Prize for Women's
Creativity in Rural Life

14 Laureates awarded in 2007

"Promoting Women’s rights"

Africa Kenya

Mercy KIYAPYAP

Camels and bees for sustainable development

 

Mercy (27) was born into poverty in the Pokot area of Kenya. She lost her father at the age of 6 and experienced Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) at the age of 11. Despite these challenges she decided to fight for her education. As a child and in an area where 90% of the population was illiterate, she raised vegetables, goats and hens to bring money to her family and saved enough for a school uniform and books. After receiving her education, she decided return to her home region and help bring about change while raising awareness of women's rights.
Today, Mercy plays a leadership role in carrying out innovative ideas to empower women and bring about peace. For the "Cabesi" (Camel-Bees-Silk) project, she is responsible for the training of 1000 farmers, mostly women, in bee keeping and silk production. In addition, the project is a means to encourage the rearing and using of camels instead of less drought-tolerant cattle. Camels endure dry periods significantly better than cattle or goats and their soft hooves preserve the delicate ground. They receive their nourishment from leaves instead of sparse grass, do not damage the already over stressed environment, and produce much more milk.
The traditional honey production in the West Pokot area was an occupation only men were allowed to have. They used hollowed out tree trunks that were placed high in the trees. In harvesting the honey, men used fire to chase off the bees, which often resulted in the destruction of the bee population and devastating bush fires. The "Cabesi" project promotes a gentle modernization of honey production. Bee boxes are made of simple wood with frames that bees use to build their honeycombs. These frames are easily removed to harvest the honey and can be reused. This way, bees survive the harvesting, the resulting honey quantity is increased, and the quality improved. In contrast to the traditional method, the modern boxes can be used on the ground, which allow women to become bee-keepers, along with men, promoting gender equality.
Mercy also promotes the education of girls and women, advocates for women's rights in general and for the elimination of FGM. She is now recognized as a role model within the community and is so well respected that traditional chiefs and leaders involve her in difficult social cases and ask her for advice.

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