Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation (MYWO) is a women’s NGO that deals with issues to do with women’s rights and gender equity in Kenya. It was founded by Ziporah Kitony in 1952 and has approximately 600,000 groups contributing to a total membership of about two million women. It is currently chaired by Rukia Subow and has various agendas in its mission statement, including maternal, child health and family planning and training women in leadership and development.
Maendeleo Ya Wanawake was conceived by wives of colonial Governors who agreed to create a platform where they would unify, nurture and empower fellow women economically, socially and even politically.
In December 14th, 1955, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake got registered officially to empower its members to deal with issues they faced at household, community, local and national levels.
The founders of Maendeleo Ya Wanawake allowed the government to use the organization as a channel to reach women in the grass-root level empowering them through development projects.
Maendeleo ya Wanawake has since existed through our great grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers reign, seven decades now to be exact, continually seeking to empower women whether from the rural or urban areas and has stood the test of time
Kenya gained independence in the year 1964 upon which it rewarded the Maendeleo ya Wanawake with funds to facilitate its projects and distinguished its role as a government-private women’s outreach development agency.
Maendeleo ya Wanawake which is abbreviated as MYWO which stands for Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organization has today maintained its founding traditions but has opened its doors to all women at a minimal registration fee of KES 100, for individuals and a life membership of KES 1,000
Historically it was promoted by the British during their colonial rule over Kenya and helped provide services only for those against the Mau Mau anti-colonial uprising. Ruth Habwe served as secretary general of the organization from 1968 until 1971.
The largest women’s voluntary association in Kenya and the only one with a countrywide network of clubs is Maendeleo ya Wanawake (Swahili for “women’s progress”). It was organized by a small group of European women in the early 1950s under the auspices of the colonial government’s Department of Community Development and Rehabilitation, to promote “the advancement of African women” and to raise African living standards.
This paper will argue that although Maendeleo was founded to improve rural living standards through self-help, and although its national leadership in the early years of independence took a critical position towards the government, in the last few years the leadership has tended to accept the status quo and accomodate itself to the political elite. Moroever the gap between rural and urban women has grown wider and the development projects that have been implemented have been the results of local level initiative. The paper suggests that unless there is a greater commitment of resources from the national executive and from the government, Maendeleo ya Wanawake (MyW) will likely lose its extensive rural base. To support this proposition, the paper contends that:
(1) the national executive and its urban supporters engage in the “patrons’ round” of activities, and in the urban context MyW bears more resemblance to a western women’s philanthropic organization than to an African self-help organization;
(2) the national executive, though voicing support for women’s rights, enjoys essentially an accomodative relationship with the government, and makes little attempt to secure equal rights or more resources for women;
Maendeleo ya Wanawake’s Leadership Structure
MYWO has an elaborate leadership structure of ten elected officials representing 1450 civic wards, a civic ward is the smallest administrative unit, ten elected officials representing the 290 constituencies and ten elected officials at the county levels Countrywide.
MYWO has a board (National Executive Council, NEC) which comprises 58 members where 47 of them are county chairs while 11 are national officials.
National officials at the Maendeleo ya Wanawake have the mandate to coordinate formulate policies and are the oversight authority to the organization.
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