More POWER to Women in Rural Africa

Lindy Wafula, Founder & CEO, Village Ventures International, Kenya, provides village women with business skills in various vocations to help them earn a living and also support their families

The Womenz team had an opportunity to interview Lindy Wafula – Founder & CEO, Village Ventures and here’s what they shared with us


Hello Lindy, can you please tell us something about you 

I am Development consultant, Social Entrepreneur, Politician and Motivational speaker. Currently the CEO of Village Ventures International, a social enterprise that empowers women, youth and  people with disabilities with vocational and entrepreneurial skills, seed capital and  tools for trade with which they can establish village enterprises for sustainable community development. 

As a social entrepreneur and community organizer what are the social bodies you are associated with and your role there

I am a fellow in several initiatives including Vital Voices Lead (Vital Voices), Women in Public Service Project (Wellesley College), Global Women Leadership Network (GWLN), Cordes Fellowship (Opportunity Collaboration) and Women of influence. In these social networks, am able to sharpen my ideas and skills as a leader and social entrepreneur. I also serve here as a mentor to budding women community leaders and speaker to women conferences 





What is Project Africa? What are its objectives and work so far?

Project Africa is a non-profit organization that i founded with an aim to economically empower women in rural Africa. However, because of the need to create a sustainability system that supports our projects and programmes after the withdrawal of funders, I considered to convert the organization into a social enterprise known as Village Ventures International allowing the organization to earn from its services and products and investing the profit into community development.

One such project that we have successfully done is Lady Mekanika Project which aimed to empower women with skills in automobile mechanics skills for enterprise development 





Tell us your experience in convincing people about your initiatives. Was it easy?

I have been privileged to participate in various international conferences including the Opportunity Collaboration conference where I am able to pitch to potential impact investors and funders about our project and request for their funding. I also use my skills in project proposal writing to share with organizations that have similar vision with ours. It is never easy because it costs a lot to travel but after pitching i am glad majority of those organizations that hear about our projects desire to fund or support us in other ways.

How you involve women in your initiatives?

Women are key participants and beneficiaries of our projects. First and foremost, our initiatives provide vocational and leadership skills in various vocations such as, automobile mechanics which is largely know a man’s job, catering and hospitality, hairdressing and dressmaking where women are enrolled in our Women’s Academy.

We also provide space and tools for work and in market places that women can lease to start up their village enterprises or self-help initiatives.

Since inception of my community service, I have mentored several women who now Project leaders are running their own for-profit and non-profit initiatives in the community. These women can now earn an income and are able to support their households and a few others in the villages. We also provide human resource support to women running village ventures by connecting them to international and local volunteers who visit their initiatives a commit several weeks to transfer skills to the women in our projects.



How are you addressing the financial needs to run these initiatives?

Financial needs are many and finding financial support is always a challenge.  In addition to providing vocational training, space and tools for work, we realize that women need start-up capital in cash. We are now seeking to start up a micro-finance initiative where we can loan women start-up capital for their ideas and they can repay with some profit. The profit can then be used to cover administrative and training costs within the project and to scale-up our social impact initiatives to other villages

What are the pressing issues for Women in Kenya

In a world that is largely being influenced by technology, it is unfortunate that women in Kenya still have little exposure on how to use technology for their social economic empowerment.  The internet now provides for women to source and market various products online but without knowledge it is impossible for many women in Kenya to engage.

There is also need for establishment of training centres that design program with the understanding of the role women play in families such as caregiving. Our Women’s Academy is designed to allow women to come with children under 5 years who are provided for with baby care services as their mothers are in class acquiring education and skills.

Another need is that many marginalized poor women are single mothers who dropped out of school and want to attend vocational training but they lack the financial capacity to pay school fees and a stipend as support for the year of training.  We therefore need a scholarship that can provide financial support and encourage illiterate, semi illiterate and untrained mothers to seek vocational training out of which they can create businesses or find employment for income. 

Finally, there is need to support women with micro loans with which they can start their businesses after training or in their self-help groups

What made you to enter into politics? Your journey as a politician so far

I joined politics in Kenya because I believe my voice in making policy in parliament and within the political circles, will be a representation of the voices of women on a platform where laws and policies are made. 

After serving as a student leader and within political parties, in 2010, I made the first attempt by running for elective office to become a member of parliament in Kenya. I lost in.

I made a second attempt in 2013 again running for Member for Parliament for Makadara constituency, Nairobi. I was third overall missing again to join parliament.

In the 2017 general election in Kenya because of lack of financial resources to support my campaign, I choose not to run but to support other women to run for elective office. We established the VOTE FOR WOMEN initiative where we hired a truck that would move throughout Nairobi and its environs giving women a platform to share their manifestos and vision with the voters.

I also hope to serve in the Nairobi county assembly since my political party Wiper Democratic Movement-Kenya has listed my name amongst those to be nominated.

How are you keeping balance in life as a social worker and as a politician?

I have always envisioned my life as a social worker and politician as complimentary in my community organizing and development initiatives. This is because from social work I learn about the needs of women and in politics I desire to create lasting solution by influencing policy making with regard to those needs that women at the grassroots face. 

 

As a woman, did you face any hurdles in your journey so far?  If yes, how you faced and conquered them?

In running for elective office and being a community leader, i have been faced with many challenges most especially financial where there is no income to support political campaigns and community development projects. In the two occasions that I have run for elective office, it has been difficult to match the amount of money that male candidates spend in their campaigns to mobilize and get out the vote

What is your biggest achievement so far

In May 2017, I have been distinguished and honoured by Centre for Economic and Leadership Development (CELD) as among 25 top women leaders in Africa. A feature to this effect is published on the Amazons Watch Magazine.

In 2010, I received ‘Building Bridges In Kenya’ Award and Africa MDGs Achievers Award given in UK by Bradford University, UK

I am a graduate of Malmö University, Sweden with Master’s Degree in International Relations, Global Political Studies and International Communications for Development. Previously, I trained in media and communications and worked for broadcast media industry in Kenya.

Does the cultural norms in Africa support Gender equality. How are you addressing it

In this time and age it is still difficult for women to raise up in leadership.  Culturally, many communities in Kenya and Africa in general consider the place of women to be the home with their main role being care giving. Women also are not allowed to inherit and therefore they have no family resource bank from which to draw from money or capital. These among other issues like illiteracy and unemployment make women economically dependent on men, a situation that force many women undergo abusive relations in silence or girls and young women be forced into early marriages for survival.

What are your future plans?

My future plans are anchored on women empowerment. I seek to continue being a women of influence, a voice for women by working to design and implement project ideas that will empower women for leadership and enterprise development. I also have a vision to run for elective office and represent women in the house of legislation

What is your message to the women out there who are struggling to prove themselves?

First believe in yourself that It is possible to achieve that which you in your heart and mind to do life but be guided by the need to positively impact the life of another person. Help the poor, and the needy. Work to make the world a better place to live in. In doing this do not wait to be rewarded by friends and people around you, but rather find from in within your inner satisfaction.


Lindy, we at The Womenz team express our earnest appreciation for sharing your unique story with us. We believe it will surely stimulate fellow women in every country and continent in the world

Lindy Wafula can be reached on Twitter, Linkedin 


One of the project that Lindy Wafula have successfully done is Lady Mekanika Project which aimed to empower women with skills in automobile mechanics skills for enterprise development, this project was featured at the TED talks 




First Published: 17-Sep-2017- 16:13


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