vision 4 Youth Housing Cooperative measures to address these challenges are the Land Rights awareness sessions to deal with the cultural barriers. In addition, the supervisory committee deals with issues related to membership participation. Finally, Vision 4 Youth Housing Cooperative is looking for feasible issues to address childcare and provisions for lactating mothers.
Vision 4 Youth Housing Cooperative goes the extra mile to ensure they provide capacity strengthening for women on beadwork, making cleaning products, poultry farming, and mat weaving. They provide the members with techniques, materials, and knowledge on different sectors, which the members can use to increase their income streams and have more economic independence. These income-generating activities are dual purpose as they provide the women with more economic security but they also benefit the savings mechanism of the cooperative as many of the women members are also saving towards a plot.
(Nancy Adeva Project accountant/Beadwork trainer & Sharon Bulimu Member showcasing items Vision 4 Youth Housing Cooperative trained her to make)