Women in dairy shine on International Women's Day: Celebrating strength and resilience

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International Women’s Day on 8th March marked a significant milestone for Kenyan women in the dairy sector as they gathered to celebrate under the theme “Invest in women: accelerate progress.” The event, which highlighted the strength and resilience of women milk vendors, became a platform for sharing experiences, challenges, and strategies for growth in the dairy business. The celebration was not just about recognition but about fostering empowerment and showcasing the impact strategic investments in women’s success within the dairy industry can have.

At the heart of the conversation was the Vendor Business School (VBS), created by the CGIAR Resilient Cities Initiative and its partners, and aimed at propelling women forward in the dairy sector. Through VBS, women vendors are equipped with crucial business skills, financial literacy, and food safety knowledge, directly addressing the unique challenges they face and enabling their businesses to flourish. Florence Mutua, a scientist at ILRI, introduced VBS as a strategic investment focused on women in dairy, stating, “This program is a prime example of how we can support women vendors to not only grow their businesses but also enhance community health”. It is an example of how CGIAR and partners are investing in women entrepreneurs, empowering them to supply safe and nutritious food.

Beth Wanjiru, a milk vendor transformed her business from selling 10 liters of unpacked milk daily from a bucket to distributing 2000 liters via multiple milk ATMs. Her story of perseverance, innovation, and commitment to quality—ensuring safe, satisfying milk for every customer—motivated attendees deeply. Beth acknowledged receiving significant support from the Kenya Dairy Board, which was instrumental in ensuring her business’s success. This support included formal licensing that improved milk handling and hygiene, training on quality assurance, and regulations that ensured consumer safety and satisfaction.

During a panel with Beth Wanjiru, business coach Kenneth Wamai, and compliance officer Geoffrey Kienjeku, key challenges were addressed, including milk spoilage, licensing issues, erratic milk supply, financial access difficulties, and the juggling of household responsibilities.

The Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) is committed to helping women vendors become successful dairy entrepreneurs, through capacity building and giving guidance on how they can apply for the KDB permit.

From left to right, Beth Wanjiru, Kenneth Wamai, and Geoffrey Kienjeku, panelists at the women in dairy event during International Women’s Day (PHOTO:  ILRI/Geoffrey Njenga).

Kenneth Wamai, a business coach, stressed the importance of education, technology, and financial support in overcoming the obstacles that small businesses often face. He highlighted essential financial metrics that vendors need to monitor, such as profit margins, cash flow, and inventory turnover, emphasizing the potential of cost-effective marketing strategies, including social media and community engagement, to expand business reach without significant expenses.

Florence Mutua, a scientist at ILRI, highlighted VBS as a strategic investment in women.

The event’s highlight came through the moving words of Esther Wanjiku, a dairy seller and participant in the VBS, who shared her newfound motivation and gratitude for the recognition of women in the dairy industry. She said, “I have never been invited to any International Women’s Day event and being here, appreciated for what I do, motivates me to be resilient to scale my business to where I want it to be.” Her statement not only captured the event’s spirit but also spotlighted the day as a celebration of the resilience, strength, and potential of women in dairy. This powerful moment underscored the importance of empowering women and recognizing their invaluable contributions to their communities and families.

The event underscored the collective aspiration and potential of women in dairy when given the right support and resources. The message was clear: investing in women in the dairy industry is a strategic and moral imperative, leading to transformative growth and progress. The celebration on International Women’s Day stands as a testament to what can be achieved when we choose to invest in women, highlighting their role not just in their families but in feeding communities and driving economic growth.

                                     Here’s a highlight video of the event:  WATCH HERE

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