Elizabeth shows off the bike she relies on for her livelihood.
Mar 3 2018

Determined women lead the way

It’s International Women’s Day March 8, so we’re sharing the stories of three remarkable Kenyan women. Women like these are the backbone of Unbound programs, demonstrating the strength and courage it takes to create real change for their families and communities.

Making her own decisions

People in her community didn’t take Elizabeth seriously when she started her business carrying passengers to school and work on the back of her bicycle.

They said it was man’s work and questioned whether she was strong enough. That was more than 10 years ago.

“At first they doubted me and would not let me carry them, but with time I have been accepted,” she said.

Elizabeth shows off the bike she relies on for her livelihood.

Elizabeth shows off the bike she relies on for her livelihood.

Elizabeth, a single mother, started the business to support her daughter, Mary, now 16. She works up to 13-hour days, sometimes starting as early as 6 a.m. It’s physically demanding, but Elizabeth is no stranger to hard work.

“I used to work in the quarry,” she said. “It was hard labor and the wages were small.”

Elizabeth wants Mary to finish her education and realize her goal of working as an airline flight attendant.

“I would not want her to live the life I have lived,” she said. “I encourage her to study hard.”

As the seventh of 10 children, Elizabeth had to drop out of school in the sixth grade because her parents couldn’t afford the fees. She and her brothers went to work to ensure their youngest sibling could go to high school.

“We loved education, and we wanted our last born [sibling] to have an opportunity,” she said.

Education is a common goal of parents whose children are sponsored through Unbound. Elizabeth receives support for Mary’s schooling
through sponsorship.

Through her participation in the local Unbound mothers group, Elizabeth has also been able to help other family members. She’s taken small loans from the group to help her mother and sister with housing and health care.

And she has ambitions for her own future.

“I do not intend to drive the bicycle for long,” Elizabeth said. “I hope one day I will have enough money to open a shop where I will be selling clothes and chemicals that are used to make soap.”

For now, while she’s still physically able to do the work, the bicycle taxi business has its advantages.

“It makes me happy because I am my own boss and I make my own decisions,” she said. “Riding a bicycle and getting paid for it makes it all better.”

Building a solid foundation

Rose remembers well the precariousness of living with her husband and children in a home crumbling before her eyes.

“The house we were living in was in terrible condition,” she said. “We used to live near a quarry, so the big lorries (trucks) would make our house shake. It was made of mud and it started cracking.”

Families in Unbound have flexibility to use sponsorship support to meet urgent needs and achieve goals they set for themselves. Rose and her husband, Samuel, made a new home their priority. She’s a farmer and he works in the quarry. With their hard-earned income, support from their son Dennis’ sponsorship and loans Rose took through the local Unbound mothers group, the couple acquired materials to build a sturdy cement home for their family of seven children.

Rose relaxes in the comfort of her home.

Rose relaxes in the comfort of her home.

“When we used to live in that mud house, I would get scared,” Rose said. “Every time I would be in the farm, I would not be at peace because I feared that the house might fall and my children would get hurt.”

Now that their house is built, Rose and her husband are focused on getting Dennis, 20, and their younger children through school, an opportunity they didn’t have.

“I went up to class seven, but my parents could not afford to raise the tuition fee,” Rose said. “If I had the education, I think I would have been a lawyer.”

Looking to the future, Rose hopes to take another loan from the mothers group to start a small shop and go into business for herself.

Growing in a community’s embrace

Teaching is Eunice’s calling, and in middle age she gathered the courage and resources to open her own nursery school.

As a youth, Eunice pursued her education through high school but couldn’t afford college. She farmed and worked as a nursery school teacher, saving enough money to enroll in college to try to make a better life for her two children. She finished her course, but teaching jobs were scarce so she continued farming.

Eunice’s daughter Karen, 18, is sponsored through Unbound. In 2012, Eunice took a loan from the local Unbound mothers group and started a nursery school with an enrollment of seven children. Today, 20 children attend her school.

Eunice prepares for class at the nursery school she owns.

Eunice prepares for class at the nursery school she owns.

She credits support from the mothers group for giving her the confidence to pursue her dream.

“As a single mother I no longer feel alone,” she said. “I have learned a lot, and we have interacted well with each other. I do not face any segregation from the group because I am a single mother. The community sometimes secludes single mothers, but as part of the Unbound group I feel loved and welcomed.”

Help a mother make a better life for her family. Sponsor a child today.

Loretta Shea Kline

Managing Editor

Loretta joined Unbound in 2000. She brings more than 30 years of experience in journalism and organizational communications to her role as managing editor. Her passion is telling stories of children, families and elders served by Unbound around the world. Loretta is a graduate of Drake University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Des Moines, Iowa.

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