Agriterra trained 14 strong willed female (future) leaders in the first ever ‘Female Leadership in Agricultural Cooperatives Masterclass’, held in Kenya. The group is composed of Zambian, Ugandese and Kenyan participants, representing organisations that are active in coffee, dairy, sunflower or credit and saving.
Main purpose of the masterclass is to strengthen the leadership skills of these women. These highly motivated cooperative leaders return full of energy and ambitions back to their respective cooperatives, better equipped to take up their leadership roles and make a change contributing to closing the gender gap in agricultural cooperatives.
Powerwoman 10: Grace Sitenei (53) from Chepkorio Dairies Limited
Grace is a 53-year-old woman leader and secretary of Chepkorio Dairies Limited. She lives in Burnt Forest in the Uasin Gishu county of Kenya. Grace was born in a polygamous and abusive family. Her father was not able to pay for her school fees and therefore, she had to struggle to raise the money together with her mother. She finished high school in 1986 and joined the Naivasha Dairy Training Institute where she followed a course in dairy technology. After her college education, she was employed by the Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) in 1993 and worked there as a junior production supervisor for 5 years. In 1997, KCC collapsed and Grace had to re-join her parents as a single mother. This is when she started farming.
Grace’s mother gave her a quarter-acre piece of land, which she used to practice dairy farming. She bought one dairy cow for learning purposes and later bought two more. She used her farm income to pay for her two children’s school fees.
She was determined to be the best dairy farmer of her community. Therefore, she formed a group with other farmers of her community where they would exchange skills and tips for better farming. With these newly learnt skills she was able to increase her productivity and the number of animals.
Grace’s leadership journey began when she was a supervisor at KCC. She became a role model in her community and was elected as a board member in the then newly established government Community Development Fund project (CDF). In addition, she was elected as a board member in three different schools. In 2010, Chepkorio Dairies Limited was established and together with the other farmers of the group, she joined the cooperative and became one of the founders as she mobilised other dairy farmers. She says that she was elected in her region unopposed by both men and women because they recognised her and associated her with leadership abilities.
“I am optimistic that in the coming elections, more women will be elected to the board.”
Grace followed several trainings from the government and other institutions during which she acquired her leadership skills. In 2019, Grace participated in the Female leadership training organised by Agriterra in Nakuru. Through this training she realised how much her community needs to be empowered to recognise and appreciate women as leaders. She says that most women are not confident enough to take up leadership positions and therefore need to be convinced that they can lead as well as men.
She is determined to use her position as a female leader to mobilise more women to take up leadership positions. After the training, she retrieved the list of Chepkorio women farmers and organised a mobilisation meeting with the help of the cooperative. By mobilising and training women to improve their productivity and become active in the cooperative, Grace prepares them for leadership.