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SoYoung donates 1% of its online sales to programs that support women’s empowerment in Irkaat, Kenya, through www.we.org

The community of Irkaat is located in Nkori region of Narok County in Kenya. Irkaat’s residents represent a diverse population consisting of members from Kipsigis, Maasai and Dorobo tribes. Irkaat community members currently face a debilitating lack of access to basic social services, with the nearest educational facilities and water source located 5 kilometers and 20 kilometers away, respectively.

The land surrounding Irkaat is primarily used by villagers for growing staple crops like maize and beans. Unfortunately, Irkaat’s situation in a hilly/mountainous region makes food production extremely challenging, as villagers are forced to contend with steep inclined hills and consistently high winds. Additionally, Irkaat crops have faced both severe drought and fungal diseases which have plagued the community for several seasons, severely limiting food production and negatively affecting nutritional intake.

Irkaat community members are overjoyed at the prospect of addressing these problems and providing their children with access to quality education in partnership with We (formally Free The Children).

alternative income & livelihood: the why

Currently, 43.4% of Kenyans live below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day. In rural areas, people living on such meager income are often focused on day-to-day survival, with little hope for long-term development.

A family who is forced to choose between water and school must always choose water. Similarly, for a family who is unable to support themselves with food or income, they must also rely on their children for support, often at the cost of their child’s education.

Through robust Alternative Income and Livelihood programming, Free The Children helps to ensure that families have access to a stable income and are therefore comfortable and willing to send the children to school. They can also purchase essential medicine, form savings for times of need, and invest in their family’s future through high-quality crops and animals. In Kenya, Free The Children supports this vision through the distribution of resources and, just as importantly, through comprehensive training programs that teach community members strategies for success.

Women’s empowerment: outcomes

  • When women are involved in alternative income projects, the resulting increase in income means greater opportunities for education, better access to nutritious foods, and more involvement in decision-making at the household level.
  • The leadership programming and the increase in income empowers the young women, giving them confidence in their own voice and in making decisions about their future. The many strengths and abilities of women are demonstrated through the success of their campaigns and production initiative, thus raising the self-esteem of women in the community.
  • Alternative Income programming with women also addresses gender equality in our communities, leading to healthier and more educated households, greater economic opportunities, and an improved outlook for future generations.
  • In addition to the direct impacts of alternative income, community health improves due to extensive training efforts and communities are building confidence in their ability to reduce overall poverty.
  • By engaging in alternative income projects that involve agriculture or animal husbandry, women are simultaneously able to bolster to diets of children and family members.
  • With an increase in household income, students are able to attend school in higher numbers and dropout rates have decreased.

Women’s empowerment in Irkaat

Women in Irkaat often find themselves employed as small business owners, typically engaged in basket weaving and tailoring. Earning activities in the community are far from sufficient, with 70% of residents living on less than $1 per day. Alternative income projects in Irkaat include the formation of women’s, men’s and youth groups in the community, as well as the facilitation of participative trainings. Free The Children also helps mobilize members to start savings initiatives known as merry-go-rounds, and identify locally-appropriate income generating activities to improve their standards of living. These initiatives encourage community members to take ownership of their own financial status and control over resources.


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