Co-operative Women’s Challenge in Kenya
In the coming months, Kenyan co-operatives will see big changes in their boardrooms. Under the new national constitution, no more than two thirds of members on elective bodies can be from either gender. In other words, women must occupy at least one third of representation in all elective bodies. Given there are over 10,000 co-operatives in Kenya, at a conservative estimate around 15,000 women will suddenly find themselves in positions of leadership on co-operative boards.
The Co-operative College is working on the development of leadership training programmes for women co‑operative board members. The project, which is being funded by the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation, will begin in November when Linda Shaw and Rebecca Forecast of the Co-operative College’s Research team will be travelling to Kenya to identify, in collaboration with the Swedish Co-operative Centre and the Co‑operative College of Kenya, relevant women’s leadership programmes which could help ensure the smooth incorporation of women into governance structures.
Women’s training needs relate not only to management and leadership skills, but also to cultural perceptions around the roles of women, and the challenges of balancing their domestic duties with their elected roles. Both the Swedish Co-operative Centre and Co‑operative College of Kenya have worked on programmes encouraging more active participation of women in co-operative governance and run training to equip women with the necessary skills.
The team will visit rural co-operatives and talk with women leaders and other board members to share experiences and identify the support needed. The aim of the visit is to start to build partnerships and identify resources to tackle this challenge.
Beatrice Okeyo of the SCC said: “The challenge is to ensure that the new women board members play an effective role in their co-operatives.”
Linda Shaw, Head of Research at the Co-operative College, added: “Tackling the barriers to women’s participation in co-operatives will certainly not be easy but we look forward to working with our colleagues in Kenya on this vitally important issue.”
Published On: October 25, 2011
Written By: Natalie