By MARY OJWANG
Woswa is the abbreviation for Women Students Welfare Association. Its foundation arose from the feminist movement that marked the advancement of women’s rights in the 1980s. It was in the second wave of the feminist explosion, which originated in the United States. This came along with the radicalisation of women about their civil rights, sexual liberation, childcare, health, welfare education, work and reproductive rights, including the right to abortion, culture and social equality.
The backbone of the thrust is against the social and cultural stereotyping of women as weak and incapable humans, who can only serve well as housewives and nothing more. Woswa advocates equal rights for women. just like the men, to pursue work, life, career and leadership.
In 1986, female students at the University of Nairobi realised that they were marginalised and had issues that needed special attention. At the time, female students were not actively involved in seeking elective political positions, which explains why the Student Organisation of Nairobi University (Sonu) was 100 percent male-dominated.
The female students engaged the university leadership with the quest for gender mainstreaming as a solution to gender imbalance, in all spheres, including student politics. They came to an agreement that certain positions: Vice-chairman, treasurer and gender secretaries would only be contested by women. This was a win for the female students’ movement Woswa.
Later, Woswa was registered at the Dean of Students’ office as the official mouthpiece of the female students. It has been active in projecting female students’ issues of concern and promoting the welfare at the university.
The objectives include bringing out the best in every woman all over Kenya through education and steering the development of female students through leadership, mentorships and capacity building. It ensures that members live comfortably while in school and get the best opportunities to assure them of a brighter future beyond schools.
The organisation has been in the frontline in creating awareness on personal health issues for students, advocating good living conditions of female students, promoting their image and self-esteem and encouraging a peaceful coexistence among all students. It champions the welfare of its members, and most importantly, defends the rights of female students, acting on issues and situations of sufficient value to its members and the larger public.
In its theory of change, Woswa believes that investing in girls and young women creates a ripple effect. It yields multiple benefits not only for the individual young woman, but also for the community, at large. Providing quality education and mentorship for young women and girls is a cost- effective investment. Therefore, the young women and girls who are mentored, too, have an obligation to mentor others.