Recognizing female entrepreneurs on International Women’s Day
Women across the globe face obstacles to becoming entrepreneurs. Traditional views about gender norms, lower levels of education, shouldering the burden of domestic duties, a lack of female role models, and outright discrimination are only some of the barriers that women encounter on the path to starting a business. Such issues are only further exacerbated in the clean tech space, which is dominated by men.
However, many Kenyan women are defying the odds- and KCIC is proud to incubate some inspirational female entrepreneurs. Here are the stories of 3 of them:
Exotic EPZ: 3 female entrepreneurs empowering women in agriculture
Exotic EPZ is a macadamia nut processing company helmed by three female entrepreneurs- Charity Ndegwa, Jane Maigua, and Louise Maina. With backgrounds working in female empowerment for large international agencies, they eventually decided to branch out on their own to make an impact in the private sector.
These ladies are passionate about improving the status of Kenyan women through their enterprise. Within their company, they have created employment for over 100 people- 80% of whom are female. They train their employees on leadership and have established staff savings to allow them to save and take out loans.
Ndegwa, Maigua, and Maina also work actively to empower female farmers. Kenyan agriculture is dominated by women, but the vast majority of them hold the lowest positions in the agricultural chain, do not own land, and lack access to information about the best farming practices. Exotic EPZ teaches these farmers about how to improve their productivity and protect the environment in addition to encouraging them to aim for higher positions in the agricultural economy. They are also developing a capacity building program to allow women farmers to access inputs and health insurance.
Jackie’s Army Worm Killer: Training women to sustain themselves
Jacqueline Gichuki is an innovator who developed an effective organic solution to combat the invasive army worm in Laikipia. When the army worm was devastating crops in the region and the chemical solutions weren’t working, her organic concoction turned out to be a big success.
In addition to boosting crop yields and protecting the soils for farmers, Gichuki is actively involved in women’s empowerment efforts. Starting with her own daughters, in class 2 and class 6, Gichuki has made sure that they know how to make her solution. Furthermore, she is a volunteer who gives workshops to women in Laikipia about sustaining themselves through agriculture and selling household products. So far, Gichuki has trained over 700 women.
Zuberi Briqfields: Defying stereotypes of women in energy
Across the globe, women are severely underrepresented in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and clean tech is no exception. Women make up about 35% of the renewable energy workforce and only 16% of the boards of the world’s largest power and utility companies.
Grace Nyawade and Florence Bosibori are powerful examples of women succeeding in a male-dominated space. They are co-founders of a renewable energy enterprise, Zuberi Briqfields, that produces biomass briquettes. As they had seen that sawdust waste was overwhelming their community in Nakuru County, Nyawade and Bosibori wanted to do something about it. They began manufacturing briquettes out of the sawdust, converting what was once a waste product into a source of clean energy for boiling water, propeling turbines, and heating homes and businesses.
A simultaneous aim of the company was to empower the youth in their community. In an area plagued with high rates of youth unemployment, Zuberi Briqfields made an effort to hire a staff that is 90% young people.
For other women energy entrepreneurs, Nyawade advises, “It’s challenging because we are few women in this space. However, don’t be shy to achieve your goals. It’s time to rise up and shine!”
By: Alise Brillault