By JOAN THATIAH of the Saturday Nation
“I never got to see much of my parents when I was growing up, because they worked abroad. I longed to have the kind of relationship other children had with their parents. That is probably why I grew up wanting to be a strong female figure for other young women. I went on to work in marketing, but my dream never died. My first attempt at bringing it to life was in 2012, when I identified a number of needy young women in my neighbourhood in Kahawa West, Nairobi, and using my savings, I set up a jewellery shop and boutique for them. I did not have leadership skills then, and in a few months, we had to close shop.
“In my next attempt I was better equipped. I founded Lulu Thamani after a fellowship from Akili Dada in 2015. Now instead of giving women money, I help them set up chamas (welfare and investment groups) where they can save their money, then use their collective savings to create a better life for themselves.
“I get up at 5am for my morning devotion and get to my day job at 8am. I work as a brand executive and my job entails running road shows, setting up product activations and promotions and coordinating with other agencies. I am a people person, so my job brings out the best in me.
“When I am not working, I run Lulu Thamani. I am religious and I realised early on that religion is common ground for a lot of people. Now I involve the church in the organisation. What goes on in each mission depends on the destination. Before going to a place to train women, I first do my research on the money-making ventures available in the area. This way, I know the skills and the kind of training that these women need to be able to stand on their feet. Our last venture was in Namanga where the main source of livelihood is livestock. I got experts in the agri-business and livestock farming field to pass on various skills to the women.
“I value the family structure, so when I teach women how to stand on their own feet, I also talk about the need to work together with the men in their lives. To be a team and not adversaries.
“When I am not out and about identifying women to work with, I am meeting with donors and interested partners. Two times a month, I also make sure to attend leadership forums. I have learnt that a good leader is one who keeps improving herself.
“I am home at 6 pm each day to have dinner with my husband Daniel. He has been an essential sounding board. He helps me think through my ideas and also helps me unwind. The last thing on my mind each day is a prayer for more time on earth so that I can make a difference in the lives of more girls and women.”