MOTF Garashi

Empowering Women Through Education

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Literacy and numeracy skills are vital for breaking cycles of poverty, food insecurity and gender marginalisation. Almost 7% more men in Kenya are literate than women and closing this education gap is key to providing the foundation for women to engage in income opportunities, embrace opportunities, educate their families and improve the health of their households through greater food security. 

Towards the end of 2023, the latest group of the Mothers of the Forest had their first literacy and numeracy lesson with their new teacher, Penina. She began by assessing the Mothers and dividing them into three groups: those who cannot read at all, those who could read Swahili and those who could read English but not understand it. After grouping the Mothers, Penina began the lessons and the Mothers were really excited to start learning. Penina, as a mother herself, found it easy to interact and understand the Mothers. She felt at home and promised that the Mothers who did not yet know how to read and write would be doing so in just six months time.

The classes offer an opportunity for women to come together and learn while taking a break from work, childcare and their household responsibilities. In turn, this has a bigger inflationary community impact by increasing the ability of the Mothers to engage in business; selling their abundance, reading road signs, travelling and increasing their social standing. 

Penina would like to build momentum with the Mothers’ learning by having lessons weekly and providing them with books for adult education. Eva, the Kenya lead in Garashi, went school book shopping soon so that the women had the resources they needed to make the most of the classes. One of the Mothers, Harusi Karisa, said: “Having the lessons at least once a week is good, especially for us that do not know how to write completely.”

At the end of the class the Mothers were given some work to take home which, given their giggles, was very exciting as for many of them who never had the chance to go to school when they were growing up, this was their first experience of having homework! Word Forest is working proactively to facilitate education as a means for women to access resources and training, and gain independence, self confidence and wages. Meanwhile, the knowledge surrounding climate change resilience, reforestation, food security, conservation and biological diversity is essential for survival on the ground in Kenya in a time of increasing climatic extremes with flooding, heatwaves and drought. Education and literacy are vital tools for spreading this message and working towards climate change mitigation. 

The simple skills of reading and writing provide an opportunity for the Mothers to play a pivotal economic and social role in their communities and lay the foundation for them to rewrite their futures. 

Alice Ripley and The Team

1. Cowling, Natalie (2023) Kenya: adult literacy by gender. Statista. Available at: Accessed 28 November 2023.

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