Dandora Women’s Forum (Dandora, KENYA) empowers women through training and legal counseling to engage in income-generating opportunities in Dandora dumpsite, where approximately 850 tons of solid waste generated by around 3.5 million inhabitants of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, are disposed of daily. The dumpsite, one of Africa’s largest, is situated less than 5 kilometers away from Nairobi’s center. Many of the slum residents around the dumpsite earn their income, by scavenging scrap. Trash gatherers are perceived as the lowest economic class and are one of the most marginalized social groups in the Kenyan society.
An IPM Project Partner since 2006, the Dandora Women’s Forum allows local women to earn a sustainable income for themselves and their families outside of scavenging for scrap. In 2013, the Forum directly served 70 people, mostly women, while assisting indirectly 300 more, including the guardians and parents of project members, orphans, and vulnerable children & people living with HIV/AIDS.
I. Merry-Go-Round and Table-Banking Projects
Two of the projects that the women at the Forum have been growing during the past several years are the merry-go-round project and table banking, for which each member contributes 100 shillings each Monday, when they hold their meetings. The group meetings consist of more than 50 members from different ethnic groups living in Dandora.
The merry-go-rounds, micro-finance schemes used in various countries in Africa and the world, are group meetings, during which members contribute a set amount of money every time the group gets together. At the meeting’s end, one woman receives the total amount collected to use it however she considers necessary to improve her and/or her family’s wellbeing. The members of the group collectively decide the rotation order, so that each member can equally benefit from this opportunity.
In turn, table banking is the Dandora women’s group financial services initiative, where members place their savings, loan repayments, and other financial contribution on the table, then borrow either as long-term or short-term loans. The women use the money obtained to support personal investments and projects or to launch new ones. Two of multiple advantages of table-banking are that all the money belongs to the group and that the interest earned remains within the group.
II. Handcraft Production & Sale
The Dandora women involved in the Forum also create beautiful traditional Kenyan handcrafts, such as necklaces, bracelets, earrings, key chains, and bookmarks, which they sell locally.
The women display and sell their products in a local shop, a space which also enables them to share their skills and expertise in the craft and, thus, to learn from one another and collectively improve their abilities. In the past, this handcraft initiative has been so successful, that the women managed to sell all the products they had in stock. IPM regularly purchases the women’s handcrafts to display and sell at its various U.S.-based events.
One of Dandora’s indirect beneficiaries, Mercy Rasugu, expressed her gratitude for the Project’s partnership with IPM, by stressing the latter offers many female students an opportunity to learn other skills, not just the ones taught in school, ‘including handcraft skills, which can be used to make an honest way of living.’
III. Goals & Projections
On the short-term, the Dandora Women’s Forum needs more funding to purchase materials for handcrafts production. The women have also requested of IPM Regional Staff technical assistance in resource mobilization, grant writing, and marketing, as they would like to continue building the market for their products.
On the long-term, the women are hoping to build an international market for their handcrafts and open a vocational training center for local school dropouts to provide a viable alternative career path for them. The Forum is striving to complete the construction of a women’s center, dedicated to holding the women’s meetings for table banking and the merry-go-round, as well as for group discussions, which enable women to constantly exchange knowledge and expertise in various areas, including handcrafts’ production. The center will also earn rent and be used for income generating activities. In the past, the women have requested assistance in buying medical supplies and starting a clinic in the women’s center building.