How peanut butter is empowering Kenyan women

19 April 2018

Find out how a peanut butter business is giving Kenyan women financial independence and enabling them to be their own boss.

Women at work in the peanut butter factory, supported by ActionAid. Photo: Georgina Goodwin/ActionAid

Peanut butter is a miracle spread. It makes smoothies creamier, bagels crunchier, and sauces richer. Oh, and melted peanut butter trickled over ice-cream is a life-changer. But for a group of Kenyan women, this humble spread is changing lives in a very different way. 

The spread is empowering women in Kenya who have set up a business to produce and sell peanut butter in their local community. Set up by the Wangu Kanja Foundation, an ActionAid partner, the peanut butter factory is helping women who have experienced sexual violence achieve financial independence and have the skills and knowledge to be their own boss.

Getting women into business

In 2002, a woman called Wangu survived a carjacking and sexual assault. With ActionAid’s help she set up the Wangu Kanja Foundation, which supports survivors of sexual abuse and works to prevent sexual and gender-based violence. 

The Foundation provided funding for a group of 15 rape survivors from Mukuru slum in Kenya to set up their own peanut butter factory. They call it ‘Queenz’ peanut butter. Now they earn a living from it. 

Two women working in the peanut butter factory. With the support of the Wangu Kanja Foundation, the women have received the entrepreneurship training and technical skills to build a successful business. Photo: Georgina Goodwin/ActionAid

The female entrepreneurs achieving financial independence

Lilian is one of the women whose lives have been changed by peanut butter. She’s a mother of two, and a domestic abuse survivor. “A friend inspired me to join the Women’s Network and initially the stigma of rape meant I was scared to talk about it. I wanted to die with my secret,” she says. 
Now, as a member of the Women’s Survivors Network, she has been able to connect with others who have been through the same experience and know she is not alone: 

“Being part of the network has taken the fear out of my experience. It’s been a fun journey. The women connect with each other.”  

The initiative has helped Lilian regain her confidencebecome financially independent and provide for her family. “Now, I’m free. I feel free”, she says. 

Lilian, holding a jar of the peanut butter she produces with the Women's Survivors Network. Photo: Sheldon Moultrie/ActionAid

With the help of ActionAid and the Wangu Kanja Foundation, the initiative has had a positive impact, not only on the women themselves, but the whole community.  

As Wangu herself explains: "These women have turned their lives around one step at a time. Their self-esteem has gone up as they are now able to pay for their children's school fees, food and rent. The community has finally accepted them and their relationships with their families have improved. It's amazing to see what can happen when you empower women."

How you can support survivors to regain their confidence and be their own boss 

By donating to ActionAid, you can empower more women like Lilian to achieve financial independence. With your help, we can support local women’s networks in Kenya who are supporting survivors of sexual violence by providing them with the business skills and training that can transform their lives.

Find out more about ActionAid's work on women's economic rights

Photo credits: Georgina Goodwin/ActionAid, Sheldon Moultrie/ActionAid