Salome, Pauline, Jane and Nancy are four women in Kiambiu who have decided that rather than sit and complain about their difficult situations, they will be the best they can within their community in the informal settlement area of Kiambiu in their endeavour to earn a decent livelihood.

Salome Idave is a master of all trades. She has many small-businesses under her name; the essence of women and multitasking at its best.

Ms Idave is a member of Kiambiu United Development Self Help Group. She says that the group has enabled her to open her eyes to opportunities she previously didn’t think about. Apart from owning a small hotel in Kiambiu, she owns a green grocery, sells fabric, and also keeps rabbits in her humble abode in the area. She says that she is able to run all her businesses concurrently and successfully as she has some relatives who help her take care of some of them and the fact that she already has an established customer base which is very loyal to her makes it even more tenable.

“When I joined the group, I was not involved in any form of business. But after the various trainings we got, I decided to open my eyes to new ventures. I knew people around here loved to have bitings and thus the need to start preparing and selling mandazi’s – dough nuts –. I was able to make some profits which enabled me to expand my business and venture into selling vegetables and thus my green grocery store which I started in 2011. I am thus able to supply the community members with the much needed vegetables. On a good day I could make up to Shillings 1,200 from this business,” she stated.

She then decided to expand her wings and also started selling fabrics which she still does, although not as much as before. With the savings she had, she decided to start a hotel rather than just concentrate on selling the mandazi.  The business is catching up well and she could make up to Shillings 2, 500 each day from the hotel business.

“With the savings I had in the Kiambiu group, I was able to also get some loans which enabled me to expand my businesses and that has enabled me to reach the level that I am currently in. I have been able to pay school fees for my children with ease and I am still keeping on,” she stated.

Rabbits require minimal space and when she realised this and the fact that they also don’t require much feeding, she decided to see how it would work out.

“I started my rabbit keeping venture in 2011 with Shillings1,000. Currently the business is worth over Shillings 30,000. I keep traditional breeds of rabbit which could give birth to between 12 to up to 24 young ones and I only use Shillings 200 to feed them every month. I have a ready market for them as I normally sell each for Shillings 1,200 at the Ngara market in Nairobi,” she stated.

This mother of four who also takes care of her brother and sister, could approximately make up to Shillings 3,000 in a day. In a month, she makes more money than most white collared professionals.

Pauline Ambani on the other hand operates a home bakery.

“My first loan was Shillings 3,000 which I used to start the baking business. I then got a second loan for Shillings 10,000 which enabled me start the bakery. I also use the bakery as a school where I offer a few people lessons on how to bake. My business is currently doing well as sometimes I even get personal orders to bake at different functions,” she stated.

The bakery which was only started last year, is well worth over Shillings 50,000 to date.

Jane Amagove is a fishmonger who started her business with Shillings 1,000 in the new millennium. She also decided to venture into the hotel business in the area which she says is doing well. She prefers to sell the traditional foods to her customers that ranges from the traditional green vegetables to traditionally made meat stew. In a day she could make profits of up to Shillings 500.

Nancy Mmbone on the other hand is a nursery school teacher. She joined the group in 2008 and when she had saved up to Shillings 20,000, she was able to get a loan of Shillings 40,000. With this money she got herself some parcel of land in Kitale – Rift Valley province –  which she says has enabled to practice some small-scale farming. The farming has enabled her to pay school fees for her child who is now in form two and whom she says has never lacked school fees.

Nancy is the teacher in charge of Chai Road nursery school, an initiative of the Kiambiu self help group. The nursery was started in 2006 and over the years the number of students have increased gradually.

“We currently have 36 students aged between 3- 7 years old. However, there are problems that have led to its stagnation in growth. Most of the parents in Kiambiu are living from hand to mouth and thus some cannot even afford to contribute Shillings 20 per day. This does not help much as we are responsible for feeding them. We cannot give the food to some children and leave others. It also becomes tricky when you have to tell a parent that their child cannot be accommodated any n ore because of the fees arrears,” she stated.

The school currently has 3 teachers who are merely volunteering as they are only paid Shillings 500. The school is on rented premises which charges them Shillings 2,000.

The spirit of the four women residing in the informal settlement areas just goes to show that one can always make something out of anything they put their minds into. The fact that they are able to afford basic necessities and even support some relatives means that there is always potential for ones growth and development regardless of their environment.

Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications.

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