Peanut butter is an incredible spread.

It tastes delicious, it’s nutritious and, for 15 domestic abuse survivors, it’s giving them the chance of a better life.

The Queenz are based in the Mukuru slum in Nairobi, and they make and sell homemade peanut butter from the factory they started together.

They’re completely financially independent and that’s huge because extreme poverty makes women particularly vulnerable to abuses.

Often, the poorest women have nowhere to turn if they are abused – particularly if their abuser is a husband or close relation. The Mukuru slum in Nairobi, where these women live, has some of the highest rates of violence against women and girls in Kenya.

Just 8.7% of those who are attacked report their case to the police, with most of the women and girls in the slum being too poor to have ‘the power to protect themselves’ (to quote Millicent Fawcett).

The Queenz met through the women survivors’ network Wangu Kanja, which helped them receive business training.

Lillian is one of the women whose life has been changed by the peanut butter business. ‘A friend inspired me to join the Women’s Network and initially, the stigma of rape meant I was scared to talk about it,’ she says. ‘I wanted to die with my secret.’

As a member of the network, however, she’s been able to connect with other women who’ve been abused – which she says has ‘taken the fear out of my experience’. Now that she’s financially independent, she says: ‘I’m free. I feel free’. Wangu, a survivor of abuse herself and the founder of the network, says: ‘These women have turned their lives around one step at a time. ‘Their self-esteem has gone up as they are now able to pay for their children’s school fees, food and rent. The community has finally accepted them and their relationships with their families have improved. It’s amazing to see what can happen when you empower women.’

Christina (Picture: ActionAid)

ActionAid is working with local charities like the Wangu Kanja Foundation to prevent all kinds of sexual and domestic violence by providing SMS-based reporting services, support for legal aid, and community forums where men, women and children can discuss these issues. The saying goes: educate a woman and you educate a village. These Queenz are proof that if you give women the tools to educate themselves and to work their way out of extreme poverty, they will. Not bad for one of the poorest communities in the world, huh?

What ActionAid is doing in the slum

ActionAid works with local charities like the Wangu Kanja Foundation to prevent sexual violence and keep girls in school.

What it helps with includes:

  • A free, confidential SMS service for women and girls to report violence. Once a free text message ‘Help’ is sent, a group of female volunteers respond immediately and help the survivor get legal advice, medical help and counselling.*
  • Legal aid clinics in the slum where hundreds of women and girls can receive advice on how to navigate the legal system as a survivor of violence.
  • Community forums where women, men, girls and boys openly discuss the impact of violence on women and girls, and work together to prevent it.
  • Programmes to prevent local girls from dropping out of school to beg on the streets.

*With the help of the Aid Match funding from the UK government, we will be able to expand the text-to-report system to other areas in Kenya.

Credit: MetroUK


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