Written by Joyce Ngumba, Innovation in Leadership Program Director

My colleagues Doris, Joy and I had the opportunity to visit Kitui and Embu counties. Our visits were prompted by the progression of the 2017 Akili Dada fellowship program. The goal of the fellowship is to invest in young women who have initiated projects in their communities.

Having worked in the development sector for the past 8 years, my work has taken me to different communities in Kenya and in East Africa. 2017 Akili Dada fellow Hellen runs a very promising social enterprise called Help a Widow Save a Life in Mwingi, Kitui county. Together with 15 widows from her community, she has formed an investment group. Through table-banking, the group of women empower each other economically.

After engaging in a candid discussion with the women, we asked them whether we could visit their homes. Almost all the widows volunteered for the home visit. Since the women live in far-flung areas, we chose to visit two women, Mary and Taavu, as their homes were the closest.

Tenacity in Tragic Times

Mary is a mother of six. She was chased away by her deceased husband’s family after his death. She struggled to make ends meet. A few years ago, her husband’s family agreed to give her a space to build a hut.

With a family of six, Mary lives in a mud hut. It is poorly constructed with walls bursting with gaping holes. Mary has to has use old clothes to seal the holes. They sleep on the cold hard floor. With no pit latrine and basic sanitary essentials, Mary’s family have to utilize the outdoors. Mary hopes that by being a member of the investment group, she will be able to get some money that will allow her to start a business in order to sustain her family.

Hellen used her fellowship seed grant to buy 10 goats for the investment group. Their plan is to sell the goats during the holiday season and use the money to start a watermelon agribusiness. With the profits, the women intend to divide it amongst themselves and use the money to start their own sole businesses.



Read Part II.