WERK: A Historical Perspective

Below is a retrospective synopsis themed around the “product life cycle” of WERK that could give insights on WERK’s history.

1994 - 1997


During this period, WERK was operating as a working group and embarked on the projects related to women empowerment. The main activities revolved around identifying key historical and political women and developing their stories. The historical women figures that were identified included Menyaziwa wa Menza (aka Ole Mekatilili)- who was a freedom fighter from Coast; Wangu wa Makeri – freedom fighter from Central; Mang’ana Ogonje Nyar Ugu – was the first African female colonial chief in Western Kenya; Moraa Moka Ngiti – a female freedom fighter from Nyanza (Kisii); Field Marshall Muthon – a freedom fighter from Central; Eiokalaine O-M’barugu-an assistant chief in pre-independent Kenya in Eastern; Jemima Gecaga- First woman to be nominated in the legislative council (Legco), Priscilla Ingasiani Abwao- the woman who attended the Legco in Lancaster house.

1998 - 2000


During this period, WERK made major strides in bringing to the fore women who were involved in various development sectors and those involved in politics. The stories and experiences of various women were profiled most of whom are currently in politics or development. Some of the women in politics who were researched on include Hon. Josephine Sinyo, Hon. Mary Wanjiru, Hon. Catherine Nyamato, Hon. Zipporah Kitonny, Hon. Charity Ngilu, Hon. Beth Mugo, Hon Marere wa Mwachai, Hon. Miriam Matano, Hon. Tabitha Sei, Hon. Grace Muema, and Hon. Martha Karua. Some of the women in development who were researched on include Dr Eddah Gachukia (an educationalist), Prof. Wangari Maathai (an environmentalist), Prof. Florida Karani (an educationalist), Prof. Leah Marangu (an educationalist), Elizabeth Masiga (a senior civil servant in education), Rev Lucie Okuthe ( a religious leader), Ms Jane Nyambura (a religious leader), Ms Mary Okelo (a banker), Dr Jennifer Riria (a corporate leader), Margaret Githinji (senior civil servant), Ms Rebecca Njau (a writer), Ms Asha Suleiman (a journalist), Ms Ruth Waithera (an athlethe), Ms Monica Muloko (a trade unionist), Lady Justice Effie Owuor (a judge). By 2000, WERK had created enough goodwill from different stakeholders through strong leadership of the then Executive Director to start involving in various developmental and educational researches for various organisations.

2001 - 2003


By 2001, WERK had formed strong linkages and was the organisation of choice for researches in development and education. This led to it becoming the focal point in Kenya for the Girls Education Movement that was headquartered in Uganda. The Seminar series that had been launched the previous year had picked up and an extensive research on street children was undertaken.

2004 - 2006


This period saw WERK commence her recession. The departure of the dynamic Executive Director negatively affected the secretariat operations. There was a reduction of research based consultancies. However, the Executive Committee also began the process of sourcing for project based funding and managed to access funding for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVCs)- a project that ran through the period. By the end of this period, WERK had gone full cycle and the Executive Committee decided it was time to re-assess, re-evaluate and re-strategise WERK. The year 2007 was planned for purely working on new strategic focus with programme implementation being the main focus but research remaining an important precursor to all programming.

2008 - 2012


This period has seen WERK revitalized with the hosting of the Uwezo Kenya initiative being the main relaunch pad for WERK. WERK has steadily transformed from being a purely research based organization to undertake major projects such as Uwezo, Education for Pastoralists and the School Safety project. This is in addition to numerous studies across the board from education to gender based violence based studies (see details in WERK Organization programme report).