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.
Leah is a coffee farmer from Kericho county. She is a member of the Kipkelion District Coffee Union and of the Kipkelion Women in Coffee Organisation. She is a board member of the Cherara Primary Society based in Kericho county in Kenya.
Leah is forty-one years old and a single mother of four children. She went to the Cherara primary school, and like many other women in her community, was not able to go to high school as her father did not have the money for it. Therefore, she dropped out of secondary school after her second year. She stayed at home for two years and, in the third year, at the age of nineteen, she was married off culturally. She was married for eleven years and had four children who are all grown-up now. When she returned home after her marriage, her father gave her two acres of land. She practices mixed farming but grows coffee on the major part of the land.
Her leadership journey started in 2008 when she was elected as a board member of the Cherara dispensary in the Cherara sub-location. She says that her husband did not approve of her becoming a leader as he believed that women could not lead and have to focus on home chores and raising children. The relationship was strained and sometimes, she was not allowed to go to leadership meetings. To avoid further restrictions imposed by her husband, she tried to schedule the meetings during the day. In 2011, after returning to her home, she was elected as a secondary school board member and as the chairwoman of a women group in her community. In 2017, she was recognised in her primary society and was elected as a board member.
"Women must show that they can lead as well as men and they must be bold and patient to really make a difference."
Leah says that it has not been easy being a woman leader. Many people believed that she chose leadership over her marriage and for men this was a reason not to believe in what she had to say as a woman. But women must show that they can lead as well as men and they must be bold and patient to really make a difference.
Thanks to her resilience Leah was able to lobby her society to pass a motion to create an additional position for a woman leader, as, currently, there are only two women in the board. She also acknowledges that the trainings she attended helped her to understand her position and role as a female leader. She encourages other women to be strong, patient and not to be afraid of taking up leadership. She believes that today, it is not as difficult as it used to be for women to be leaders. Therefore, women should boldly vie for leadership positions in their societies.