She was a prostitute. Famous on the streets of Naivasha at night. To me, she is a true hero.
Why did she ‘choose’ such a risky lifestyle? Abandoned by the man who impregnated her, without a solid education, but with 4 young children dependent on her, she had no choice if her children were to survive. She was raped 7 times while on the streets.
What a woman. She gave everything for her children. I can’t even express how much awe I feel for this amazing lady.
Not too long ago, I attended a grassroots women leadership forum in the little Kenyan lakeside town of Naivasha. The forum was hosted by Life Bloom Services International (LBSI), a local NGO that advocates for vulnerable women and children, particularly commercial sex workers and prisoners. Women from various grassroots initiatives ranging from a Ugandan “retired but not tired” duo to a church group from the US came together to share, inspire and strategise. The theme was “Women Step Out and Step Up” – out of poverty traps and undesirable lifestyles, and up into taking control of their lives and even becoming leaders.
At the forum, we launched the One Stop Centre, a dream come true for LBSI founder Catherine Wanjohi, and a place where any woman can come and be at home, seek refuge, and find assistance. LBSI also helps women move out of sex work through alternative income generation, savings groups, and mentoring. I am currently trying to see if they could become sustainable and self-sufficient by exporting the beautiful products (like handbags) these women make – any interested parties, please contact me!
We also visited women in prison and heard some of their stories through song and poetry. The justice system really is questionable sometimes. A young girl locked away because she stole to try pay her school fees?!
I also believe some regulatory change is needed in the Kenyan prison system. While in prison, the women receive skill training, such as beadwork and knitting, and their products are sold at fairs. However, the women receive no profit from these sales (mentality of ‘why reward prisoners?’). Upon release from prison, women possess new skills, but often lack start-up capital to put the skills to work – often leading to them breaking the law again! Could an initiative (government/civil society/private) be started that keeps some profits from these women’s products and ensures it is put towards empowering use?
I look forward to seeing the One Stop Centre in action!