BERYL: Grocery Entrepreneur & Community Leader
Beryl is a 32 year old woman from Soweto village in Kibera (Nairobi).
Today, Beryl is a proud mother, incredibly social and a role model for Care for Kenya’s Kuwawezesha Wanawake (women’s empowerment) program. She has been elected to different leadership positions in the community, from being the leader of the women’s chapter in her local church to a school committee member where her youngest son studies. Her story began very differently when we met her, as three years ago Beryl was forced to stay within her compound and only undertake domestic and household work.
Finding a solution to the challenge of reaching and empowering all girls and women in Kibera is critical to our mission, especially the most vulnerable and hidden, like Beryl.
Since Beryl’s parents could not afford to send her to school (as they prioritized her brothers), she eagerly accepted an older man’s marriage offer as he had promised her an education. Yet, as soon as they were married, she was pregnant. Having married when she was 16 and not able to finish high school, she also dealt with years of domestic violence from her older husband: ‘Baba Chris used to beat me up constantly. It was like a miracle for a day to pass without him going physical with me,’ she said.
Baba Chris did not have a permanent job and is still a “jua kali” (casual laborer) in the security sector. He would not allow Beryl to work or undertake any activities outside the home. ‘This worsened matters, as he became more brutal whenever there was no food in the house’, she shared with us. Even on days where she would sneak out of the house, without any formal education or skills, it was impossible for her to find work.
During our outreach field visits, we were introduced to Beryl by her friend, Lillian Achieng. Lillian was one of the past Care for Kenya beneficiaries and had established a prominent tailoring shop near Beryl’s house. She was aware of Beryl was going through and advised her to join our organisation.
‘I want to join the program because I am very unlucky when it comes to work. I want to be able to have skills to be more employable and do something that I will enjoy for a living. Having my own business, being my own boss and being able to care for my family is the ultimate dream.’ Beryl said during her first interview with the Care for Kenya team.
Care for Kenya aims to build capacity and empower vulnerable women to engage in entrepreneurial activities, thus becoming self-reliant and self sustaining. In addition, our women’s rights and gender-based violence classes support them in breaking social and cultural barriers by raising awareness and understanding of their rights.
In February 2017, after having successfully completed her training, Millicent felt ready and confident with the skills that she had obtained. She completed the course with a complete and feasible business plan, but needed significant startup capital in order to actualize the ideas that she had put in an exercise book: ‘Mama Florence Shop’. She requested 13,000 Kenya Shillings ($130.00) for grocery shop in her village of Soweto, where she is now selling a variety of vegetables, eggs, omena (small dried fish), fruits and small scale household items, earning at least 600 Kenya Shillings ($6.00) per day from the start. This is extraordinary considering that on an average, the local women here are paid half that amount for a full day’s work of odd jobs like washing cloths or collecting garbage.
She is now the breadwinner in her family, as her current husband finds work an average of five times in a month and is paid 1000 Kenya Shillings ($10 USD) per assignment. In a follow up session with her family, Beryl’s husband said, “When our daughter completed her primary schooling last year, she was supposed to proceed to high school, but I had no money with my part time employment. My wife surprised me when she told me not to worry about our daughter’s school fees as she had enough savings from the proceeds that she got from the business!’. She is sending her daughters to private school, which is an incredible milestone, particularly in a country where most women do not finish high school. Beryl’s intention is to provide the best education for her daughters, as she did not have this opportunity.
Beryl and her family continue to live in a decrepit mud structure, adjacent to the river in Soweto, which commonly floods and is renowned for its structural insecurity (as the closer you live to the river, the less rent you pay). Yet, she told Care for Kenya adamantly, “I choose to invest my earnings elsewhere… in my daughter’s education”.