17 August, 2010

Florence Nyaboke


"I know what it is like to pray for your daily bread..." says Florence as we sit down to talk. She explains that she does not mind working for her daily bread and never expects a handout. Trying to figure out and discover how each day she will feed herself and her 9 children would make anyone anxious but she is calm. She expects to work hard for what she gets and does not take help lightly. Florence used to own a small clothing kiosk but like many small businesses in Kawangware, it closed down 8 months ago when she couldn't make the rent payments. With 11 mouths to feed besides her own, Florence looks for methods in which to provide for her family. She registers with support groups, churches and NGO's, all for different reasons. The support groups and churches are a constant support emotionally and can help each other out with small loans if absolutely necessary. The NGO's and other development organisations give her training and a method in which she can use her abilities to generate an income. Florence does not believe that sadness or despair over her circumstances helps anything, but instead says she thanks God every day that she is able to put food on the table and shelter over their heads.

Pauline Auma


Pauline's husband died leaving behind her and 6 children. She says she was lucky to remarry and find someone else as many widows do not. Her current husband does not share responsibility for providing for another man's children so the burden falls solely on her. Her children, her husband, her extended family all look to her to be their strength in times of difficulty. Pauline can't explain why it falls on her but says she prays every day for strength and is always answered. Somehow she always finds a way of being that pillar her family needs and she says often she relies upon her friends for emotional support. She recalls a few months back when she was locked out of her house because she couldn't pay rent and how discouraged she was. She came to the WEMA group to work any ways and was able to get a loan out of the money they saved together and was able to pay the landlord. Strength comes in all shapes and sizes and Pauline explains that the mama's she works with, help to give her strength so that in return she can be strong for those who need her.

Beatrice Shemi


"You'll take Chai!!". Beatrice makes me laugh. Everyday. Without fail. She is the youngest member of the group at 22 and the one who always makes the Chai (mixture of milk, tea and sugar) and the meal each day. I asked her if she liked doing that or if it was just because she was the youngest and she shrugged and said 'I make the best Chai..' then of course laughs. She moved to Nairobi right before the election and ended up losing everything. Her house burned down with all of her possessions in it. Beatrice, 20 then, had to start from scratch to start up a home again for herself and the 5 others she is responsible for. That's how she met Florence, one of the leaders of the WEMA group. Flo gave her water, clothes, and a place to sleep and there Beatrice found solace with the women in the WEMA group. She laughs and interrupts her own story and says 'Take me to America, I want to meet Obama'. We laugh together. I try to explain that i don't have a direct line to the President but she won't hear of it. We laugh again then her eyes get huge and she says "You'll take Chai!!".

Florence Andisi


On August 4th, Kenya will vote on a Referendum to it's Constitution. Many of the women in the WEMA group do not understand why they are voting the way they are but simply follow their appointed leadership. As the second youngest member in the group, at the age of 25, her and Beatrice keep a watchful eye on the progress of the Constitution and understand what it entails. She believes that Kenya's problems steam from it's leadership. Actually she says she knows it does. She had only been living in Nairobi 5 years when the post election violence happened. Florence moved here with her husband and 4 children (3 of them her sisters who passed away) to look for work. She recalls a few years ago when houses were burnt down, tear gas was constant at night, sleep never came, jobs were lost and food was scarce. She remembers and is grateful for those of her friends and family that took her and her family in and helped them. Florence was idle for over a year before her aunt, Marselina, invited her to join the group. Every day Florence says she is grateful for this group. For their support, their love, their insights on how to be a mother and wife... but the only thing is, she says laughing, is now she has 40 aunties and mamas in her business.

Wilimina Odimbo (Museve)


Wilimina does not smile often but when she does it radiates upon anyone near her. As i tell her she should smile more frequently I'm met with a lowered head and shrugged shoulders. 10 years ago she moved to Kawangware. Originally from Nyanza she married young and lived with her husbands family until she was tossed away because she was not able to bear children. She explained how she couldn't go back to her family disgraced so she moved to Nairobi to find work. She smiles again, twice in one day, (my luck abounds) and says now she has 3 children that she takes care of since her sisters passing. She runs a small scale green grocery in addition to the bead work and explains that after the post election violence things have got even more difficult. Prices went up on everything and since most in Kawangware were living in the margins already, situations got desperate. Wilimina says it is very easy to lose hope, without a job, without money for school fees, insecurity...but she still holds on to optimism for herself and her country. She says things must change and they will. Corruption must end and it will. Leaders must take responsibility and they will. She said that like when the rains come, so will change and it will wash away all that is bad and prepare the ground for something good. .