It is only courage that keeps you going
Finding work in Mombasa, my home city, is difficult. There aren’t many jobs and most people left school at a young age, like me.
I had little choice in life. I married young, but it didn’t work out. I argued with my husband all the time so I left with our small child. As a single parent, I desperately needed income; since cooking was something I could do, I started selling food I made from home. So many of us do it. Almost all business people here sell on the street.
It is now four years since I ventured into business, but anyone will tell you it is only courage that keeps you going. This kind of business can be very demoralising. At the end of the day, if your food doesn’t sell you have to throw it away.
Another problem is being a woman. In Mombasa we face more hurdles in business. We get harassed on the street which is frustrating and difficult to deal with. We get told to move, have to pay taxes which don’t exist and fall into the hands of corruption. There are also some cases where husbands are jealous of their wife’s success. They fear their wife could cheat if she is financially independent.
Luckily, we have a strong community which runs a welfare group for women. This is where I learned about the Kuza business training programme. I thought I would not qualify because I was uneducated but it turns out the training was actually for people like me.
The Kuza scheme helped me a lot. Now I know how to determine profit and loss and how best to manage my savings. Before I used to just sell homemade pastries, but now I have diversified my produce and reinvested my savings in charcoal and firewood. This means there is not so much wastage and my profits have increased.
By learning how to run a business properly, people like me have more chance of building up a proper business: raising finance, getting insured, making contacts with bigger businesses, being protected from illegal taxes and being able to negotiate better with wholesalers.
I don’t want to just survive, I want more: security and success.
Kuza is a three year DFID-funded youth employment project in partnership with Mombasa county government