WISE: Empowering women and girls in sustainable enterprise in Lake Victoria

Women In Sustainable Enterprises (WISE) empowers women around the Lake Victoria region to establish their own business in key growth sectors such as eco-tourism, ICT and sustainable agriculture.

Text and asset WISE
Carol Odera founded Women in Sustainable Enterprises (WISE) after observing just how often women were left out of community decision-making in the Lake Victoria region. She saw how the activities agreed in local community project meetings were not geared towards helping women to sustain themselves and their families, and instead they were working long hours in unsafe conditions to fulfil their domestic responsibilities. With many relying on fishing to bring in money, but lake fish stocks dwindling, Carol also recognised that in key growth sectors such as eco-tourism, ICT and sustainable agriculture, women were massively under-represented. In this, she saw an opportunity to offer growth, inclusion and financial sustainability for women in the community. WISE works to empower women and girls in and around the Lake Victoria region to upskill and establish sustainable businesses of their own. WISE equips them with the key leadership and digital skills they need to be successful in business, while also working to promote positive sexual health education and gender equality through a number of workshops and training programmes. The focus of WISE is on integrating women into local community structures, finding and creating roles that support the development of the area as a whole, while empowering women and girls to see themselves as entrepreneurial leaders in their own right. QCT funding will help Carol develop a women-led eco-tourism enterprise on the beaches of Lake Victoria, as well as additional capital to invest in solar kiosks in the fishing Islands. These solar kiosks will be equipped with solar lamps run and managed by local women, who will then rent out or sell to the night fishermen. QCT will also work with WISE to provide advice and guidance on organisational areas including safeguarding and financial management. Continue reading to learn more about WISE and hear from Carol herself as she talks about starting out, her proudest moments and shares her top tips for young leaders working to drive positive change. WISE works towards SDG 5. Gender Equality.
The women in the Lake Victoria region rely heavily on depleting fish stock as their main source of income.
Getting to know Carol Odera

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a woman born and raised in Kisumu, Kenya. My educational background is in Business Administration with a focus on Human Resource and Strategic Management and I have approximately 10 years’ experience working with local communities in and around the Lake Victoria area.

Growing up, my mum sold fish to sustain our family. As the fish industry started to decline in Kisumu, I witnessed her and other women in the same business suffer. Through my volunteer work around the Lake, I interacted with many women fishmongers just like my mum and kept seeing similar patterns occurring. I therefore conceptualized WISE, knowing that I wanted to do something which focused not only on helping women address the challenges they faced in their community, but that also helped secure their livelihoods. Through my work, I have become an alumnus of the Mandela Washington Fellowship programme, and the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), undertaken the Business & Entrepreneurship track at Rutgers - the state university of New Jersey – and was also recognized among the 100 most inspiring young leaders in Africa by Positive Youths Africa (PYA) in 2017.