Women Economic Empowerment
Echo Network Africa’s journey in empowering women through aquaculture began in the year 2010 to date.The Initiative goal is to enhance sustainable livelihoods and empowerment of rural women and their families. The initiative aims at achieving two objectives, namely:
i. To strengthen women’s voices to reduce human rights violations along aquaculture value chain.
ii. To enhance participation of women in aquaculture as a sustainable economic activity.
The Initiative is implemented by Echo Network Africa with support from Open Society Foundation. The project is currently being implemented in Homa Bay County in 4 beaches namely Litare, Wakula, Kaugege and Mrongo targeting 100 women. Prior to the project the women engaged as traders along the aquaculture value chain particularly in processing and marketing which made them vulnerable to exploitation by the fishermen who frequently requested for sexual favors in exchange for fish. This sex for fish vice commonly known as Jaboya has been rampant leading to a high prevalence of HIV AIDs and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases. ENA has trained women on aquaculture Cage farming, Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. This trainings have built their capacity in starting businesses that will generate income for their families. The Initiative also has a gender and rights based approach to address HIV related human rights violations, gender biases, harmful cultural sexual gender based violence among the women. There are 4 gender desks established in each beach to create awareness and education on HIV and sexual reproductive health rights. Each beach has a gender responsive BMU policy and a gender sensitive service charter for the BMU’s to lobby for inclusion of women in the BMU networks both at Sub County and County level.
In 2020, ENA continued implementing the pilot Aquaculture Anchor Cluster Model initiative in Homa Bay County. The initiative was launched in 2019 and funded by Open Society Foundation with a total grant of $ 250,000. ENA leveraged on its past experience in aquaculture projects to enhance sustainable livelihoods and increase meaningful participation of women in the aquaculture value chain. ENA established collaboration and partnership with County Government of Homa Bay to support ENA’s work. This was achieved through working with local implementing partners (LIPs) at the community level. A total of 100 women were identified, selected and successfully trained as beneficiaries of the initiative.
The women were successfully trained and actively engaged in aquaculture cage farming. An Innovative revolving loan fund was established to support easy access to finance by women in the aquaculture cage farming. Through the revolving loan fund, ENA procured and installed 4 high-density polyethylene (HDPE) cages for four women groups in Mrongo, Wakula, Kaugege and Litare beaches. ENA facilitated the conducting of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the area to ascertain the suitability of the selected cage locations. The groups have anticipated to harvesting approximately 20 tons of fish. Currently women earn a monthly profit margin of between kes. 1000 to 3000. This initiative projects to increase household income with approximately kes. 26,000 within a period of 7 months i.e. approximately additional kes 3,714 per month. This will improve the standard of living for the women and their households through provision of money to pay school fees, pay for medical cover through National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and provide atleast three meals per day. Most families depend on omena small scale trading which is closed three times a year i.e. during the breeding period and full moon season. The initiative will reduce vulnerability of women during omena low season where fishermen take advantage of women struggling to put meals on the table for their families. The groups were officially registered with the department of social services and successfully trained on group management. The groups are currently engaged in merry go round (MGR) and savings activities to promote cohesion of the group model. ENA supported the Beach Management Units (BMUs) to develop gender sensitive policies and service charters to increase representation of women in leadership positions at the BMU networks both at Sub County and County level. However, much more has to be done to achieve the expected results. ENA ensured follow up on any Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases through a gender desk established at each of the four beaches. The initiative integrated men as allies for advocacy on prevention and response to Gender Based Violence through community dialogues, training of paralegals, health professionals, security personnel in breaking the silence in the event of malpractices. ENA engaged aquaculture stakeholders through consultative forums in Homa Bay County for learning, knowledge sharing to advocate for women inclusion in the aquaculture value chain.