"I can say I was a typical woman farmer in Kenya"

"I can say I was a typical woman farmer in Kenya. All day is working. Most of the evenings is crying when the husband goes out and there isn't any food for the kids." Dorothy Naitore is a farmer, entrepreneur and community leader from central Kenya, who transformed her life by seizing opportunities presented by TIST, a non-profit dedicated to using improved tree planting and soil conservation strategies to improve livelihoods and contribute positively to climate change. As with so many impactful local organizations, TIST found that empowering women led to big changes - for the program and for the women. Dorothy, who I met a few weeks ago at a sustainability conference at Yale University, is an example of that. She says she has a passion for going out in the world and telling the world that it is possible to make a difference by empowering local women as TIST has - so I wanted to share her story. 

"Because of this program I got my two acres of land. I told my husband I am going to write my title deed in my own name. In Kenya the culture doesn't allow a woman to own land. My husband was resisting to put the title deed to my name but we talked. And I was telling him that I wanted to put my name to this title deed so that when I go out to other women I can talk to them and tell them that I have got my own land with my own name, so that they can be encouraged. We have to be role models, especially for those local women in the village who don't have anything. They rely on their husband to come and bring everything and that causes a lot of problems in the family. That is where you get many families separate because the woman is waiting for the man - sometimes the man goes out and doesn't get something to come back with, and the quarrels start. In my house I can tell you that for those years that I worked with TIST I can see the teamwork because I have started now providing  for the family. With the money I get from my crops and working as a leader for TIST I pay for school fees for the children, and I buy the food we eat. When he comes back in the evening he finds food on the table so the family is coming together."

Dorothy says she is "a testament of women's empowerment. When I started I could not talk to people and even my English was very poor, but now I have been given the opportunity to go to Ethiopia to talk about climate change, to go to China, to the US two times. This time when I came to the US my husband was the first person to wave me 'bye' and say 'I will be caring for the family.' So I think empowering women is a very special thing. I have a passion for going out in the world and telling the world that if we empower grassroots women like us that things can change."

December 13, 2017 by Megan Reilly Cayten