Who is Phionah?
I got married young after dropping out of school due to lack of school fees to facilitate my last year of high school. I was only 17 years old when I married my first boyfriend. In five years, I was already a mother of two and life was so hard that meeting my family’s basic needs was next to impossible, because my husband was jobless too.
One day I approached my brother in law for a small loan, though at the time it seemed like a very huge amount and when he gave me the KShs. 2,000/=, I accompanied a friend to a local market where I bought a small sack of onions and started selling them to meet my family’s needs. Every evening I used to collect discarded vegetables and fruits that couldn’t be sold, and I would take them home to my family to eat.
The business didn’t pay off since I realized that I was only making a profit that couldn’t sustain us and soon enough, I incurred losses to the extent that I gave it all up. It was as I was making the long trek home after closing my first ever business that it suddenly hit me that I had been unlucky that far because of lack of an education. That night, as I explained to my husband that I didn’t have a business anymore, I also suggested that he help me register for my final high school exams as a private candidate. My aim was to arm myself with some form of qualification with which to bargain for any kind of job. He borrowed the registration fee from his cousin and when the results came, despite being a stay at home mother, wife and student I passed well. I got a sponsor who agreed to pay for my college education, a Diploma in Mass Communication, where I met a lady, Lindy Wafula in 1999, who became my mentor.
Getting a job after college was hard since there were only three ways to get one; sleep with the boss, have someone you knew inside or buy the job. I couldn’t afford any of those, so armed with my knowledge, I became a freelancer doing any odd job I got. It was the passion with which my mentor did her work that inspired me, together with my sister dying of HIV/AIDS, and watching my first son aged two and a half years die in my arms for lack of medical attention that propelled me to set up the Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, a haven for girls and young women pillared on Education, Poverty Eradication, Social & Community Development, Women Empowerment and Women’s Health. Having recently joined World Pulse, a forum where I get to raise my voice, as one of the Voices of Our Future, I have a vision where we will all be empowered with education with which to crumble those mountains.