She could not stand to see her fellow-men wallow in obscurity anymore! So she saw the need for clean and affordable energy and took the lead through a social enterprise she founded – Smokeless Homes. Her organization does not only provide energy but also employs disadvantaged groups in communities of the Lake Victoria region of Kenya. She is today one of the top 10 Positive African Women(#10PAW) we celebrate on women’s day.
Let’s meet her.
- Who is Caroline Odera?
Caroline is the founder and Director of Women In Sustainable Enterprises (WISE) Kenya- a social enterprise that works towards empowering women through alternative sustainable enterprises. She believes in equal economic opportunities regardless of sex and gender and is passionate about working with youth and women led start ups towards building their legacies.Her work with women and youths in communities around Lake Victoria region has been recognized and featured in various media platforms both locally and internationally including; KTN, Saturday Nation, Lolwe TV, Deutchevelle (Global Ideas), Huffingpost and Be Bold Podcast.
She was among the list of 100 most positively Inspiring African youth in 2017.She is an alumnus of Mandela Washington Fellowship 2017 –Young African Leaders Initiative, at Rutgers State University of New Jersey, USA. Also an alumnus of Akili Dada and Spark Kenya change makers. She Holds MBA in Strategic Management (University of Nairobi), Bachelors Degree in Business Administration and Diploma in Business Management (Kenya Institute of Management).
- You are on a lofty mission to provide clean and affordable energy to your community in Kenya. Tell us a bit more about WISE Kenya?
Yes. WISE seeks to empower women around the Lake region in Kenya through alternative sustainable enterprises such as Green Energy, Agribusiness and Ecotourism. One of our Enterprise programs is dabbed Smokeless Homes Initiative, which aims at providing rural households access to clean and affordable energy. Most households around Lake Victoria still rely on kerosene tin lamps for lighting resulting into negative effects on their health as well as open fire accidents. We therefore train and invest in women to engage in solar lamps enterprises in the villages.
In addition, WISE works with women in other areas of intervention including; Health & Nutrition, ICT for women Development and Leadership Development.
- At what point in your life did you decide to serve your community. What inspired you?
I spent most of my time volunteering with organizations working around Lake Victoria on conservation agenda. At this time I was still figuring out what my career would be, even though I was pursuing studies in Business Management.
Then having observed how women in the region mostly depended on natural resources and sometimes on men for their daily livelihoods, I felt that no one was teaching these women how to ‘fish’ and to ‘fish sustainably’. This is the point where I decided that I would use my professional skills in Business to empower the local women to engage in alternative sustainable enterprises hence WISE was born 3 years ago.
- What other plans did you have before you started WISE Kenya?
Just like any other person would wish, I wanted to have a decent and well paying job in the city.
- Which of your achievements would you call your greatest success story?
Establishing WISE organization, building networks both local and international.
- Which challenges do you face?
-Serving a wider network of women due to growing demand for our services but limited resources available to use.
-Dealing with certain traditional stereotypes and barriers against women that limit their performance while engaging in our various enterprises.
- What fulfills you most in your job?
It fulfills me to work with local people and see how their lives transform from the local activities they engage in with my support. I love it when women are busy not just with house chores, but economically busy. And that they are able to learn useful skills and make money to support themselves and their families.
- What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on setting up a Hub just for women economic empowerment.
- How do you see your organization in the next 10 years?
I see my organization growing and serving underprivileged women not just locally but, nationally and regionally.
- Your African Dream
My Dream is that every African woman will be free from social and economic injustices and become fully self-sufficient.by