From Lizette Gilday – edited by Rob Paterson

Lizette Gilday, a long time member of the Knowlton community, visited Africa for the first time in 2010 to see her long-time friend Barbara Birks Wybar who runs a vocational school as well as a support programme for AIDS orphans and impoverished children in Uganda. While there, Lizette volunteered to become the International Coordinator for the children’s programme.

After five years, and three more visits to Uganda, she decided it was time for her to follow her dream of creating a women’s centre. She had always felt that it was important to go to the source and support and empower the mothers.

She moved to western Kenya to work with a social worker she had met. Together, they started the Visionary Women’s Centre in 2015, based on a wing and a prayer and a heartfelt understanding of the crucial importance of supporting the poorest African women and girls. Their goal was, and remains, to assist them to improve their level of education, the capacity to feed their families, to save money, to start small businesses and to access effective family planning and safe childbirth facilities.

Rural African women and their families are among the 85% of people who still live off subsistence farming. They are intelligent, hard working and courageous. As is the case with all mothers, they want nothing more than to improve the living conditions of themselves and their children. The centre is now in its fourth year and is having a real impact on the lives of local women and girls.

The Visionary Women’s Centre has supported mothers and grandmothers through their Mothers’ Support Groups with kitchen gardens, family planning and more. It has taught Life Skills in schools to adolescents, provided financial support to girls for school fees, supplies and uniforms, given out micro-loans for women to start a business, provided money for emergency support to women in distress, counselled more than 300 women and girls on a wide range of issues and so much more. This year the Visionary Women’s Centre is implementing a poultry project as well as a climate change resilient organic gardening project. Lizette’s long-term goal is for the Centre to be financially self-supporting in five to seven years.

During her two month stay she will send us updates about her life and work. She will give us a first hand view of how things are in Kenya at the level of the everyday lives of people, in particular women and girls.

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