For International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting a few members of the SHOFCO Women’s Empowerment Project (SWEP), which provides business training and support groups for women in the slums of Kibera and Mathare who are HIV-positive. We hire our SWEP members to create beautiful handmade goods – from beaded bracelets to yoga bags – providing a means for them to support their families. These products are now for sale on SHOFCO’s Etsy page.
“I had a business before I became sick [with HIV]. It was doing very well, but then people stopped buying things from me. ‘Don’t buy from her, she’s sick,’ they’d say. Eating became difficult, first because I had less money and couldn’t buy food, but then I thought it would be easier to stop eating and just die. People didn’t want to look at me, to talk to me, to associate with me. I thought I should just die, because life was so hard… I came to the SHOFCO Women’s Empowerment Project (SWEP) because I wanted to join a support group.
SWEP has helped me financially. Through the group savings and loans program, I’m able to save, get loans for my business or even for personal purposes. Saving money has enabled me to grow my business and sell more sweaters. The beadwork also brings in an income, which helps me take care of my family.
SWEP has also helped me emotionally. Through the support group, I get encouragement from the other women, we talk about our problems and challenges and help each other solve them. We also have fun together. We sing and dance together, we laugh, we feel so comfortable with each other. We don’t want any of our members to live with stress or sadness. When I go home, I’m alone but when I’m with the group, I am at peace.” – Rosemary Achieng