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Women thriving in handicrafts, aquaculture

Long are the days when women were limited to the kitchen and viewed as typical housewives in a society that was male dominated in almost every field.

In this era, women have broken these chains and are flying higher to make names for themselves, not forgetting their responsibilities as wives, mothers and daughters.

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An example is Vivian Oluoch, the sole founder of Avianna Eco Arts and Decor Foundation who is soaring high and also uplifting other women in Homa Bay.

Through her organisation, the 26-year-old graduate is creating outstanding home decors and arts and selling them to earn a living.

Avianna Eco Arts and Decors is making use of environmental wastes such as wine bottles, carrier bags and plastics to create its products, a move that has double benefits, earning a profit as well as conserving the environment.

“Avianna is a social enterprise where we make use of environmental wastes to create pieces of art which we sell to earn a living as well as preserving our environment,” she notes.

Wastes like carrier bags (Popularly known as uhuru bags) just like plastics, are over the time becoming major pollutants which Ms Oluoch and her trainees have come up with biodegradable shopping baskets as an alternative to carrier bags.

“These biodegradable shopping bags can help minimise use of carrier bags,” Ms Oluoch notes.

These women create beautiful flower vases from bottles, serviette holders from beads, and other home decors that are appealing to the eyes.

“These wastes are easily available in our environment. If you have a bottle, you buy a thread at Sh50, decorate the bottle and sell it at Sh200 or 300 where at the end of the day you have earned an income,” she says.

They also promote and encourage the use of carrier bags and sacks for kitchen gardening.

Ms Oluoch has trained a lot of young girls especially those with physical disabilities in Homa Bay to strengthen their financial standing and make them independent through making and selling these beautiful pieces of art.

“I worked with vulnerable women including those infected with HIV/AIDS as well as the physically handicapped. When you go to the community, the reality hits hard, you find a woman is beaten because she asked for money to buy salt,” she says.

These girls were going through a lot of hardships before they were picked from slum areas of Shauri Yako Estate and transformed into business ladies capable of sustaining a living.

Orphaned at an early age, Ms Oluoch notes that life has not been easy for her and understands how young women and girls especially from poor families are struggling.

With this initiative she is trying to protect these girls from going around seeking ways to make ends meet through activities that will destroy their lives.

“As a woman I know how it feels to live in poverty. Young girls these days can be easily lured by sex pests especially when they lack essential items like sanitary towels,” she says.

She adds that due to their vulnerability, there is a need to economically empower them for their protection against early marriages and pregnancies.

While in college, Ms Oluoch together with her classmates, would make art pieces such as key holders and bracelets, selling each at Sh50 to enable them meet their daily demands.

That was a turning point in her life where she said to herself that she needed to reach out to other women in her community and impart the same skills.

She returned back home in the year 2020, with a resolve to change lives where she volunteered in training vulnerable women.

She notes, “I asked these women to allow me to teach them how they could earn money by making crafts that sell quickly.”

After the training, the students are in turn released to go out and touch lives of others in the society, just as Christine Osano, a beneficiary says.

Like many other girls, Christine married at a very young age out of poverty and desperation, but life became even unbearable for her marriage comes with its own challenges.

“Madam Vivian came into my life as a blessing and trained me together with others on how to make beautiful decorations using waste around us. As women we are truly grateful to Avianna, because it has helped us become better versions of ourselves,” she says.

Another beneficiary, Tracy Otieno, a form three dropout sings praises of the organisation saying she has seen the sweetness of making own money.

Tracy is a form three drop out who joined her grandmother in her fish vending activities where at the end of the day, she would get some money for her personal needs.

She says due to poverty, she had to discontinue her studies because her grandmother could not afford to pay her school fees.

She however came to know about Avianna through other girls who had benefited from it.

“I joined the girls and we received the training. We were idle and as we know an idle mind is the devil’s workshop and Madam Vivian came to us at such a time when we were vulnerable,” she says.

It is usually out of helplessness that young women are lured into early sexual activities and marriages but Tracy and others were saved from such temptations which destroy girls like wildfire.

Ms Oluoch says she picks these girls and trains them for free. “I train them for free but the only things they have to bring with them are the materials like thread and bottles,” she adds.

Another organisation, Echo Network Africa (ENA), is also changing lives of women in Homa Bay through fish farming. This organisation has so far empowered and transformed 17 women groups into cage fish farmers.

Previously, these women were fish mongers in Rongo, where a number of them were selling sex for fish.

Rose Kauta is the chairlady of Rongo Women Group, a group that practices cage farming in Rongo Beach Management Unit (BMU) courtesy of ENA.

She says ENA came to the BMU and selected groups of women who were vulnerable and suffering with an intention of empowering them.

These women have flourished in fish farming after they were introduced to cage fishing, through training and donations of fingerlings, cages, boats, deep freezers and other tools.

They were also given machinery for value addition in their fish selling businesses.

“ENA empowered us to do away with jaboya (Selling fish for sex) and gave us cages, fingerlings, and boats. We also received mixers for value addition,” notes Kauta.

The group harvests 5.3 tonnes of fish yearly from the cages and sells them to Rio Fish Farm in Migori County.

These women can now educate their children and live comfortable lives thanks to ENA.

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