Introducing myself and my journal: Strength of a woman
My name is Ann Mbugua. I was born and brought up at the country side being the fourth born in a family of six, four brothers and a sister. I grew up as a timid young girl since I was brought up in a family where men dominated and for real I feared my brothers especially the elder ones more than my dad. Just like a typical girl from the rural areas, at the age of seven I carried out many family chores like fetching water which we did every morning before going to school at around 5am, fetching firewood in the forests, cooking, going to the garden, laundry, cooking, herding the cattle. Though my mum insisted we do these jobs I thought to myself this is normal as many other families did the same. Things changed when I grew up and went to high school and now it was more books than house work and I felt a bit relieved because there was no more going to the water depot which was miles away or in the forest to fetching firewood. When I cleared high school, after one year I came to the city (Nairobi) and landed into casual jobs such as being a house help which I did for close to four years. I then got some casual employment in industrial area and worked again for three years before I was terminated and kept hustling from one casual job to another, I paid for my tertiary training in some affordable colleges where I pursued secretarial course, basic computer packages. l later got married in 1997 to the love of my life and since then we have lived together, struggled together and as time went by we thought why don't we start an initiative that can empower young people in the community where we lived because we saw the emptiness in the young people’s lives while they kept flocking at our small cyber business. We then started the Slumcode Group as an organization in 2006 targeting youth. We approached quite a number of youths who were very excited to have been involved in the initiative. Many young people got the opportunity to showcase their talents and discover their talents. Young men and girls who had dropped out of school got a place to excel their skills and even learn new skills.
We became their mentors and set the ground for them. I passionately worked with girls and wanted to help them become independent as they became responsible women in the society. Some of these girls had dropped out of school while other cleared their high school and had nowhere to go or nothing to do. While we got a bigger office and a few partners to work with, we unfortunately were hard hit by the post election violence in 2007/2008. Huruma being the place that was greatly targeted after Kibera and bearing in mind that is where our offices were, we were first of all evicted and we were all scattered, no one knew where to find the other as everyone was seeking for their safety and for almost two years we lost what we started. Picking up the pieces after two years of distraction wasn't the easiest thing as most people relocated while others died in the violence. It was now to focus on the healing process and there was no trust because everyone thought everyone was an enemy. It was hard.
We finally hit it and are now more focused and determined in bringing change to the entire community. In 2011 I started an initiative within the Slumcode group, Women Initiative for Empowerment and Development (WiFED). My main target in this initiative was the girl child and I focused mainly on guiding and mentoring the young girls in the society whom I thought were so vulnerable based on the environment they were living in. I started mentorship and life skill lessons in the community schools and taught hundreds of girls aged 9- 17years. Most of this community schools are in needy situations and the children lacked enough teachers. When I offered to give my service for free it was well embraced and my lessons were well represented in the timetables. I also felt there was need to introduce digital skills in these schools though some of them were in very bad state with no electricity and through the Slumcode group we were offered a space to be training the children twice a week. During holidays and weekend I usually engage the children at the Slumcode center where they have found a second home. With the help of my workmates we have been able to get to help the children identify their talents and also nurture their talents. Local and international volunteers have also been very instrumental in holding the hands of these young ones to realizing their dreams. Through the interaction with these children I learnt a lot and gained a lot of confidence in them. The children were so open with me and shared their deep touching stories in their families and neighborhoods.
While I listened to their stories I was deeply touched and thought mmmh, I need to step in and give these children hope as most of them were so hopeless and had to live one day at a time. I promised myself I must reach out to their parents. Some parents were so receptive while others didn’t care much and I had to focus on those who thought we could move together and make a difference in our community. While I lived and worked in Huruma the women trusted me, and because they could hear their children talk about teacher Ann and Slumcode it was so easy to win their hearts. This helped me to integrate the woman into the initiative, when I realized how women were so vulnerable and also dependent to either their husbands or their boyfriends.
During the post election violence some marriages broke because the wife was probably not the tribe of their husband and so he was either left ruthlessly or chased out of their homes ruthlessly. To date domestic violence in my community is so rampant and so if a woman is not empowered to be socially and economically independent then she will suffer for so long in silence and do nothing about it. Families are breaking, children are being affected and the cycle keeps repeating itself over and over again. I therefore took it as my responsibility to empower women in my community through this initiative and in partnership with Slumcode, so that we can give them the platform to go through different experiences, on different trainings and workshops.
Since the initiative started in 2011 through the Slumcode platform over 100 women aged 19 to 45 years have been provided with digital skills, hands on training. They have also been mentored into businesses, and have been provided with the necessary skills to run their small businesses at the grassroots.
10 of them are direct beneficially of the WiFED program as they are involved in making hand made products such like hand-woven mats, baskets, hand decorated table clothes, beadwork that are later sold to support them and the initiative. 150 young girls and boys aged 7 to 18 years have participated in life skills and mentorship sessions, talent development through WiFED. This year alone my target is to reach 150 women ages 19- 40 who will benefit from IT skills and business entrepreneurship skills. The digital skills have helped the women to socialize with the world, create more awareness of their products and have been enabled to reach out to the global market. The women have taken the advantage of the Slumcode center to access internet and learn the digital skills as most of them didn’t have access to computers.
To see women who are economically independent
when some of my women are stopped by their husbands to engage in anything that is supposed to help them. Limited resources such as enough computers to train the women.
My Vision for the Future:
To live in a society where a woman is not intimidated or looked down upon but is treated with respect for who she is. That she can speak out and be heard even in the midst of men.
My Areas of Expertise:
Human resource mobilization, public speaking and mentorship