Like the legendary phoenix which rose from the ashes, the women in Mwiyukirie’s women’s group is no different. They have tales to tell, brilliant stories of how they were able to overcome tremendous tribulations that did not deter them from forging ahead. Instead they became even more valiant.

The Chairlady of the group, Naomi, a mother of two children recounts her experience during the 2007/2008 Post election Violence- PEV -.
“On this fateful day, 31st December 2007, I recall that there was chaos everywhere, loud noises, the roads were blocked and everyone was shaken. It was something we had never experienced before in Kenya. Everyone was scared and we locked ourselves in our humble abodes. The next day, there was still confusion. There were rumours that certain people were planning on targeting and attacking specific ethnic groups because of the botched elections,” narrated Naomi.

“I got wary of the on-goings and I decided to move my paraphernalia to my brother’s house who stays in Eastleigh, a neighbouring Estate as it was considered safer than Mathare. The situation became volatile; neighbours started stealing from neighbours and tension became the order of the day, most of us decided to move to Muthaiga Police station for our own security,” she added.

Naomi says the tribal wave in Mathare was a bad experience. The fact that there were demarcations to distinguish which tribes would stay on which side of Mathare, was a sad thing to note. If one wanted to go somewhere and they met a rival group, they would be asked to say certain words which only members of the rival group knew and if they failed, they would be roughed up. She says that after staying in Muthaiga for a few weeks, calm returned and when they went back they found empty houses. Many people lost everything. She is lucky that she had taken some of the belongings to her brother’s place.

“We felt like slaves in our own country. I and many other women were forced to do menial jobs which were dehumanising in order to earn a living. I acknowledge that it was by God’s grace that we are alive today and our lives are transformed,” she stated.
“I met with OAIC’s David and Bishop Simwa as they used to visit the residents of Mathare just after PEV. I am glad that they did not just want to give us food donations and forget about us. They encouraged us to form small groups and think of ways that we would be able to sustain ourselves in the future. Mwiyukirie Women’s group was thus born and rather than get the Unga — flour – for a day, we got life-long skills. They organised for us to be taught business and enterprising skills which enabled the women in the group think of sustainable businesses to do and I am glad that the skills are life-long,” she added.

The group started a revolving fund, with 15 women on board and it now stands at 33. They decided to divide themselves into 5 groups of 6 members each as they figured it would be an easier way of giving loans to the members. Every group would be given a loan, and it would revolve, until each group was reached. They women in the group are glad that they joined Mwiyukirie as the loans enabled them to pay school fees for their children and expand their businesses.
“When OAIC saw that we were doing something productive with ourselves, they gave us a grant of Shillings 90,000. After a year, they added us another one of Shillings 63,000. This helped us increase our funds tremendously and our livelihoods changed for the better,” attested Naomi.

“During our meetings, we would discuss many things, share our tribulations, and this made the burdens we were each carrying lighter. When someone shared what they were going through, others would think twice before complaining as they had previously thought that they were the ones who had loads of problems only to realise that others had bigger fish to fry. We learnt to thank God for the little mercies,” narrated Naomi.
The group had also started a baby care school in their neighbourhood but could not continue with the venture as the City Council warned them that it would be demolished as it was built on a road reserve and in the way of the road expansion.

Naomi now owns a milk bar where she sells milk. It also acts as a food place where she sells food to her customers. She says that business is catching up well and she has no complaints whatsoever.

She was also one to the (Trainers of Trainers) for the OAIC’s Just Communities. She is glad that she participated in the advocacy campaign as she was able to gain insights on what she may not have been privy to; as her rights.
Through the knowledge she gathered, she was able to share and train other women and members of her community on various roles they have to play in order to indulge the relevant authorities and ensure that the they are held accountable with regards to the delivery of basic services as enshrined in the constitution.

She says that she was able to lay emphasis on the use of the Huduma number 3018, a project that seeks to bring basic service delivery to the people. One can send a text to 3018 or an email to info@huduma.info for more information on the service which seeks to transform relationships between citizens and the government for effective service delivery. It purposes to fix their constituencies, hospitals, schools and general service delivery in order to realise the rights as enshrined in the constitution.

For example, if the residents of a certain place feel they are not getting services from whatsoever institution obligated to provide those services, they can send a text to the number and the information will be relayed to the responsible institutions. For more information on the same one can log on to www.huduma.info.

Naomi says that she has seen some difference on some of the issues that she endeavoured to tackle during the advocacy period.
“The garbage that used to litter everywhere in my neighbourhood has become less. The rampant drug abuse among the young people is still an issue that we are looking into as a community. My brother who was a druggie is steadily transforming into a responsible man in society. It took some serious conversations with him and I ensured that he was busy, doing things here and there to avoid idleness which brings about all these issues. Nowadays he is a neat man,” states Naomi.

Mwiyukirie which is now worth over Shillings 280,000 envisions a better society for themselves and their children. They are still strategising on the best way to invest their money and ensure that they leave a legacy for their children’s children; an inheritance that will last a lifetime.

Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications.

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