Food or education. The difficult decision faced by women in Kenya


Nancy Thaara is a mother to three children who lives in the remote farming village of Kayonga, Kenya. Over the years she has struggled to send her children to school.

Women like Nancy have depended on farming as a source of income, however the changing climate means farming can no longer be relied on. Many women have been left with no choice but to walk long distances in search of food and water for their children, putting them at high risk of sex trafficking and violence.

“Women in this village walked long distances to neighboring communities looking for menial jobs and food. We used to exchange our baskets with cereals from women living in a neighboring community. This left us with no money to pay school fees for our children, who ended up dropping out,” Nancy explains.

For decades women like Nancy have endured extreme poverty in Kenya. Patriarchal norms and traditional practices like early marriage and female genital mutilation run deep, further entrenching poverty and injustice for women.

Nancy took part in training provided by ActionAid Kenya where she learnt skills like financial management, leadership and climate resilience. Nancy put her skills into practice and with new farming techniques in hand she began to make a living through her crops. Through her hard work and entrepreneurial skills, she is now earning enough money to send her children to school.

“Our women no longer walk long distances in search for labour and food since we are now harvesting higher yields from our crops. We have moved a step further…. and can now afford to take our children to secondary and even colleges and universities.”

Nancy is also now a respected leader in her community, managing agricultural projects and contributing to decisions. “I remember that time I struggled to speak in presence of people but today I can and I am leading in various groups and community institutions” says Nancy.

But there is still a long way to go. Although most women in Kenya live in farming villages, they own less than one percent of the land. Women need access to training, and support to become decision-makers and leaders in their communities. Women like Nancy should not have to face the difficult choice of either feeding their children or providing them with an education.

Will you help more women like Nancy access training so they can learn valuable skills and send their children to school?

We must stand with women like Nancy to help break cycles of poverty. Together we can help mothers send their children to school.


Donate now and help women in Kenya claim an education for their children.

Read more from ActionAid’s Autumn Newsletter

One of our main missions is to ensure women can claim their rights and have their voices heard in the communities we work in. Read on to learn about the incredible women we work with.

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