History is laden with stories of courageous women who overcome challenges and cultural restraints to achieve success. The stories we rarely hear about though are those of the disenfranchised. Take Malieth Koda for instance, a girl from Ethiopia who married at 17 and moved with her husband to Kakuma shortly afterwards. Two years after giving birth to a baby boy, her husband disappeared and she was left trying to figure out what she should do with her life.
“I was left with nothing but my 2 year old son. I didn’t know where to go and what to do. There was no one to help me and I wasn’t even qualified enough to take up any job. I had even thought that our life is coming to an end.”
It was during that time that she attended the course run by Kuza Biashara where she learnt about entrepreneurship and the soft skills required to succeed in business. Kuza.one is a mobile first micro-learning platform offering youth, women & micro-entrepreneurs from informal communities opportunities to learn, connect & grow on their own terms and at their own convenience. Inspired by the lessons, she saw an opportunity preparing and selling meals for people at Kakuma. With a 6000 KES loan from a friend, she managed to make 2000 KES during the first month. A lot of the challenges she faced were due to the fact that customers would buy meals on credit. One of the modules from Kuza taught her to keep records, and helped her manage her business more efficiently.
Since her education was interrupted as a result of her marriage, Malieth is planning to continue her studies so she could learn more on how to do better at her business. This hints at the butterfly effect of courses such as Kuza Biashara, where a small initial change can lead to a large difference down the line.
Another person who broke orthodox societal norms to step into the world of entrepreneurship is Sheila Akerit. Passionate about fashion and clothing, she started her tailoring service in Kakuma Market at the beginning of 2016. However, it takes more than passion to be successful as an entrepreneur.
It is known that poor management is a commonly cited reason for why small businesses fail, but for Sheila she was fortunate enough to attend the Kuza program, where she learnt more about managing a business. “It was a new beginning in my life. From the Kuza classes, I learned ways to enhance my customer relationship and fight the competition in the market with various techniques to attract more customers. I never imagined that I could also be an entrepreneur in my life.”
Ambitious and excited about professional growth, Sheila left the program with her eyes fixed on the next goal; of buying a second sewing machine using her savings.
Another strong woman whose ambitions to make more out of life than is culturally expected is Leah Aikil — a 24 year old girl from Turkana who followed the formal education path until the day came when she couldn’t pay her school fees. Pivoting into a new lifestyle, she took a loan from a chama to set up a cloth store in Kakuma and tried to manage both school and business. That did not work as she would close the shop everytime she had to go to school because she was unable to keep anyone to run the shop for her, and this resulted in her losing her regular clients.
It was at that time that she joined the Kuza program where she learnt to manage her time among other things. She said, “The program turned out really helpful for me. I realised the importance of maintaining a good client base and also got workable solutions to manage good client relations. I have also become a wise entrepreneur with the help of Kuza Biashara. I have learned to manage my time, business and finance and I am a successful multi-tasker now.”
A lot of people delay executing on an idea because they’re crippled by the assumption that they need a large amount of capital or powerful connections to make it. But the Kakuma entrepreneurs teach you that sometimes what one needs is to simply start…even if means starting small. Take Tabitha Philip for example, who had to leave her home in Somali and take refuge at Kakuma in 2012.
“With the help of some good people, I started a phone charging business in Kakuma area. It went on quite well and I could save 5000/- from the business. But it wasn’t enough to meet all the requirements of my family. So, with all my savings, I started a small grocery shop in our area”.
The first two years went really well for Tabitha as she was able to get good profit from the business. She was also able to return to school. But unfortunately, due to bad weather, one day her grocery shop got blown away and she was left with nothing.
“Everything seemed like coming to an end for me. I felt so helpless because I knew that it won’t be possible for to reconstruct everything again and I had to let go of my grocery business.”
Undeterred by life’s misfortunates, Tabitha began offering ‘hair plaiting’ services as she has always been interested in learning hair styling since childhood. She would visit her customers at their house and provide the service. It was during this time that somebody had informed her regarding the Entrepreneurship classes by Kuza Bishara. “With the inspiration and learnings I got from Kuza classes, I took a vacant place to start my hairstyling business. Now I know how to handle my customers and keep a good relationship with them. The lessons on keeping records, opening a bank account really helped me in running my business. I have learned to manage my income and expenditure for which I will always be grateful to Kuza.”
The road is still long for people like Maleith, Sheila, Leah and Tabitha, but with a positive attitude towards learning and growth, the sky is the limit.