Stories from the Field – Meeting The Kokwet Women’s Group, Kenya
Laban, an ex-Olympic runner, walks us down though the village he has lived his entire life in, pointing out all of the homes of people who can run a marathon in under 3 hours. He didn’t tell us where we were going or why, he just kept walking and talking. A trail of children followed us, giggling and pointing the entire time. They delight in the photos we take of them and jump up to stoke our blonde hair before darting away in a fit of laughter.
Down a hill and around a corner and we are there, at a dinner party of sorts. A few exaggerated hand gestures later, we find out it’s actually a wedding party. The elders of one village are trying to negotiate a dowry with the elders of the next village and we’re invited to listen in. The groom’s party is late so we stick around and chat with the bride. Eventually we start back up the hill where we meet the groom’s party, singing and dancing in the back of a three ton truck, slowly making their way to the dowry negotiation.
Our return journey is interrupted again a few minutes later by a group of women and children, again singing and dancing. They take us by the hands and lead us into a small clearing just off the road. There they give us traditional Kenyan water jugs, colorful lays and we pose for pictures. Their spokeswoman tells us that they are the Kokwet women’s group and that they want to build a cattle dip on this very spot. Their cows are sick from ticks bites and the closest cattle dip is too far away for them to go regularly. The revenue would greatly help their families and the cows could produce milk for the children. They tell us how they have raised half the money, but have not been able to obtain the second half. Then they walk us home, singing the entire way.
Two years later we return to the same clearing, but with one major difference. The women’s group now thanks us and shows us how the they drive the cows through the cattle dip and we watch as ticks almost jump off their cows when they exit the water. They review revenue to date with us and we discuss different ways of growing the operation. They make their first installment on the loan we gave them and we discuss how the funds can be reinvested into the next project.
Later that night we exchange gifts and dance and sing until we are hoarse. When we finally go to sleep, tired, happy and proud, we dream about our next trip and what we can do with our new friends.