Goals to transform our world: Women’s empowerment

08 Mar 2018 |Written by Emily Redmond

At Good Things Foundation we've always adhered to the idea that working together towards common goals can help everyone make a greater impact.

Though we're extremely proud of our own social impact, we're also keen to make sure that our work is contributing to the bigger global picture. That's why we're looking at how our programmes further the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - 17 global goals, adopted by world leaders in 2015 to end poverty, build economic growth and address social needs including education, health, and job opportunities.

This week I'm experiencing the great privilege of visiting a number of Kenyan communities, as part of our pilot work in Kenya. The Digital Life: Kenya pilot is paying particular attention to how digital literacy can support goal 5 of the SDGs - women's empowerment.

We know that the benefits of international development are not equally shared between genders. On average across the world, women spend almost triple the amount of time on unpaid domestic and care work as men, denying them vital opportunities to transform their lives. It's an issue visible in many rural areas of Kenya.

From speaking to Kenyan librarians on the ground and Kenya National Library Service (knls) staff members, Juliana Muchai and Raymond Chepkwony, we've already learned that:

  • Many adult women can't access the same opportunities as adult men.
  • There can be a gulf in the education system. In some regions of Kenya education for girls is seen as less important.
  • There is also a gap in education provision for older people, especially those who didn't have sufficient education in childhood... so usually women.
  • Accessing services and support is harder in rural areas - even more so for women who have greater domestic obligations.
  • Lots of women are minimal users of mobile technology, particularly in rural areas. Those that do have mobile phones tend to use them for only for voice and mobile money.
  • Fewer women than men visit knls libraries - particularly in rural areas where women may have children and livestock to look after and lack time to make visits.

There are varied reasons for many of these issues. One thing we know is that in order to reach and empower people within communities (especially the harder-to-reach women), we need the inside wisdom and earned trust of those who live and work in these communities every day. A situation which ideally places knls librarians as the harbingers of change.

For instance, this week we've visited Kibera Slum in Nairobi where the librarian advocates the importance of libraries offering digital literacy skills, alongside their "more of a social worker" duties, handing out sanitary towels, food and helping children stay at school. This human, holistic approach is one we've seen work successfully time and time again in the network model we use in the UK, and further afield in Australia.

Kibera slum in Nairobi

Mary Kinyanjui - Librarian at Kibera Library

In order to eradicate poverty, increase educational opportunities and build inclusive societies for all by 2030, we know that implementation of the SDGs needs to move at a much faster rate. The Digital Life: Kenya pilot is showing that it can work. With a co-ordinated partnership approach and a very human way of working we can make sure that no one - especially women and girls - are left behind.

Want to help us achieve our goals and contribute to the SDGs? Get in touch at hello@goodthingsfoundation.org to help us build our national and international programmes.

Featured project

Digital Life: Kenya