Founded in 1998 in Njoro, Kenya; Kenana Knitters was set up by Patricia Nightingale to to help rural women find some much needed form of income using their spinning and knitting skills. Kenana Knitters was founded on the premise of “changing lives stitch by stitch.”
The primary purpose of Kenana is to support women in the local community, by directly providing them with a source of income, thus enabling them to improve the quality of their own lives as well as those of their extended families. Kenana Knitters is dedicated to supporting the local community by empowering over 300 rural Kenyan women to knit a brighter future for themselves and their families.
Currently, Kenana supports over 300 knitters as well as over 200 spinners who hand spin the wool into yarn using recycled bicycle wheels made into spinning wheels.
Knitting is ideal within the local community as it requires minimal equipment and can be done in snatches of times within the context of their daily lives.
Agricultural wages are insufficient to support the typical large and extended families found in Africa. The life of the women in Rural Kenya isn’t easy. Women typically do not have the same rights as men within society, and have limited access to land ownership. Women are also the backbone of the home and are required to juggle domestic duties and agricultural work. Sowing, weeding and harvesting crops, but also caring for the children and elderly within the family, making food for their families and collecting firewood and water. In effect the women do a lot of unpaid work around their homes.
Job opportunities in Njoro include working in flower farms, sawmills and casual labourer work. The payment in these jobs tend to reflect gender stereotypes and some of these organisations provide relatively low earnings, poor working conditions and limited advancement opportunities. Further, women usually are paid less than men, even when the women perform the same or equal-value jobs.
Kenana Knitters believes that women are the heartbeat of their communities. Kenana Knitters’ ethos is to make a significant social impact in rural Kenya by empowering women to take charge of their lives through dignified work in a safe, family-friendly working environment.
Together we can knit great change!
Asante Sana (“Thank you!”),
At Kenana Knitters we are dedicated to improving the lives of the women who work here. As such, we have developed a number of projects which allow for them to better their lives and gain valuable access to programs that would be otherwise unavailable to them; examples of these projects include:
Adult Literacy Classes; growing up in rural Kenya had meant that not all of our lovely knitters have had access to basic literacy. Some were not able to complete primary education and those from remote areas did not go to school at all. Sadly, in a number of circumstances, education was not made available to daughters as families could only afford to educate their sons. We therefore, give all our knitters the opportunity to learn, giving them access to a "luxury" they were not able to access previously.
We offer health and welfare clinics to all our ladies, where we pay for registered health practitioners to come out to the workshop – each week a different clinic – family planning advice, counselling, HIV & Aids counselling and distribution of ARV’s, women’s health (breast screening, pap smears etc). This is free to the knitters, it gives them valuable access to information and advice that they may not be able to access elsewhere. We also offer homeopathic clinics free to the ladies, as a form of alternative treatments and bettering of their lives.
Another initiative we have is a protein mid-day snack for those who are 55 or older, those who have not been well, those who are breastfeeding or in the third trimester of pregnancy. This is a mixed sorghum gruel made with milk plus a hard-boiled egg. It is not much – but it has made a difference in the general health to our more vulnerable knitters. A number of the older ladies are raising grandchildren. With schools having been closed, all the young are back at home and the grannies were feeding all they could to the young and going without themselves. This is free to the ladies.
We have been so honoured to have been accepted to the Nest Accelerator Program. Through the program, we have had access to some amazing consultants and industry-leading professionals who have provided some incredible insight into how Kenana Knitters can continue to grow and access people all over the world.
We are thrilled to have been advanced as this means we will continue to be able to provide an essential income to our ladies. We will continue to work with the nest through the beginning of 2022. The achievement so far represents how far we have come in the industry, and that we are committed to our artisans and their growth.