The East African Center for the Empowerment of Women and Children (EAC) is a non-profit organization that helps communities achieve empowerment by increasing literacy for women and children, improving health status, and eradicating poverty.
Empowerment, Assistance, Resources and Access
We at the East African Center describe our work as empowering women and children, providing assistance to communities and resources for people to make a difference in their own lives, and ensuring access to resources and tools for change.
Our multi-faceted development approach is community driven, low-tech and sustainable in the long run. It is targeted specifically to the local community's needs and guided every step of the way by the community that we serve.
There is no magic here, just providing the information and tools that people need to make a sustainable difference in their own lives. This is the essence of empowerment and what we accomplish every day with our work. Our approach is working, women are starting their own businesses, children are learning to read, families are staying healthier, have better housing, and have more food to eat. This is how we eradicate poverty and how we change the world, one woman, one child, one family at a time.
The following paragraphs describe what we mean by the terms we use. We hope this will give you a better understanding of the approach we take to our work.
- When we speak of empowerment, we are referring to the provision of accessible tools and/or resources that enable the people we serve to gain more choices in improving the quality of their lives, making important decisions about their health and that of their families, and creating new possibilities for their futures. Those we serve will determine what resources are made available. They are, after all, the authorities of what their needs, skills and existing resources are. It is imperative to make a subtle but important distinction here: we are not empowering the people we serve. Rather, we are providing new tools and resources that individuals can use in empowering themselves.
- In speaking of our work in Takaungu, assistance is generally a better term to use than "help" because it more precisely conveys that we are working with the community to achieve the goals they set for themselves, rather than giving them what we think they need. We must remember that the people we serve are strong, creative and resourceful people who are deserving of our utmost respect. The EAC doesn’t have a "top-down" approach. Our approach to serving the community is participatory: we cannot be successful unless the community takes an active and leading role in setting and reaching their goals. Only through participation will community members embrace a project such as ours, feel a sense of ownership for it, and ensure its success and future.
- Resources take many forms. Physical resources can be food, money, materials used in production, medical supplies, educational tools and so forth. Other forms of resources include education, political and social power, and any other assets that can be used to one’s advantage or to better one’s situation. All resources are rationed. Fundamental to the mission of the East African Center is increasing community members’ access to many resources that are currently inaccessible to them.
- There are many barriers to accessing resources in Takaungu. Access refers not only to the physical presence of materials and resources, but to the ability to make use of them effectively. Both these aspects of access are very limited in Takaungu. While many resources are present in urban centers and towns like Mombasa, and even nearby Kilifi, the distance and expense of travel is often prohibitive to acquiring these tools. In addition, health information and other educational resources are most often delivered as print media, which is inaccessible to those with low literacy or no literacy skills. Therefore, many material resources are economically beyond the reach of Takaungu residents. The East African Center addresses these facets of access at our community center in Takaungu.
The people we serve have been our guiding partners from the very beginning of the East African Center. In August 2001, our Founder and former Executive Director, Suzanne Wilson, met with leaders and many members of the village of Takaungu to discuss the possibility of future projects there. The village council expressed a strong desire to work with us, and we conducted a participatory rural appraisal between January and April 2002. From this appraisal we listened to the needs of the community and began planning several programs to address these needs. In particular, the community wanted a nursery school for their children, educational programs for adults, training to develop marketable skills, and health information and services.We continue to use community participation in order to monitor and evaluate our current programs and in reaching out to neighboring communities to assess their needs.