Women 4 Donkeys
WOMEN 4 HORSES:
Strengthening Women Donkey Owners’ Livelihoods in Kenya
Women are disadvantaged in Kenya, and especially those in rural counties, which often fall well below the national average in the Gender Development Index (which measures the gender difference in health, knowledge and living standards).
Literacy rates among women are low, control over the family’s assets is usually determined by men, including land and livestock, and women bear the main responsibility for domestic work and child-rearing, in addition to small-scale income generating activities.
Female headed households constitute 36% of total households and yet still lack access to financial services and credit. Estimates show that only 4% of female headed households in Kenya obtain formal credit.
Access to reproductive health services is limited and the number of children born per household in Machakos County, for example, averages at 4.2. This is above the country’s average and places a heavy burden on women to earn income to provide for their families.
Women are also disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, with 6.8% of women testing positive compared to only 2.9% of men.
Women are empowered by the ownership of a donkey
Women in the region are highly dependent on the use of their donkeys, principally for household tasks, such as the collection of water and fire-wood, which they transport over distances as much as 10 miles to and from their homes.
A large proportion of women also rely on their animals for subsistence farming and income generation, such as collecting water for sale to others, the sale of donkey manure, transportation of animal feed, seeds, fertilizers and milk.
In rural areas 80% of the users and care-givers of donkeys are women, with subsistence farming being the primary, and often the only, source of livelihood for about 70% of rural women.
In 2014 Brooke carried out a research project in four countries, including one in Kenya, which investigated the many ways that donkeys make a difference to the lives of women and their families. When asked to rank their livestock, including working equids, 77% of the groups interviewed (17 out of 22 groups) across all four countries put their horses, mules and donkeys in the first position. In Kenya, all groups ranked working equids first.
Children receive educations when women own donkeys
Control over the family’s assets is usually determined by men
“As women we no longer have to ask our husbands for money because we have our own income. I would encourage other women to get donkeys.” - Kisima Tuyoto (age 47)
“If I was asked I would prefer my dowry to be paid in donkeys instead of
cows.” Joyce Ndegwa, age 24, Kamuchege, Kenya
“Even if someone says that I look like a donkey, I will just be happy and even be willing to buy them a present, for I know the benefits and profits I get from the donkeys.“ Phyllis Wanja, age 37, Kamuchege, Kenya
“I always recognize if anything wrong has been done to the donkeys. If they have been whipped a lot or are tired, they are immediately released from their harnesses and they come to me, which makes me notice that something is wrong. I will then talk to my husband and tell him politely to either stop whipping them or give them a day of rest.”
Mercy Nyawira, age 21, Mutithi, Kenya
“The donkey affects each and every aspect of my life as a woman. On a typical day the donkey fetches water, which I use to do the laundry, to do the dishes, to clean the house and for bathing. It also fetches sawdust which I use to cook all meals, then I hire it out and it brings in income on a daily basis that I use to buy flour for the evening meal. In other words, I eat, drink, dress, live off the donkey and more so as a woman and one not employed, I work hand in hand with the donkey. Basically the donkey is like me but to plainly put it, the donkey is me.”
Lucy Waititu, age 23, Kamuchege, Mwea, Kenya
“I am lacking words to fully explain how grateful I am and how really my life depends on donkeys.” Faith Wamalwa Kinyua, age 29, Mutithi, Mwea, Kenya
“I have to go to the river four or more times in one day to fetch enough water to cover all household chores.” Participant from Mutithi, Kenya
“The death of a donkey spells doom (…) Household chores increase and become unmanageable. Our home and children become dirty and our children are shunned at school.” Jane Muthoni, 33, Nachu, Kenya
“[When donkeys are sick] workload increases and we have less time for our families. During this time there are more arguments within the family and even fighting as everyone is stressed. Children have to work too, reducing their study time.” Participant from Mutithi, Kenya
Donkeys help us live a “digital” life. They give us peace of mind. This is because they facilitate so many chores, making them easier to handle, faster to implement and simpler to do. We do not have to go the analogue way; for example fetching water from the river on our backs or carrying firewood on our heads.” Mercy Nyawira, 43, Mutithi, Kenya
“Living without a donkey is like living with a broken leg. You cannot accomplish much.” Ruth Mueni, 48, Nachu, Kenya
“Having a donkey gives me peace of mind as I know I can comfortably handle all household chores with its support.” Joyce Ndegwa, 24, Kamuchege, Mwea, Kenya
“Farming is made possible by donkeys. All household animals rely on donkeys which are the ones carrying and bringing feed and water for cows, chickens, sheep and goats.” Participant from Tharuni’s Women Group, Kenya
“A donkey supports all other animals. This is because the money brought in by the donkey is used to purchase other animals. It is also used to buy feed for other animals on the farm and the donkey carries that feed.” Participant from Mutithi’s Women Group, Kenya
“I will always be grateful to the donkey as it educated my son.” Dorcas Wanjiku, 42, Ndiguini, Limuru, Kenya
“Previously I could not afford to even feed my family. Now not only can I feed them but I can afford a balanced diet, thanks to the donkey.” Teresia Wangari, 43, Kamuchege, Mwea, Kenya
“If my baby could speak, she would tell her life as a child of a donkey. The maternity fees I paid while I was pregnant came from income brought by my donkey. When I delivered my daughter, I was able to pay for the Statutory National Health Insurance Fund through money earned by my donkey, which catered for all the delivery fees. My child eats, dresses and lives off income from my donkey.” Lucy Waititu, 23, Kamuchege, Mwea, Kenya
“[When my donkey died] the blow was big, as I had to come out of the social groups, as I had nothing that was bringing a daily income for me. Cleanliness in my home was a challenge, because the amount of water that I can carry on my back cannot be enough for livestock and household chores. The produce that I used to harvest drastically went down, for lack of manure. I could not afford hiring someone’s donkey to take manure to my farm, because this was very expensive. Hence straining my finances.” Beatrice Njeri, 53, Ndiguini Village, Nachu, Kenya
“My donkey [who died 3 months ago] was my only source of income and its death has hit me and my family very hard. The donkey helped carry Napier grass for the cows, which in turn produced a lot of milk that was sold to neighbours and dairy co-operative societies. With the donkey no longer available to carry feed, our cows are not well fed and milk production has reduced. Thus income from milk has also been affected. Our access to food has also been affected. I am no longer able to purchase fruits on a daily basis and we have to make do with having fruits once per week or at times none. Items such as sugar are luxuries limited to times when we have access to extra money. Taking sugarless tea is now a common norm in my house.” Pauline Wachira, 39 Tharuni, Limuru, Kenya
“Donkeys help us join working groups so that when someone needs a soft loan she uses her donkey as security and is able to access the loan. Through this way we can say that donkeys have the utmost contribution to our development.” Participant from Kamuchege group, Kenya
“When you assist your fellow community members with your donkey at no charge you end up being respected by the community.” Participant from Tharuni’s Women Group, Kenya
“The fact that we help and contribute to the community makes us more respected.” Participant from Mutithi’s Women Group, Kenya
“Like women, donkeys are simultaneously ubiquitous, invisible and overworked.
Thanks to programs like this, not only will this generation of animals, like this little pregnant mare, and their owners have a better life, but so will their future generations.