Widows are amongst the most vulnerable group in Kenya. In traditional rural Kenyan society, women marry young and stay at home to look after their children. The husband is the breadwinner whose earnings provide financial support for the family. The death of a husband is traumatic and, with no state support, the widow must find some form of paid employment. Typically this would be a low wage job, which is sometimes insufficient to pay for food and shelter.
Often the need is such that young children who should be attending school are required to take up some form of under-age employment to supplement their mother’s income in order to feed the family or, in the case for young girls, are married at a young age to obtain a dowry. It is this financial burden that makes it necessary for the children to be withdrawn from school. In Kenya, education even at the primary school level is not free and is therefore not affordable for poor families.
The widows in our Maasai community face special hardships. With the death of the head of the family, they endure loss of status, property ownership rights, and inheritance rights. As a result, they are often forced to remove their children from school to help tend to the animals to generate a small income and care for members of the extended family.
The Nairoshi Foundation supports widows in our community in the following ways:
- Education sponsorship for their children to attend quality schools
- Skills training for the widows to help them start their own businesses in order to sustain their families
- Purchase of beadwork made by the widows as a means to generate income for them
- Periodic food distributions in times of hardship (e.g., drought, illness)
- Microfinance loans