Sally, our Project Development Officer, attended a graduation ceremony for the Chure Womens CBO skills training workshop in Kenya in August, supported by Ecologia Youth Trust. This is what she had to say about her experience.
Sitakaa vile tena
It really was a wonderful day of celebration. The graduation ceremony for 20 women of Chure Women’s group who had participated in the Ecologia-funded skills training course showed me that I had seriously underestimated the importance of the training for these women, some of whom are living positively with HIV/Aids, and all of whom have really struggled to generate enough income to support their families. The day was a party of song, dance, laughter, and inspiring speeches. There was even a graduation photographer, with all the usual props. It was clear that these women felt that the jewellery and detergent-making skills they had learnt would transform their own lives and encourage their communities, currently weighed down with poverty and ill health.
Their team song for the occasion, ‘Sitakaa vile tena’ – ‘I will never again be the way I was before’ – was deeply moving, sung as it was with so much emotion and joy. This transformation seems to be as great as it is due to the fact that before IPI and the skills training the extreme stigma around HIV, the lack of opportunity for women in the local area to earn a decent income, and, at least according to the speeches, an appalling lack of support from the menfolk to contribute to the family’s health and well-being, these women had previously thought that there was no hope in their struggle for survival. But now with inspiring role models like Dr Karambu Ringera of IPI, and Women’s CBO coordinator, Eva Muriungi motivating them, they have realized that they can turn their situation around by making a success of businesses they had never even thought of before. And the jewellery and detergent is already selling really, really well.
Added to that, Chure, being a particularly motivated women’s CBO, was the first group to receive a seed fund to develop their cooperative business further, through the purchase of more materials and tools. And if my first impression of Eva is anything to go by, she will make sure that they make the most of this opportunity. That very day she was pitching a Meru Council official for £600 to buy essential machines needed for high-quality jewellery-making – and he seemed to be succumbing to the contagious enthusiasm of the group.
These women need so very little to make a go of things. And once they are empowered and generating incomes, whole families will be safer and healthier. Indeed, this is the ultimate goal of Ecologia Youth Trust in its funding of these women-focussed projects. Karambu, Director of IPI, had explained to us that HIV was affecting so many mothers that children were ending up orphaned, or on the street, exposed to terrifying exploitation, because their mothers simply couldn’t take care of them. Whilst Karambu continues to take in such children to her KACH Home (Kithoka Amani Children’s Home), she needs our continued support to stem the problem at its root. So far so good – but the funding found so far only extends to 210 women. Let’s help spread this transformation even further. I actually believe that Karambu and Eva, and women like them, could turn this into a nationwide movement, given enough support. Watch this space.