GBM Blog

Reflections from the Aberdares: Women are the cornerstones

March 6, 2012 - 02:00AM
Published by Mercy Karunditu

Mercy Karunditu, GBM Senior Project Officer, dances with Kimara G3 Self-help Group in Kangema.On International Women's Day- a tribute to the women of the Aberdares by Mercy Karunditu, GBM Senior Project Officer

Women, the cornerstones of African families, raise their children and nurture their families against many odds. Rural women have to overcome poverty, unemployment, gender discrimination, poor access to resources, illiteracy, and lack of empowerment on how to engage in leadership. At times the challenges can be even greater as women who are already disadvantaged face greater violence in their lives.

The Green Belt Movement (GBM) works with women to empower them, with a primary aim to conserve the environment and give them alternatives to improve their livelihoods – using tree planting as an entry point. This is enhanced by the fact that the GBM approach is accessible and easily understood by women who may not have had formal education. Women are able to adopt the GBM approach and raise seedlings for planting on their farms, public places and gazetted forests. Through this process of taking control over their destiny, and the training that the women receive, they are empowered to think about their lives and their future differently.

GBM with the Support of Agence Française de Développement (AFD) is doing a video documentary to showcase the work of GBM and the lessons learnt from the AFD Aberdares Rehabilitation Project that started way back in 2006. The documentary will show how women can rise above their daily challenges. Community members who plant trees with GBM share how tree planting directly improves their livelihoods. Once communities understand the linkages between their lives and the environment, they then actively engage in development issues. When women are working together as tree nursery groups, they support each other, discuss issues of importance, prioritize issues and tackle them. GBM has learnt that the only option that works for communities is a bottom-up approach that allows the communities to understand issues and more importantly own the process. As GBM and AFD finalize this documentary, we are honored to have spent time with the amazing women of the Aberdares and seen how they continue to be the cornerstones of African families.

To see photos from our upcoming documentary visit our Facebook page.

We've wrapped production on the documentary and look forward to sharing it with you. Follow us on Twitter to be the first to hear when the documentary will be released!