Irene Awino

Thank you so much for an opportunity to share my thoughts in this timely subject. I am a journalist in Kenya, based in Nairobi. My contribution is not that of my employer.

In Kenya, the media has moved in leaps and bounds to reach out to rural women. Many vernacular radio stations will take the crown for empowering women to maximise their potential. And this has paid dividends. However, there remains a lot to be done if rural women are to reach greater heights in their endeavours. The new constitutional dispensation is a blessing in disguise for such women. Their rights and roles as enshrined in the new governance order could not have been better. But very few efforts have been made to sensitise women on the provisions of the new law that can see them take up leadership roles that can make them spearhead policy changesfor the benefit of their communities. Rural women remain ignorant of the opportunities laid at their feet under the new constitution.

The rural folk, mostly poor, cannot afford to buy newspapers let alone read them due to illiteracy. The digital divide is so wide that these women know little or nothing about new information communication technologies.

But, these are resilient women. They work hard to provide for their external families. They are positive about their lives, though sometimes resigned to their fate. It is not late to reach out to them with information that can uplift them. I personally think, efforts should be geared towards the younger generation. Young women hold so much promise of hope, but poverty and frustrating education and governance structures bring them down. They rarely get time to read newspapers, listen to the radio or get information from any respectable source. They have been shunned as inconsequential and have also been left lagging behind in a digital era. My last visit to my rural home two weeks ago left me chocking with hurt at what I saw. Young girls were dispirited, disenchanted with schooling and on the brink of giving up. They wore tatters to school and were forced to learn on empty stomachs. In fact, after sharing my concerns with a few villagers, I was shocked to learn that a good number of young women were leaving school to join brothels! And the vicious cycle continues. Are we going to let our girls and women go on with a pathetic lifestyle? As an experienced communicator, I suggest that we reach out to the young women. it is never too late. Information and communication centres in primary and secondary schools will hand them a chance to receive knowledge that will help them reach greater heights. In this information age, the young women can learn a lot. The internet is a source of immense knowledge on all subjects. It has always been said that educate a woman and you would have educated a whole community. Information and communication centres can revolutionise our women. They can tap into resources that will place them on equal standing with the urban folk. The young women can spread this knowledge with others including their parents and relatives. As a journalist, I know the media has its own challenges of limited space and advertisers' demands and would not regularly share the plight of the rural woman. Independent information centres in schools can fill this void. As Kenyans embrace a new order, the rural women will only grow stronger and fight marginalisation if they can grab knowlegde shared with them, for information is power. Brainstorming and strategy can map out a programme that will see every county with at least a mobile information centre laden with tools to fight poverty, gender violence, HIV/Aids, stereotypical perceptions and myths that ail our communities. And the list is long, the amount of knowledge out there waiting to be dished out is insurmountable. Thank you.

Back to top