Is the Secret Ingredient For Feminism, Female Entrepreneurship?
Dear 21st Century Kenyan Woman,
Asking how you are doing is likely to bring up at least one issue caused by male supremacy. Despite the feminism movement being on the rise, your lives are still full of hurdles caused by the weight of chauvinism from the fear of being stripped naked in the Nairobi streets downtown by the matatu touts to the fear of being murdered by a man just because you rejected their advances. The feminist movement’s main aim is to give the woman choice and power over her life in this patriarchal society. Feminism is about empowering women and advocating for an environment to reach their highest potential. From the day you are born you are expected to play second fiddle to the man and you spend your whole life trying to fight that shadow. One of the ways that women try to get out of that shadow is through economic empowerment. This letter will be an address of some of your struggles, how economic empowerment through entrepreneurship can help solve these struggles, some of the struggles in Female entrepreneurship, and solution.
Women, Caregiving, Earning money and Entrepreneurship
One of the struggles that most women, not just Kenyan, often face is balancing between being the main caregivers in their family and being on the labour force. You often have to choose between one or the other. You are not alone in these struggles,33% of female unpaid caregivers around the world feel being a caregiver has put pressure on their financial situation while 21% of caregivers in the world feel that their jobs have been negatively affected by their roles as unpaid caregivers (Merck KGaA, 2017). You could even be with more pressure and responsibilities if you are a single mother since 60% of Kenyan women become single mothers even before they are 45 (Kiberenge, 2013). So how does entrepreneurship exactly solve this problem? Being an entrepreneur will give you the chance to have more flexible schedules and also maybe work at home where you can take care of your family while still earning(Khemka, 2019). There are so many working mothers turning to entrepreneurship in order to make sure they don’t have to choose between caregiving and earning money. Having more women in entrepreneurship will also ensure that they are more working spaces created by women since the assumption would be that the environment for working mothers will better especially if the CEOS have been in the woman’s shoes. A good example of this would be Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, in her book she documents how she came to discover the need for a designated parking space for pregnant women while she was pregnant and went on to ask for that. In short, why not entrepreneurship will not only give the chance to have flexible schedules and a better working environment in your own business but also help you create the same for other women when you start creating jobs for them.
Women, Sexual Harassment and Entrepreneurship
Another struggle that an amazing Kenyan woman like you faces is sexual harassment which happens literally everywhere. 14% of Kenyan Women age 15-49 have experienced sexual violence at least once in their lifetime (DHS, 2019) while 1 in 3 women around the world says that they have been sexually harassed at work. A study was done at the United Nations Offices, Nairobi on the impact of sexual harassment had 94% of the respondents being women which shows it was something they could relate to as something that happens to them. The study also showed how much sexual assault victims from United Nations Offices preferred to go to external entities to report the crime while some feared to lose their jobs or their contracts not being renewed (Wanjiku, 2018). So how can entrepreneurship help alleviate this problem? Entrepreneurship will help you to have your own working space away from all that toxicity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t face these struggles, it just means they will be less. It also means that if you are sexually harassed, you are more likely to stand up for yourself and expose the perpetrator since you are not exactly afraid of losing a job. Reporting the perpetrator, if arrested and trialled, would possibly mean the end of a cycle for the perpetrator hence saving more women from sexual abuse. You also getting into entrepreneurship would also shift the mindset of the young men on women where they no longer feel that they own them hence leading to fewer cases of sexual violence. Also as stated before when you start creating job opportunities, you are going to have a better working environment for women and the policies on sexual harassment will protect the women better from this heinous crime.
Women, Domestic Violence and Entrepreneurship
You also probably face physical violence where about 45% of Kenyan women have experienced physical violence at least once in their life (DHS, 2019). The prevalence of Lifetime Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence is 40.7 % as stated by the United Nations Women. From this information, it is clear that very many women go through domestic violence and often choose to stick with their violent partners. Some of the reasons that these women choose to remain married to their violent partners are a financial dependency, for the sake of the children, self-blame and stigma, lack of support and isolation, and traditional beliefs (Ondicho, 2013). So where exactly does entrepreneurship come in and try to save you from this? Entrepreneurship would help women like you who stick around abusive marriages because of financial dependency and for the sake of the children because now you will have money to take care of yourselves and children. You can also get money to seek justice and get counselling services for the trauma you have faced. Empowered women empower women, so once you leave your abusive relationship; you can be the ones to help the women who stick around their abusive partners because they blame themselves and lack support. If more women leave abusive relationships, it will also cause a shift in the cultural beliefs and also end the cycle that is created after children raised in abusive relationships grow up to become abusers or wind up in abusive relationships (Monnat & Chandler, 2015). While entrepreneurship doesn’t change about the perpetrators, it empowers abused women to realize that it’s not their fault and that they deserve better hence leaving these abusive situations.
Women and Entrepreneurship
Now you might be wondering what is this entrepreneurship that seems so solve so many problems for you, allow me to explain to you. Entrepreneurship is the act of identifying a problem in your community and finding a solution that creates value for the community, this value also often includes making money. Entrepreneurship requires a lot of risk and resilience too. One good example of a woman who created value from a solution is Michelle Ntallami, the founder of Marini Naturals. She found out there was not enough natural hair products in Kenya and decided to create a product that would solve that problem. She took the risk of starting a business that would compete with big brands like Ecostyle, and her resilience has paid as her company is now one of the biggest natural hair products in Kenya and she has very many awards for her resilience. Statistics show that 48% of entrepreneurs in Kenya are women where 32.2% of licensed businesses and 60.7% of unlicensed businesses are female-owned. There’s a rise in female entrepreneurship in Kenya women and you can be a part of it. There are also very many female founders in Kenya from all walks of life and different sectors from Michelle Ntalami(Founder of Marini Naturals) to Tabitha Karanja (Founder of Keroche Breweries). The rise in the use of social media has also offered very many women a chance to make money at the comfort of their home in jobs like blogging, vlogging, social media influencing, etc for example; Joanna Kinuthia, Sharon Mundia, Maxine Wabosha, etc. As you can see entrepreneurship is for everyone and you can jump on the bandwagon anytime you are ready.
I must confess I have spent a lot of time talking about the amazing things about entrepreneurship without stating the problems women face in entrepreneurship. Allow me to dive into some of the problems that women face in entrepreneurship and ways they can try to solve them. Some of these problems include; inadequate access to funds, lack of self-belief, poor social and cultural acceptance and regulatory restrictions. These problems should not discourage you from becoming the liberated entrepreneur you are destined to be. There are so many boot camps and hubs like ihub that focus on building female entrepreneurs by providing them with education on how to be an entrepreneur, exposing them to mentors and helping them to get investors. You can join one of these teams when you start your business. Another viable solution would be the “Kenyan Sisterhood”, I know how funny this sounds but think about the chama that you give 500 Shillings every month so that they can buy you food or utensils or clothes at the end of the month. There is a lot of potential in the small meetings you guys make every month, some women have moved from just buying foodstuffs to plots of land and building rentals for themselves while some have created informal microfinance companies that can allow female entrepreneurs to get funds for their businesses easier (Evewoman, 2016).
I realize that asking you to step out in faith and start a business might be too much to ask considering how hard and risky entrepreneurship is for anyone. The statistics have always predicted that startups die after only two years of launching. The journey a female entrepreneur isn’t easy even with the support system I stated but they are strong and amazing because no woman is weak. What entrepreneurship offers to change for you is too much for you to pass up the chance. So look around your community find that problem that needs to be solved, put effort into finding solutions that could create value for you and your community. This problem could be as small as access to classy affordable clothes in the rural area and the solution could be as easy as buying second-hand clothes from Gikomba and reselling them in the rural area. The problem could be as big as the access to power and you could build a plant that human waste to create energy. Whether big or small, find it, understand it in and out then approach incubation hubs like Ihub to help you develop your ideas and offer you, mentors. Banks never seem to want to give you money to start your business? Join the women group chamas, this informal microfinance never tire to give women loans or even better invest your savings into the chama for more money at the end of the year. In short, just start and whatever hurdle you face, find out how you can solve, Google is available now and there are so many people rooting for you. So why not?
With love and hope,
Hopeful Black Kenyan Feminist.
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