Kenya: Opening up political space for women
Before 2007, Beatrice Kanoti never imagined that she would be a well known public and even political figure in Sio Port, Western Kenya. Today things are different and she dreams of a political seat in order to be able to change society and work for human rights.
Beatrice got married in 2000 to a fisherman and over time, realized that his meager income could not adequately provide for her and their three children. To supplement this income, Beatrice joined Mvumilivu Women Group which was doing poultry farming and making some money out of it.
Through this group, Beatrice was chosen by the Diakonia partner organization ADS Western for paralegal training in 2007. After the training, she and other paralegals went round the community raising awareness among community members on their rights and how to seek justice when those rights are infringed.
Committed to children's rights
Beatrice was committed to sharing her knowledge especially on children's rights with others. This led to her appointment as a volunteer children officer in Samia District in 2009. The same year, ADS Western provided training to Mvumilivu Women Group and other self-help groups on poultry farming in order to help them expand their business. Beatrice excelled as a children officer and poultry farmer and this attracted the attention of another NGO called Pendeza Africa.
Mentor for young women
In 2010, Pendeza Africa asked Beatrice to mentor young women in alternative income generating activities in order to move them from the "fish for sex" practice. The organization also took Beatrice through training in business management and entrepreneurship skills in 2010.
Sustains herself and the children
After the training, Beatrice decided to do poultry farming as a family business which picked well. Currently, she keeps about 300 layers and is able to make at least Kshs. 1800 daily from the sale of eggs in addition to rearing and selling chicken. This income has helped her family educate their three children in a private school.
Dreams of a political seat
Her work as a paralegal and volunteer child officer endeared her to the community, so much so that during Kenya's general elections in 2013, they encouraged her to vie for the post of ward representative, Bwiri Ward. She used some of the money from her poultry business to hold meetings and traverse the ward during the campaign period. Beatrice emerged second overall, a huge achievement for a woman in that area. She has not given up her dreams of capturing a political seat in order to represent her people at a higher level.
Meanwhile, Beatrice, who is very grateful for the confidence community members showed in her, continues in earnest her work as a volunteer child officer. She has also been nominated as the Chairperson of an advocacy group of paralegals which is championing for the rights of community members at the Samia sub-county.
Nominated to the court user committee
As of June 2014, another feather has been added to Beatrice's cap as she is one of the two paralegals nominated into the court user committee of the Busia High Court, Busia County. Here, she will be able to champion access to justice issues of the Sio Port fishing community at the county court.