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Keeping their Dreams Alive-Women of Nairobi’s Kibera Slum Areas

Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, Nairobi: It is 1400hrs East African time. I was seated in one of the rooms at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church Parish Hall, Adams Arcade in Nairobi. In front of me, there was a roll up banner. It had a mission written on it. To empower the vulnerable within the Kibera slums. We won’t rest until those we help have equal access to quality education, healthcare, food and shelter. This is the mission of the Mirror of Hope Women Empowerment Program- Saving Group. They were meeting that afternoon for a fundraising event.

Few minutes past 1400Hrs. Young and old women started coming in one by one. And in less than thirty minutes, the room was almost full. At least 15 women were seated. I saw some with their business products such as cooked, packed and ready to eat simsims and peanuts sold at $0.1. They were eager to finish with their meeting’s agenda and run back; as quickly as they could to their errands at least to put food on their tables that evening. Their children would be waiting on their effort. You see, these women are economically vulnerable. Majority of them are either single or widows. They are women from Kibera slums. They live either in Makena, Katwekera, Kambi-Muru or Kiandaa slum areas of Kibera.

A short prayer was made. The secretary opened the register book. And the treasurer was waiting for each member to give the amount of money she came with that day. Just like banking sectors, members know that the more you save with the group, the more you can borrow. The only difference is that interest charged is low as compared to that of banks. One would expect that the process would take long. No. It did not. In less than one hour, the treasurer had confirmed the total amount collected. I sat in a corner. I observed. I clapped as members made their contribution. I was inspired. I patiently waited to hand over a written cheque from African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN).

I saw commitment. I saw unity. I saw trust. I felt their hope. The women were determined. It was not a big fundraising event. There were no prominent persons in the room. The event would not even pass for a news item. But to this group, the fundraising event had achieved its objectives. The women had managed to fundraise that day USD 190. It seemed much to them. The group hopes to buy land and build homes for themselves. It may seem a far-fetched vision. But I admired the women’s resilience and hope. It is possible according to them. They have the will.

Since 2012, AJAN has supported Mirror of Hope Women Empowerment Program by offering a variety of trainings. Mrs. Agnes Wambui is one such beneficiary. Through AJAN’s support, she gained beadwork making skills. “Since I received training back in 2012, I have been with the group. I am now able to make a variety of bead work items. I sell them. I am able to pay school fees for my children and even spare few coins for my savings in the group” observed Wambui.

I looked at the banner again. It read the women’s motto. Founded in Hope. Rooted in Love.
That is exactly what I saw. I hope they will live to see their dreams come true.

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