Making dreams possible for young vulnerable teenage mothers

Nairobi, Kenya: Hand in Hand Eastern Africa(HiHEA) is a registered Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Kenya and a member of the Hand in Hand global network whose vision is to reduce poverty through enterprise development and job creation.

HiH EA‘s mandate is to work within the Eastern Africa region and is currently working in Kenya and Rwanda and soon starting operations in Tanzania. The Organization strives to work with the marginalized communities in the area of economic and social empowerment through a participatory approach aimed at lifting themselves out of poverty and vulnerability. The Hand in Hand enterprise and job creation approach is based on a philosophy of self-help, providing training, skills and support to enable poor people, particularly women and community in general , to build and sustain independent, market-based, economic activities. This provides for a higher level of income for them and their families, which in turn contributes to greater food security, better education for children, increased access to medicines and healthcare, improved housing and overall improved livelihoods.

To do this, HiH EA works with likeminded partners who complement her efforts in poverty alleviation and help achieve her objectives. Through a need based approach, HiH EA has also been able to integrate different interventions (Projects) that are aimed at improving livelihoods and therefore giving hope, dignity and choice to the target community. Visit our website

Unleashing business potential of vulnerable teenage mothers

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform” – Diane Mariechild

HiH EA endeavors to empower and invest in women to fight poverty and overcome social stigmatization as a means to holistic development. It is for this reason that the HiH EA Young Mothers project was initiated with the aim of improving their human rights for a dignified life by restoring their emotional, psychological, mental and financial stability and giving them the ability to take care of themselves and their children. Once trained the young mothers are able to afford the basic needs such as food, clothing, housing, medicine and education for themselves and their children.

This is achieved through a structured enterprise development training integrated with playful performances and activities for the young mothers aimed at bringing humor and relieving stress. HiH EA undertakes the enterprise development training while the Clowns Without Borders (CWB) Sweden, a Non-Profit Organization, conducts the playful performances that improves the mental and emotional health for people living in crisis situations.

The project is implemented across HiH EA areas of operations in Kenya and has so far benefitted about 8,000 young mothers and their 13,000 children.

Who are young mothers?

Young mothers are those with children and are aged 35 years and below who are vulnerable due to young motherhood characterized by; • Low levels of education

• Rape

• Low literacy levels

• Extreme poverty

• Living with violent partners

• Living with partners who abuse drugs or are drunkards

• Sexual assault resulting in unwanted pregnancies

• Early pregnancies

• Make their living by begging, drug trafficking, prostituting, doing casual jobs, or operating very small and unstable enterprises. The project is funded by the Swedish Postcode Lottery and implemented by

Hand in Hand Eastern Africa in partnershipwith Clowns Without Borders. Other Local implementing partners who have provided support in implementing the project include the local administration,

Ministry of Devolution through the Women Enterprise Fund and the Youth A HiH EA trainer conducts enterprise development training to a group of young mothers Ecstatic young mothers in Bomet branch during the performance (left) young mothers in Busia branch performing a jig (Right) Enterprise Development Fund, FIDA-Kenya through her resource persons, Anglican Development Services, - Mt.Kenya region, Strathmore University Dispute Resolution Centre, Department of Social Services in HiH EA areas of operation, Tunza, Uraia Trust Civic Education Programme in Baringo County, Daughters of Charity in Nairobi and Tel a Friend which provided basic counseling and psychotherapy trainings to programme staff..

Glaring statistics

According to the UN Women Watch, more than 1 billion in the world today, the great majority of whom are women, live in unacceptable conditions of poverty, mostly in the developing countries. Poverty rates are high especially on single mothers and old women living alone. Most of these women suffer from oppression and their human rights are treated with disregard and contempt. Social stigmatization against women which emanates from sexual abuse and exploitation, lack of education, early marriages and prostitution is also rife.

Many women have no source of income and are often forced to engage in prostitution, begging, crime and drug trafficking to buy food, access quality healthcare, clothing, and housing and send their children to school.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 has clearly defined and acknowledged the rights of women which include recognition of the equal rights of women and men, citizenship, equal rights to ownership of property including land, right to inheritance, leadership and governance positions. The same is envisioned in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights articles 21,22,23,25 and 26. The partnership between HiH EA and CWB brings out and complements the key competencies of each of the two organizations which are vital in helping the young mothers achieve their business potential.

HiH EA’s key competencies are capacity building and enterprise development training. HiH EA focuses more on social mobilization by training the young mothers on group dynamics and leadership that promotes cohesiveness among members of a group and enterprise development training which equips members with knowledge and skills to start grow and sustain profitable enterprises.

CWB’s key role is to strengthen, inspire and motivate disadvantaged individuals to find their own inner strength to get out of their difficult situation, cope and want to change their lives. They do these through humor and entertaining performances. The theme of their performances is ‘Bring out the child in you.’

HiH EA and CWB conducted workshops and training for the staff across all branches on how to get the young mothers to find their inner strength, joy, vitality, peace and motivation. Equipped with these essential skills, the staff have been able to train the young mothers on a ‘freeing of the mind’ concept which requires the young mothers to positively and creatively engage in physical activities such as singing, dancing and laughing off their day’s troubles with the aim of feeling at peace with themselves. The CWB has also conducted performance tours and workshops in all the branches bringing humor to the young mothers through their playful performances. “It is like the feeling of being a child again. It’s a moment when you forget any stressful bit in your life, become rejuvenated and bring back the lost happiness,” said one of the beneficiaries of the impact the project had on her.

The young mothers have been trained and sensitized on human rights including; legal rights, right to basic needs, right to information, right to life, self-awareness and right to affordable and quality healthcare as envisioned in the Kenya constitution, chapter 4 – Bill of rights. They have been trained on conflict-solving mechanisms. The training was conducted by human rights lawyers with vast experience in family law and mediation.

Young Mothers Project achieves beyond expectations

The HiH EA Young Mothers’ project has surpassed its expectations in recruitment and overall impact created. About 8,000 young mothers in 450 groups have been recruited into the project, 3,700 enterprises and 4,700 sustainable jobs created. This means that the young mothers are now economic agents in their communities as the income they get from their enterprises and jobs has enhanced their livelihoods. Children, who are the direct beneficiaries of the project, have also not been left out as out of the 13,000 children belonging to the young mothers, 9,000 of them representing 69%, are now accessing quality basic education. Achieving Universal Primary Education by 2015 is Goal number 2 in the Millennium Development Goals. HiH EA’s efforts are a step in the right direction as the organization seeks to break the poverty cycle and misery

The beneficiaries have begun living a life of self-sufficiency, hope, dignity and choice. Their self-esteem has been boosted and some have taken up leadership roles in the community. They are now aware of their rights and freedoms and this has reduced gender discrimination.

HiH EA has therefore contributed to the UN Women clarion call for Planet 50-50 Step It Up for Gender Equality by 2030 which seeks to galvanize global efforts towards ensuring a world free of discrimination and violence against women and girls and promote women empowerment.

Call for action

HiH EA anchors her efforts in helping women access economic opportunities and to bridge the gender disparity gap which is one of the determining factors of curbing poverty. HiH EA therefore calls upon the Government and other Development agencies to support her efforts in women economic empowerment, by unleashing women’s potential, for sustainable development and for a progressive nation.

In the just concluded UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) conference, participating countries including Kenya, accepted the declaration to accelerate gender equality and women empowerment.

Lessons learnt

HiH EA has during the implementation of the project learnt crucial lessons, key among them;

I. The need to involve other players and stakeholders who bring in different skills, expertise and services to support the young mothers.

II. Having more mature and older women into the young mother groups makes the groups more cohesive as they are sober in decision making and as well act as mentors to the younger ones.

III. Initiating income generating activities into the young mother groups early enough to run a long with the trainings reduces the chances of them leaving the groups for casual jobs.

These lessons should be taken into consideration by organizations intending to run similar projects and by HiH EA in her continuing work with the young mothers and the youth.

Sharing success through job creation

Damaris Nthambi was only 17 years when she gave birth to her first son. Burdened by the responsibility of being a young mother and having no employment her future looked dim. The challenge and effort of bringing up her child proved a blessing in disguise after she joined HiH EA in 2011 and later joine Witeithie Youngsters women group in Thika.

Witeithie is situated 5 kilometers from Thika town and most of its inhabitants work in Thika. Its population is fast growing and most of the residents are moderate income earners operating informal businesses. Most of them are young single mothers.

After HiH EA entrepreneurship training, Damaris saw a business opportunity and started the Praise Junior daycare with a start-up capital of Ksh 5,000 from her savings. The daycare was a one room rental house and here she got her first customer, the landlord’s child.

Currently the daycare which hosts a baby class and a nursery school has 106 children. She charges Ksh 70 a day for a child below 5 months and Ksh 40 for those above one year. She has employed three teachers who get a monthly income of Ksh 6,000. The daycare has expanded and now occupies four rooms. “HiH EA’s Young Mothers program has turned my skills and potential into an enterprise. If I do not hear the cries of the babies, then I know I am not at work. Children have a right to play, recreation and education. I am their second mother away from their home,” she says.

Her livelihood has since changed as she has built her own house, her mother?’s house and operates a cyber café in her neighborhood. A former housewife with no income, Damaris is now a change agent in her community. She wants to expand the daycare into a private academy. A big dream by any standards for a young mother like her, Damaris is however determined toachieve it.

Milcah’s journey from a garbage collector to a successful entrepreneur In Kenya, most of the urban poor reside in slums where disease, crime, unemployment, lack of decent amenities like toilets, electricity and clean water is rife. Ask Milcah Maina what her greatest wish in life is and she will say “I want to improve on my income and shift to a better place for me and my family.” Milcah, aged 32, is a member of Unipoint SHG in Kahawa Soweto slums and is married with two children. She has adopted two more who she lives with and caters for.

Her energy business is briquette charcoal making. Briquette is an improved type of fuel which is environmental friendly and does not produce carbon monoxide like black charcoal. Before joining HiH EA, Milcah and her five friends were garbage collectors. They discovered that there was a lot of charcoal dust and saw dust being disposed off and they came up with the idea of moulding the dust into re-usable charcoal. She bought a binder and a moulder to shape the briquettes.

“I decided to do briquette making because of the many advantages it has, especially on the environment. The greatest being that it is renewable. I can make use of inorganic materials which are common and renewable and am assured of the sustainability of such a fuel source.”

Through the HiH EA training Milcah has learnt about entrepreneurship and financial management, which has helped enhance her briquette business, and now keeps proper records. She has enhanced her business by borrowing from the HiH EA Enterprise Incubation loan and printing business cards as her marketing tool. She sells her products to the local community and also has customers from nearby counties owing to her good customer care skills.

Milcah has created job opportunities for two young men. Her income has also increased from Ksh 5,000 to Ksh 15,000 per month after the intervention of HiH EA. Through this, her living standards have improved and she can now afford to take her children to a private school and provide quality food for her family. “I am motivated by the business income which has made me a role model in the community.”

Future plans

Milcah plans to expand her business by registering a briquette company.