By Regina Mburu, communications liaison for Unbound in Africa
She hums as she tends to her chickens — filling their bowls with water and food, her hands busy collecting eggs from the poultry house. Her smile and look of satisfaction as she goes about her daily routine tell a story of a woman whose determination stands out. Even among the strong, determined women of her mothers group.
Forty-eight-year-old Margaret lives in the sprawling slums of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, with her husband and five children. As we [Unbound staff members] sat down in the tidy living room of her two-room house, made of mud and iron sheets, Margaret told us about her life.
“I have lived in this slum for the last 20 years,” Margaret said. “It is not the ideal environment to raise children in, but I have no choice. This is what my husband and I could afford.”
Margaret’s husband works as a day laborer and his earnings barely support the family, especially since jobs are sporadic.
Food, like everything else, has been hard to come by. In the past, the family often went to bed hungry.
Margaret heard about Unbound from her neighbors who were part of the program, and she decided to visit the local office to try to get some help.
“I was well received at the office,” Margaret said. “The social workers were very friendly and I felt at ease sharing my problems with them.
“After some few days they visited me at home and saw the condition we were living in. That is how my son Samuel got enrolled in the sponsorship program.”
When a child is enrolled in the sponsorship program in Nairobi, the mother is encouraged to join a mothers group. The groups encourage the mothers to find ways to grow economically as well as socially.
“Women in our African tradition are relegated to the back,” said Lillian Naka, mothers group coordinator in Nairobi. “There is a saying coined to this effect: It states that a woman is to be seen and not be heard.
“At Unbound, we decided to take a different approach; we wanted to do away with the stereotype about a woman and her role in the family setting and society. It is based on this that the support mothers groups were birthed.”
It is through these groups that women are growing.
“When I joined the Laini Saba Star group, I was happy,” Margaret said. “Previously, I had lived my life as a loner. I did not want to mingle with people. Everything changed when I became a member of this group.”
Through meetings held twice a month the mothers have been empowered. Their minds have been opened to new ideas, and strong friendships have been fostered. Above all, most mothers have started livelihood projects and are on a path to economic self-sufficiency.
“I always wanted to be a farmer but living in Kibera meant that my dream would not translate to reality, and my dreams seemed crushed,” Margaret said.
Kibera is densely populated and the houses are built close to each other. The footpaths are narrow and the houses small.
“When I received my first loan from the group, I decided to take a risk,” Margaret said. “Even though I did not have a big space, I was set on keeping poultry. My husband helped me construct a small poultry house.
“With the money I was loaned, I bought 40 chickens. Many people, including some members of my group, thought that I had made a terrible mistake, but I was determined to see this through.”
Margaret tended to her poultry relentlessly, doing the best she could with the little space available. After six months she started selling her chickens and collecting the eggs they laid.
Using the manure from her chickens as fertilizer, she planted sugarcane and passion fruits. Even the limited space would not hold her back from reaching her dream of being a farmer.
“With the money I made from selling my chickens, I was able to repay my loan and have some money left over as profit,” Margaret said.
Families of sponsored children are being transformed through mothers’ participation in small support groups and livelihood programs.
“Margaret is a great example to other mothers,” Lillian said. “Her determination and hard work shine through. She did not let her environment set boundaries on her dreams. She is a remarkable woman.”
Margaret went against odds and become a farmer in the slums. With hope and determination, she dreams of a better future away from the slums of Kibera.
“I am proud of how far we have come as a family,” Margaret said. “I am grateful to Unbound for giving me a chance and believing in my dreams. I would like to encourage all women to take a step of faith and believe that their dreams are valid, despite their circumstances in life.”
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