Women of Courage – The Fair Trader

Women of Courage

Posted by Bronwyn Newnham on


In our little store, there are Lions and Leopards, Tigers and Monkeys! Animals from the beauty of Africa keep me company as I work. The Kenana toys smile at me from their shelf in our store and they have stories from Kenya to tell me, stories of hope and a better life of sustained employment and a fair and just income that allows their makers to not only survive but to thrive.

They whisper stories of heroic women. 

I think we are now so indoctrinated by television and movies that we honestly think that a hero carries a big gun and kills all the 'baddies'. If we were to see a rural Kenyan woman walking along a dirt road, carrying a load on her head and knitting as she walks, we would not consider her to be a hero, but she most certainly is. She is an amazing, resilient and wonderful woman. She is knitting her life back together with determination and using her skills to provide a brighter future for her family. She is a Kenana Knitter.

Kenya is a fast developing country, now Africas third fastest growing economy.  The capital city Nairobi is considered to be the Silicone Valley of Africa.  Although the wealth of the country is growing, the Institute of Security Studies Africa has ranked Kenya sixth among the top 10 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with large populations living in extreme poverty.  The United Nations reported this year that despite a growing economy, unemployment has grown to 39.1 % and 42% of Kenya's population of 44 million live on less than $1.90 USD per day ($2.50-$3.00 AUD). We in Melbourne, would not have the inner resources to survive life on an equivalent income. People who have this level of income have no access to luxuries such as health care, education, clean water and sanitation. A survey undertaken by the Kenyan Government found that 64% of Kenyan households do not have electricity. Imagine how much household work this generates for women in Kenya with large families and NO washing machine, dishwasher, vacuum, shower, or stove! 

In the middle of this uncertainty and hardship, there is an island of peace and joy where the brave and wonderful women of Kenana Knitters knit their beautiful toys.  The women are joyful, and talk and laugh as they work, knowing they do not have to fight for fair wages, and safe working conditions, fair working hours, and safety as they knit.  I would love to have the privilege of meeting these courageous women who bravely continue on in lives full of trouble and injustice and illness. I do have the joy of having their creations in my store and they whisper to me stories of the amazing and heroic women who knitted them stitch by stitch. 

The scale of the change that is possible when we are open to our real calling is world changing. More often than not all it requires is a touch of kindness and a willingness to leap beyond the boundaries of what we know. (Kenya Documentary: Untold Stories of Change)

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