Born and raised in Homabay County, in western Kenya, Peres Achieng Odero, 47, now lives in the Makina village, in Kibera, the country’s biggest slum., located in Nairobi, the capital.
Her move to Makina in search of greener pastures, soon after she got married, has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Peres has made a great difference in the lives of many women and youth. She is now a well known and respected tailor in the village and chair-lady of her own women’s group.
With a capital of 1,400 shillings (around $14) she had saved from being a member of different women groups, she started a small business in 1999. For years, her business boomed enabling her to buy three more sewing machines, hence hiring people.
In Kenya’s patriarchal society, business-women face many challenges: male clients might refuse to pay for services or worst, sexually harass women, and generally disrespect them.
Due to upgrading of roads in Kibera, she has been displaced several times. Her business was worst hit during the 2007-8 post election violence. The house she rented was demolished and her employees were also displaced.
But Peres didn’t let any of that stop her. “I wish to expand my business and buy land to settle with my family.”
In 2012, she founded a women’s group. Its 10 members contribute each 400 shillings monthly. Under her leadership, the group received a loan worth 100,000 shillings. Each member will receive part of the loan to help grow their activities and will reimburse it with interests to the group. Oxfam supports women’s group like Peres’ by training women on record keeping, calculating losses and profits, general business management and how to balance during hard times. This has enabled them run their businesses despite the challenges they face.
Peres, now a widow, is a mother of 3 and sole bread winner to her family. At 47, she is not only paying for her son’s university fees but also hers, as she is a student at PCEA Kibera Technical Institute. She also leads by example, proving that education is a key aspect of women’s empowerment and has no age limit.
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