A strong advocate for girls’ education and the protection of indigenous peoples lands and traditions, Alice Lesepen is a member of the Rendille Community in Marsabit County, Kenya. She works at the grassroots level to improve the status of indigenous women.
“Rural and indigenous women’s voices are so important. We started our women’s group in 2002. Most of the women in the community had not gone to school, but we wanted to improve our livelihoods. We knew the only way to do this was by coming together, so we can bring together our ideas on land management and resource management. It’s so important for women to be able to learn, and understand all of this. That’s why we are seeing many women in better positions today, because we’re raising our voices. If we keep coming out and saying enough is enough, it will get better for us. We are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel now, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Now, for the community group, education is one priority. We’re working on a programme for girls’ education. Initially, some of the community’s progress on education was mainly for men, be we said no, girls should be given priority too. Within our group too, we teach language skills and teach women about their rights, and about conservation of land.
When I was young I never had the freedom to do my studies the way I wanted to, because girls were considered assets. The community and the uncles made the decisions. They could send you off, give you off to be married. I thought, something is not right. And then I thought, now that I know it’s not right, what can I do about it? I need to speak out, I need to say that we can do this, we can change. I started with myself, and then my family, and then keep going.”
Credit: UN Women.