Margaret Moraa is a woman who has stood out in her exemplary passion in advocating for the rights of women and girls, most especially in her community in Getiesi in Nyamira county.
Less than two months prior to our visit, the mother of 4, who is also a former early childhood education teacher, was always disturbed by how cases of rape and defilement were rampant in her community.
Moraa was amongst a group of change agents in her community, who were trained on human rights, sexual harassment as well as gender based violence referral pathway.
“This training opened my eyes to the ills in our community. There were many vices happening that I never thought were offences. A man assaulting his wife is common, but we don’t report due to ignorance,” Reminisces Moraa, pointing out some of the cases of gender based violence that are rampant in her community.
Her passion was awaken during the training session, making her vow to be a community champion and share the knowledge she got in forums she would attend. A commitment she has been diligently fulfilling.
“Since I am a teacher, nowadays I am always given opportunities to speak in public forums, where I create awareness on GBV as well as helping the community understand its impact,” Affirms Moraa.
On this specific day, she had organised a community dialogue at her home compound in Getiesi village, where she was going to conduct a session of learning, to help her neighbours understand where her passion was coming from.
“The greatest challenge now is that we are in a patriarchal society. A woman organising for a meeting is something not many men would take lying low. Those who come are reluctant to sharing the same platform with younger women,” Sigh Moraa.
However, her husband’s support has been critical in mobilising members of the community, as he would encourage them by actively participating in the sessions she held.
“ I have seen how passionate she is. Our relationship at home has improved as I have learnt how to relate better with my wife and children. I would want other men to experience the same in their homes,” Says Moraa’s husband.
As the session comes to an end, one cannot be blind to the fact that Moraa has become a darling to her community, as praises of her bold steps are admired by many.
Another agent of change is Mellen Gisare Ragira. Her broad smile and active participation during a community dialogue, organized by a team from Nyamache Tea Factory in Kisii county, can be seen from a distance.
The fish monger, who is also a tea farmer in her region, has come a long way in ensuring the broad smile on her face reflects the peace within her. The mother of 4 has been battling low self-esteem for years. However, that changed since she started attended the training sessions.
“ I am more aware of my rights as a woman. I can easily identify if something is wrong around me and point it out. Before the training, I would never raise my voice to talk about anything in public,” Confirms Mellen as she broadly smiles.
Being a tea farmer in this region, has seen her come face to face with the reality of discrimination and gender based violence.
“ Tea picking is a man’s role in our community. However, many women work on other people’s farms to earn a living. This has made them vulnerable to harassment or even earning meagre pay compared to their male counterparts,” Sighs Mellen.
In the workplace, women continue to occupy lower-paid positions with limited opportunities to progress. This has increasingly led to them being vulnerable to harassment and exploitation.
It is to this end that CREAW, with support from UN Women in partnership with FEMNET, and Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC) embarked on a multi sectoral approach towards addressing the plight of women and smallholder farmers in addressing gender based violence in the tea sector. The training on sexual harassment and better working conditions have helped create awareness around women safety in the tea zones.
“Things have drastically improved since the factory staff started engaging us in trainings. We are served effectively with dignity when we take our tea for weighing at the factory. Before the training, we would be left at the gate waiting for hours before we are served,” Admits Mellen.
Indeed it is a new dawn for Moraa and Mellen as they march on in ensuring the community they live in, is safe for women and girls to progress in life.