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The struggle to be self-supporting

Forty-six-year-old Elizabeth Kasim (pictured above) from Kibera is a member of Mirror of Hope, a faith-based organization supported by AJAN that helps women living with HIV. She is single-handedly raising her two children plus the three children of her brother who died.

When I first joined Mirror of Hope, I was in a different state. Then we were put in groups and taught how to live together, how to accept our lives and start living positively, and since then my life has changed. 

Before my life was not good, it was miserable, because of stigma. When people know you are in this state and that you are living positively, they try to secure themselves away from you and they look down on you. They used to look down on me, unlike now, when I am feeling free and people are feeling free with me, because my life has changed and I look better.

Mirror of Hope has really brought new light to my life, especially since someone from AJAN, a Jesuit called Kevin Kelly, helped us to come together as a support group to get loans. When I got the loan, the first thing I did was to buy  a water pump for my brother who is doing farming.

Since I joined Mirror of Hope, I am self-supporting, I have started a small business. Now I am able to buy my own food, I can pay school fees for the children, and I can even send some money to my mother at home. That makes me happy and responsible compared to how I was before.

However I am worried about what I will do next because what I earn is not enough for our upkeep. I was trying to make beaded necklaces and bags but that did not give me enough money because no one was buying them, there is no market at the moment. So I was forced to start another business to sell fruit. Now it’s just that and I get a little money to sustain myself but it’s not enough.

When it rains, I don’t go to the market, and anyway nobody passes by to buy my fruit. So sometimes I don’t have money because nobody buys my jewellery and bags and nobody buys my fruit. This puts me in a fix during the rainy season.

When I think too much about it, I get stressed and depressed at times. If I start thinking about what will happen if I don’t have enough money – the little ones need food, so I need money – sometimes it puts me down. But if someone thinks too much she can end up dying and I am not ready to do that.

My greatest worry now is that I was paying 2,500 Kenyan shillings for this place where I live but given that a road is being constructed close by, the owner has increased the rent to 3,000. If you are not able to pay this amount, you are sent off.  That is my greatest worry. I don’t know where to go next.

This is my experience at the moment but I appreciate how much I have learned and so right now I am smiling. When I find a market to sell the jewellery and bags, my business will flourish. Then I can move out of this small room, get a bigger room and life will change.


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