Tailoring, Entrepreneurship Programs Improving Women’s Livelihoods in Kibera Slums

By Gift Briton

Growing up in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya,  Lavender Adhiambo witnessed a lot violence being met particularly on young women and girls like her where most of them are denied economic opportunities which she attributed to gender inequality, a problem which is deeply rooted in the slum.

After finishing her high school studies, Lavender lacked money to further her studies and instead joined an entrepreneurship program with a local organization in the area which has since enabled her to start an online business where she sells ornaments, jewelries, and watches.

Despite the number one priority of the United Nations(UN)Sustainable Development Goals being poverty eradication, women continue to form the bulk of those who live below the poverty line, a situation which has been attributed to gender inequalities that limit their access and control of various resources.

Furthermore, New projections of global poverty by UN Women, UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Pardee Center for International Futures estimate that, globally, 388 million women and girls will be living in extreme poverty in 2022 (compared to 372 million men and boys). But the outlook could be far worse in a “high-damage” scenario, which shows that the number could balloon to 446 million (compared to 427 million for men and boys).

According to World Bank, for sustainable economic development to be realized in developing countries such as Kenya, both women and men must be involved in the development.

Shinning Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a local non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Kibera, is instilling this narrative by providing a self-reliant and sustainable solution to alleviate extreme poverty in the slum by increasing women’s access to education, employment and entrepreneurship skills.

Both Adhiambo and Anita Awuor are beneficiaries of this initiative. Before joining the program, Awuor was facing a lot of difficulties taking care of her family including providing basic needs.

“I joined SHOFCO’s livelihood training program last year and since then I have witnessed tremendous changes in my life. Being the household head, after the death of my husband, the money I have been earning here has really helped me to pay my rent, provide food and pay school fees for my children, “Awuor said, adding that she is even able to educate her six children using the income earned from the venture.

Anita Awuor at her working station

“The Sustainable Livelihoods Program and training was started in 2015 targeting vulnerable women and girls (18-35years) living in Kibera. They are enrolled in the income generating programs such as tailoring, entrepreneurship and employability training to enable them have money in their pockets,” said Julius Matundu, Sustainable Livelihoods Program Manager, SHOFCO, adding that the money helps to cater for their daily expenses.

These women and girls are enrolled in a three-month tailoring training program, during which, they are taught how to sew different kinds of clothing ranging from uniforms to personal protective equipment among others.

After successfully completing the training, the trainees graduate with a certificate in tailoring thereafter they are placed in an internship at the organization’s tailoring department for another three months.

In the course of the training any product that they make is sold on their behalf by the organization then the profits given to them after deducting the original cost for materials.

Apart from those who just walk in seeking for help, SHOFCO also collaborates with other institutions, churches and schools who then refer some vulnerable members of the community to the program.

A group of 15 to 25 women and girls is chosen from this batch based on their vulnerability, age and place of residence thereafter the training begins.

Victims of gender based violence (GBV) have also been incorporated into the program. Ingosi Adhiambo, GBV victim, says that besides boosting her self-esteem, she has also been able to educate her children using the income from sewing.

Ingosi Adhiambo sewing a gown during internship

The organization also gives entrepreneurship training for those that graduate from the tailoring program and other women who have their own businesses.

During the one-week entrepreneurship training, beneficiaries learn diversified entrepreneurial skills and creativity in business such as how to start a business, sources of business ideas, financial literacy, capital sources, marketing and business planning among others.

Towards the end of the entrepreneurship training, trainees are asked to come up with a business plan which the organization uses to evaluate who qualifies for their special grant of between US $20 to 200.

According to Loyce Waroe, trainer at SHOFCO, those who do not have a business and have not gotten the grant, are advised to join groups or table banking Sacco where they can borrow soft loans to start up their businesses.

Then for the unemployed girls who have gone through the tertiary education, the organization has a placement program where they are first trained on employability skills and then each is assigned a mentor who walks with her until she finds a job.

During the employability training, which lasts for a week, they are taught soft skills such as how to write a professional curriculum vitae and cover letter, to enhance their self-esteem and the communication skills.

The project has no doubt improved the quality of life for most women living in the slum with over 10,000 women and girls not just Kibera but different slums across Nairobi including Mukuru kwa Njenga and Mathare now have access to better health care, clean drinking water and above all, they are more in control of their lives.

However, Matundu notes that with majority of Kibera’s population being extremely poor, satisfying the demand for this population poses a huge problem to the organization, adding that there is need for expansion since there is a huge number of people walking in to seek help yet the space and equipment for training are limited.

Waroe also notes that one of the key problems is the high expectation from trainees where they expect to start earning huge amounts of money immediately even without saving.

She also adds that some people also drop out of the program because for them three months is a lot of time.

Equally posing a big challenge to the beneficiaries is lack of money to cater for their basic needs during the training.

Most of them being single household heads are having a difficult time balancing between  attending the trainings and looking for ways to feed their families.

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