Growing up, Samson Langat’s mother did not divide work and chores according to gender. She expected all her children—boys and girls—to fetch water, cook, wash clothes and sweep the house. As a teenager, Langat joined his two brothers and four sisters on their one-acre farm after school and helped pick tea, which was considered female work at the time.
The 28-year-old grew up in Itaibei village in Kericho County, a tea farming region in Kenya. He says at first he felt embarrassed when he was asked to pick tea along with his siblings, and some of his classmates would make fun of him. But as he grew up, he stopped paying attention to them. “This was the only source of income for the family. My siblings and I knew that we had to help our parents whenever we could,” he explains in Swahili. Working at the farm, he received firsthand knowledge of how tough the work was and how strong women need to be in order to do it.
He remembers his mother waking up as early as 4 a.m. to prepare him and his siblings for school, do the household chores and then spend hours in the family farm picking tea. She would come back and make lunch before heading out to the farm once again in the afternoon. His father was often away, ploughing the land of neighbors’ farms in order to earn extra income. Similarly, when his sisters married, they spent most days working the tea farms to provide for their families.
Langat admired the hard work of the women in his family.
He also saw the challenges with relying on tea as the sole source of income. He and his siblings were sent home from school for not paying school fees on time, and when his older sisters had families of their own, they would sometimes need help raising school fees for their children as well.
Seeing this had a significant influence on how Langat thinks about supporting women.
After high school he continued working on other people’s tea farms, and took whatever jobs he could find so he could afford to go to college. With financial contributions from his older siblings, he studied to become a public accountant.
After graduation, Langat wasn’t able to find a job as an accountant so he went back to what he knew—tea farming—and continued to grow the family business. Langat was on his tea farm when WE approached him to become a community trainer. In 2018, WE partnered with Lipton to provide financial literacy and business training to 150,000 people in the tea farming region in Kenya over three years. In 2019, the program reached Langat’s community.
Part of the program harnesses the skills and knowledge of people already in the community to become community trainers. Langat’s strong financial background made him an ideal candidate to become a trainer, providing him with the opportunity to share the knowledge he worked so hard to receive.
Langat was among one hundred trainers taken through a comprehensive learning process to build the knowledge and skills required to effectively train his fellow tea farmers on financial literacy.
The first training he did was on his own four-acre tea farm. “It was five women who I have known for many years. They are used to seeing me at the farm when they are working, because I pick the tea alongside them,” he recalls. But this time around they were surprised when he got to the farm without his usual basket to put the tea in. Instead, he was carrying a book.
Although he had planned a one-hour training, the session lasted two hours because the women had so many questions. He invited them to attend another training the next day.
He taught savings, recordkeeping, budgeting and income generation using the module curriculum. He jokes that he runs a traveling classroom, as he enjoys training on tea farms while his “students” work.
Now he is not only known as Mwalimu Langat (teacher, in Swahili) to his neighbors, but he brought the classroom home to his wife, Lornah, who is a stay-at-home mom. She says they have learned to save more effectively, specifically for when their two daughters, a two-year-old and an eight-month-old, start school. The training on income diversification and how to identify new sources of income also inspired them to buy a dairy cow and start a business selling milk to their neighbors.
Why is this training needed? Financial literacy training is important here. It helps people take care of the money they already have. It helps them see how else they can take care of their families and change their living standards.
What is the biggest impact you have seen since the training started? The women we work with are now saving more and starting businesses of their own. This means that they can buy food and pay school fees for their children. Now even the men are giving the women the income they earn so they can plan with it.
Why is it important for men to be involved in the financial empowerment of women? Here you find that the women have so many responsibilities that require money. They don’t make the decisions alone. Most of the time they make them with their husbands. If you want to bring change, you must involve the men. When men see how financial empowerment of women is improving the lives of their family members and the community, they will support the women.
This interview has been condensed and edited from a translation.
“Financial literacy training is important here because it helps people take care of the money they already have. It helps them see how else they can take care of their families.”Samson Langat, Community Trainer
“I saw what the women the trainers showed us had done and I thought that if they could do it, then I could do it too.”Magdalene Metei, Trainee
“When women are successful, they can support their children, their husbands and the entire community.”Alice Korir, Trainee
“Now when you see women, they have so much.”Mary Koech, Community Trainer
“Every time I went, they taught something new and I knew it was going to help me.”Caroline Korkoren, Trainee
Zeddy Kosgei is a multi-media content creator in Kenya with over three years’ experience as a broadcast journalist. She loves finding stories that matter and retelling them creatively and eloquently.