Before SHOFCO, Sarah Akinyi’s family’s life in Kibera slum, was a struggle. “I used to wake up very early to go and wash clothes at a fee in our neighborhood,” she says, adding “the money I got was not enough to cater for my three children. I was frustrated.”
Challenged, the 31-year-old single mother says, “No matter what I did, it felt like things were getting worse.” In 2017, her friends referred her to SHOFCO. “They told me women like me were being assisted there.”
Sarah was enrolled in SHOFCO Women Empowerment Program (SWEP) which is building community support groups for women facing life obstacles and health ailments such as HIV in Kibera and Mathare urban slums in Kenya. It is not only providing psycho-social support to the women but also business training, financial support and job opportunities.
When Sarah joined SWEP, “I met women undergoing experiences similar to mine. I felt at home. We started supporting each other, making jokes and laughing,” she says. After feeling at home in the support group, Sarah yearned for one more thing, “My new friends were doing tailoring and bead making. I wanted to learn so that I also earn some income like them.”
SWEP provides space, materials and machines for the women to learn and later produce clothing, bags and jewelry. When the products are sold, the women earn a commission which enables them to have a stable income.
95 women have benefited from the program, the majority of whom are directly earning income from it. The others have moved out of the site and either started their own businesses or have been employed elsewhere; they are still members of the support groups.
Since joining SWEP, Sarah says her life has been improving. “Everything has changed. My life has changed. My children are studying. I can pay the rent and we can buy quality food.”
Two years into the program, Sarah is slowly building a bright future for herself and her family. She saves part of her earnings in the support group’s savings and loan initiative. With glitters of hope engulfing her eyes, she concludes, “I want to have my own business in the next two years. I am committed to educating my children up to University.”