New lease of life for illicit alcohol brewers turned businesswomen

Peris Kiprop looks after cows at her home in Elgeyo Marakwet County. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

"My clients, once drunk, would cause chaos as my children watched. I would send my children to school on an empty stomach since I was not responsible, having spent my entire time brewing and selling the illicit alcohol," she said.

She recounted how she spent a month at Eldoret Women's Prison for failing to pay a Sh30,000 fine imposed by court. Chepkemboi said after the incident, the area chief advised her to join the Eli training.

"When I got back from the training, I began going to church without fail and ventured into onion farming and rearing of chicken. I now sell my produce at the local market and my children are going on with their studies as they have a responsible mother," she said.

Chepkemboi, who chairs Sigunet Women Group, said many brewers who influenced her to start the business have since reformed.

"The group name 'sigunet' means saved because the 40 of us are all changed women. Through our table banking group which we began in 2018, we have saved more than Sh1 million and have a project in which we hire out tents," said Chepkemboi.

Some 40 kilometres from Chepkorio, in Kamwosor, Elgeyo Marakwet we met Pastor Peris Kiprop, a former brewer turned farmer. The 49-year-old who stopped brewing chang'aa and busaa in 2013 is practicing maize, potato and dairy farming after engaging in the illegal business for 17 years.

"Most of us were drunkards in this village and when I began selling the brew, I thought that it would help me stop bothering my husband by constantly borrowing him money.

"However, instead of making progress as a family, I realised we were taking leaps behind. Alcoholism almost claimed my life," said the mother of five.

Kiprop, who is also chaplain of the Women of Change, a group that was formed by Eli for all the rehabilitated women, recounted how she would risk her children's lives by drinking alcohol while still breastfeeding.

Samuel Teimuge, the founder of Eli, said the organisation has empowered about 3,000 people since its establishment in 2013.

"We involve chiefs and their assistants who help us identify women who need help, train them and allow them back to their homes armed with ideas. We believe that a problem can only be solved by identifying the root cause. Those who demonstrate good skills are then trained to help others as well," said Teimuge.

Nacada CEO Victor Okioma, who visited the Iten Rehabilitation Centre, said there is need to further collaborate with county governments and Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs) to help in public education and awareness campaigns aimed at sensitising the community and families about the risks and dangers of alcohol and other substances prone to abuse.

Nacada Board Chairperson, Dr Stephen Mairori, said society should also embrace those who have gone through rehabilitation and avoid stigmatising them.