Women Leading Change in Marafa, Kilifi County

Patriarchal cultures in Kenya have long suppressed women’s voices in decision-making spaces, even in matters specifically affecting women. However, the picture is changing in Marafa, thanks to ActionAid International Kenya’s (AAIK) work in the Marafa Local Rights Programme (LRP) over the past decade. AAIK has empowered women to know their rights and assert their voices in decision-making processes.

Many women in Marafa LRP have assumed leadership roles at different levels, boldly articulating community issues before both county and national governments. Janet Kadzo Katana is a testament to how women in Marafa LRP have embraced leadership roles and are making a difference in their communities. Kadzo, 40, is a village elder for Mwangaza and the chairperson of a water committee in Garashi. She shares her journey to becoming the first village elder for Mwangaza Village.

“Life before the coming of ActionAid was not good. Women were very vulnerable in my community, and it seemed okay to our menfolk. Most of us had resigned to this fate,” Kadzo explains. ” I was a housewife, required to stay at home to take care of my husband and children. I depended on my husband for everything, which did not accord me and my fellow women respect. Furthermore, I was not allowed to attend any meeting, not even the chief’s baraza (meeting). Decision-making spaces were reserved for our husbands, who would return home to inform us of the decisions they had made, even on issues that concerned women.”

Kadzo felt particularly vulnerable as she had married a man nearing retirement, which brought a sense of urgency and fear due to his unaccomplished plans. Her husband soon retired, and life became difficult for Kadzo’s family.

According to Kadzo, a mother of five, 2015 marked the beginning of a new chapter for her and her family when AAIK started its programming inMarafa LRP.

“ActionAid came into my life in 2015 when they invited women from my community, including myself, for a women’s and

Kadzo at her farm in Garashi, Marafa, Kilifi County,

children’s rights training. That meeting was an eye-opener for me, and the urge to sit in decision-making arenas began welling up in me,” says Kadzo

“A few months later, ActionAid organized a women’s leadership training. At this point, no woman occupied any leadership position in my community. Men always controlled these spaces and disregarded women, making us lack the confidence to vie for or offer ourselves for leadership positions. I shared the knowledge I had acquired with my husband, and he encouraged me to break the norm by starting to attend village meetings. I was very confident when conversing with men in meetings and community processes, and they surprisingly listened to my contributions with admiration. It is through my continued participation and valuable contributions that my community members appointed me as a village elder.”

Kadzo is proud that there are now over 10 women leaders in Garashi. She has also started mentoring other women to seize leadership opportunities in various spaces within her community, including school and health committees, as they continue to fight for women’s rights.


Author: Velma Kagonya, Community Development Facilitator, Marafa Local Rights Program,

Editorial Team: Ezra Kiriago ,Communications Coordinator ActionAid Kenya, Mary Consolata Makokha, Communications Officer ActionAid Kenya 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *