What it means to be a young woman in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya
Catherine is the second born in her family and was brought up in Silanga, one of the villages in Kibera slum. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and she soon couldn't attend school because it was difficult for her stepmother to support her and her siblings' education.
When she was 16, she met a boyfriend, and they had their first child, Mary. Life was difficult for her as a young mother, and she had to assume the role of a wife to receive support from her boyfriend.
Catherine is one of many young women in Kibera who face numerous challenges, including manipulation and sexual harassment, a lack of hope for furthering their education due to poverty, a lack of safe space to discuss problems, and a lack of basic necessities such as sanitary towels.
It was about time for Mary to start school, and access to a good education was not cheap in Kibera at the time. Ushirika Children's Centre was the only desirable school that was distinct from the other public schools that were affected by over enrolment and low teacher supply and lack of quality tuition; Mary began her education there. "At first, Mary had to attend school on and off because I couldn't afford her tuition fee on a continuous basis. Fortunately, one of the teachers at school was eager to keep Mary in school and he introduced my daughter in AVSI distance support program" Catherine says.
A Swiss family guaranteed Mary's school fee payment a result of a collaboration between AVSI, Ushirika Children's Centre and AVAID Foundation, a founding member of AVSI.
Partnerships – key for effective service delivery
Since 2002, AVSI through Ushirika Children's Center has supported many children in the Kibera area, it provides quality education to over 600 primary and secondary school students each year. The centre has also established an all-girls college, which provides hospitality and computer courses to many young Kibera girls.
The distance support program not only supported Mary but also Catherine. She participated to trainings addressed to parents of children sponsored on life skills, business skills, entrepreneurship, and market-oriented skills. She learned how to make cakes and soap during her trainings. Soap making was a desired business for Catherine, and she now makes and sells these detergents in addition to running a fruit and vegetable stand.
Catherine's family income has increased significantly thanks to the earning from her business. Apart from providing basic needs to her children (she is now mother of 5), she supports their education effectively; they now afford at least two meals a day, as opposed to one before.
She also mentors' other women and has already taught more than ten parents, including her stepmother, how to make soap and use it to make a living. Catherine also offers to accompany these women to support them in case they find difficulty in their soap business. She also exposes them to stores that provide cheap soap-making ingredients. In addition to educating the community, Catherine also offers employment to young men on a 15% commission of total sales to help her market the soap within the community.
Catherine can add funds to her business thanks to the Distance Support Program's periodic extra contribution (a voluntary donation made by the donor to the family they support). She is also a member of the community savings and lending groups, which allows her to save for herself while also lending when needed. Her financial abilities are frequently strengthened through the savings associations, thanks to the existence of program trainers to help the groups.
Awareness: Catherine is sharing knowledge to generate a positive change.
"Whether you're a single mother or a widow, as a woman, you must work hard to be self-reliant. I share my own experience with my daughter to emphasize the importance of prioritizing education and independence." Catherine mentions.
Catherine easily connects with her daughter and can provide first-hand information to her about the importance of staying focused and avoiding becoming entangled in early parenting situations. Her resilience and determination are a source of hope to many young women that are transiting through the life challenges. The knowledge she transfers to other women brings out her passion for a better living state to her neighbours and friends in the community.
Mother's Day Celebration
As we reflect on the importance of motherhood, it is important to remember the countless sacrifices and challenges that mothers face every day. From sleepless nights to juggling work and family responsibilities, motherhood requires resilience, strength, and unwavering love.
AVSI is committed to supporting these women to become the protagonist of their own integral development and that of their family and community. Women are the backbone of our families and communities, and their contributions are invaluable. Let us honour and cherish our mothers every day of the year.
The Distance Support Program in Kenya
Through sponsorships, the AVSI Distance Support Program seeks to assist vulnerable communities, beginning with individual children. Individuals or organizations can sponsor a child or youth in need through the Distance Support Program, providing them with access to education, healthcare, and other basic needs.
In Kenya, the program has assisted over 12,000 children in gaining access to quality education, and more than 25,000 mothers, who are always at the centre of the family’s development, have been able to learn income generating skills such as soap making, cake making, beadwork, dairy goat keeping, and kitchen gardening. Most of them provide better living conditions for their families because of these skills.
AVSI Kenya is directly collaborating with women on three projects with the goal of providing autonomy to many families in their immediate surroundings. Individual identity is considered in this development journey, and the proposal for assistance allows for the participation of all stakeholders who are the change agents.