My late mother wrote my story

fidelity
Posted December 4, 2018 from Kenya
Adaptability for dignity
Adaptability for dignity : Adaptablity for Dignity is a project focusing on women who lost their income due to ban of plastic bags in Nakuru. They are now learning tailoring skills specifically making tote bags. The bags are reusable and biodegradable. (1/6)

I am Fidelis Karanja, I reside in Kenya where I was born and brought up. In a family of 23 siblings’ polygamous family. My father had a burden of educating all of us but most of us were lucky to get to secondary school but with the help of our mothers. I sat for my fourth form exams which I managed to get good grades but not good enough to make me join a public university. I tried to secure place in several tertiary colleges but my father did not care so to send me to a college. My mother who was illiterate, a second wife and who worked so hard to see me her other 9 children through secondary school, could not come to my aid at the time. I admired her and wished if she was well skilled to earn a good income to take us through college. He determination gave me a desire to empower women. Since that time I promised myself if I will have an opportunity to empower a woman I will never hesitate.  I started my journey as an  unskilled woman, working and doing clerical jobs in different firms and institutions. Some were very frustrating employers, no salaries, abuse and being laid off without a notice or pay.

After some struggles I got a job a private hospital as a cashier. I had an interest in serving others and therefore I developed an interest in nursing but I could not afford the  fee to pay for a nursing course. However, that did not stop me from pursuing my dream, I saved some little  money where I joined a social work college. I took part time course in the evening for two years.  Later I got a job with a microfinance organization. The organization lead women money to start small business. I passionately helped women to establish business and recruited more than five thousand members. I was later promoted to a credit officer due to my hand work. Unfortunately, luck was not on my side, in 2007 December Kenya went to a general election that led different communities into conflict. My community was unwanted in the area of our operation. I traveled to my home for Christmas and by 2008 January, our office lost everything. It was burned down and we started receiving threatening phone calls not to report back to work in that area. I could not go back to my work station and I could not get a transfer so I lost my job.

Kenya 2008 as result of disputed presidential elections, many women lost their business and source of livelihoods. They also experienced very traumatizing situation. This made me realize a need in championing peace trainings among women to become peace builders and peace ambassadors as well as holistically empowering them (socially, economically and spiritually). This thought lead to conception of Young Africa women initiative(YAWI) organization. I did not have funds to set up the organization, I talked to a few women friends with whom we registered YAWI self-help group. The group was so limited in reaching out to the women in the larger community. Most of my fellow women gave up and could not sacrifice their time to educate women on peace or offer any other help.

 “I was left alone with my vision of a society where women were empowered and freed from any form of oppression.”

I kept telling myself, i know my tomorrow shall be better than today.  I believed Kathy Troccoli words ‘There is candle in every soul bright and shining” i know mine was bright and shining and I needed to carry mine and reach out to hopeless women. So I soldiered on. In March 2008 I joined a National NGO as a volunteer. I volunteered in the women department dealing with survivors of political strife. I trained many women on small business and advanced credit to rebuild their lives. Also during this time, I told myself it times you achieve your dream of having a degree and I enrolled for Bachelor’s degree in Development studies in a local private University. I sacrificed my volunteer allowance to pay for my fee which was not enough. Lucky enough, January 2010 the NGO leadership employed me as full time staff where I worked as a micro finance trainer with a better salary enough to pay my fee. I trained women in war torn countries that is South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi , Tanzania and DRC Congo in business skill and accessing credit for their business. I worked  in the organization until 2011 where my contract was not renewed due to economic hardships. Again I lost my job. Losing my job was really devastating because I thought I had a good chance to serve the women of Africa but it was short lived. I was really angry and frustrated I still had one year and half to finish my degree and now the job is gone. Through my gratuity I was able to finish my studies and graduated with 2nd class honors.  Since then vowed I will never search for a job again.

My passion for serving the women of Africa lead me to register YAWI as an NGO. I felt and believed that I was now in the right place and no one would destabilize achieving my goal of empowering women. In 2012 January YAWI was fully registered, we got a certificate. We hit the ground running. We moved to the slums where I had contacts with women. Where did several trainings on peace, human rights and we started a micro credit programs. Later we moved to the rural areas in Maasai community, where electricity is farfetched dream that may never be realized in the near future. Women have hazardous way of lighting their homes. We came up with a program, LIGHT IS BASIC where women are provided with solar lanterns to light their homes and for children to study. We distributed 500 households with solar lanterns. Unfortunately, some of these project could not be sustained due to lack of funding and therefore I went back to employment and lucky enough the same organization offered me a position in community transformation and resource mobilization.  at the same time, I applied for a common wealth scholarship which I was given to study a master’s degree in public administration international development at University of York UK and I graduated in July 2018.  

However, all this time I never abandoned by dream in YAWI, so I continued looking for funds and supporting women. In 2017, Kenya government banned the use of plastic bags. More than 500 women livelihoods were affected and resulted in dangerous means of earning an income. Majority living in the informal settlement.  I applied for funding from VGIF to train at least 300 women on tailoring of reusable, biodegradable and Eco-friendly tote bags.  VGIF granted us a grant that has enable us set up a tailoring center where more than 300 women will acquire skills in tote bag making and in addition entrepreneurial skills such as record keeping, marketing communication etc. Also in collaboration with other local organization the women learn other skill on Gender based violence, peace, security etc.  so far 50 women have acquired skills and already marketing.

In addition, I have introduced another bag we are calling it “KICK OUT PLASTIC BAGS!” the bag will go global via online sales and partners. The objective is to promote clean environment globally and abolishing of plastic bags globally. In an addition the bag is targeting adolescent mothers who engage in sex voluntary or through coercion. Their health is at risk. This particular bag will have a health code that can be used on mobile phone or internet. Once an adolescent girl, mother or vulnerable woman send a text she will automatically be linked to sexual reproduction health information that is provided by professionals. I hope that the women will be able to establish viable business in groups and become retailers and suppliers of tote bags, earning income and uplifting their standards of living and enjoying good health. I am so happy with my self because i am on a journey to achieve my dream, pursuing my passion of empowering women.  We need feminist  to come on board and achieve this big dream together.

This story was submitted in response to Share On Any Topic.

Comments 18

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Jill Langhus
Dec 04, 2018
Dec 04, 2018

Hi Fidelis,

Wow! Thanks for sharing some of your background stories, your hopes, dreams, fears, trials, tribulations, extreme discipline and drive to create YAWI. I'm very impressed with what you've done and are creating. I hope you get to continue what you've started so that you can impact even more girls and women. I also hope you get the collaborators that you need in order to create your full dream. Have you shared your website and social media page(s) before? If so, could you share them again?

Looking forward to seeing what you create and hearing more about your journey.

Have a great day!

fidelity
Dec 04, 2018
Dec 04, 2018

Thank you Jill for your encouraging words. sure this is a dream and passion. i desire women and girls to move from crisis to self sustainability. i have a website that is under construction by a volunteer we hope we will be done by last November not yet. i will share all this when is done. however you can have a look at it.

http://www.youngafricawomeninitiative.org/
best Jill

Jill Langhus
Dec 05, 2018
Dec 05, 2018

You're welcome, dear:-) Yes! I can see that, and it's beautiful:-)

The website is impressive looking. I really love the silhouette of the strong woman in the background.... very cool:-) Looking forward to seeing the completed website and hearing more about your future projects and work.

Hope you're having a great day!

fidelity
Dec 05, 2018
Dec 05, 2018

Thank you Jill

Jill Langhus
Dec 05, 2018
Dec 05, 2018

You're welcome:-)

Theresa Takafuma
Dec 07, 2018
Dec 07, 2018

Dear Fidelis
What a touching story! Your determination is so inspiring. I wish we could collaborate one of these days. Thank you for sharing your story of hard work and determination. I am inspired.
In sisterhood
Theresa

Theresa Takafuma
Dec 07, 2018
Dec 07, 2018

Dear Fidelis
Your story is inspiring. Thank you for sharing such a story of inspiration and determination. I am inspired, and wish one day we can collaborate. I'm inspired by your journey of hardwork and determination.
In sisterhood
Theresa

fidelity
Dec 08, 2018
Dec 08, 2018

Thank you Theresa,
sure we can form a strong women network in the region. lets start the discussion on a possible women empowerment network.

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 08, 2018
Dec 08, 2018

Dear Fidelis,
You simply amaze me in all you have faced and overcome. I have this image of you reaching tall walls and just gathering your strength, your passion and your brilliance, and leaping over them. Yours is a story that needs to be known because not only do you show the possibilities that come with such determination, "I kept telling myself, I know my tomorrow shall be better than today", each time you lept over another wall you took care to follow your goal of getting each stage of education that you knew you needed, at the same time jumping over into yet another area, every time, that brought you to helping women who needed you the most "We hit the ground running. We moved to the slums where I had contacts with women". Then to be able to "meet you" here, the woman who changed plastic bag use into sustainable bags based on industry for women, alongside all the other accomplishments (your new website looks so good!), you have inspired me too, in what one women is capable of doing. May the wind stay strong beneath your beautiful wings, dear sister.

With love in sisterhood,
Tam

fidelity
Dec 08, 2018
Dec 08, 2018

Dear Tam,
Hope, determination, passion and patience make me believe one can pull down the barriers in life. i am glad my journey in life is an inspiration to many. i shared my story in WP because i believe that every member of WP has a candle that is bright and shinning and that is why we connect so well.
fidelis

Seka
Dec 10, 2018
Dec 10, 2018

Oh, I wish I could be near you to be inspired! Nobody can not not want to do such good things as you! Millions of women languishing in hopeless misery! How can we also benefit from this training on women's social, economic and spiritual empowerment? We are truly delighted to hear your achievements that bring hope to the woman. May God bless you more.
Seka

fidelity
Dec 10, 2018
Dec 10, 2018

Dear Seka,
Thank you. i know DRC is quite challenging for women due to frequent violent conflicts which affect women in many ways. specifically CONFLICT-RELATED SEXUAL VIOLENCE (CRSV) which is common phenomena. i have been to Goma several times, listening to women stories it is sad. Seka we can always connect and exchange notes.
best
Fidelity

Seka
Dec 11, 2018
Dec 11, 2018

Thank you my dear Fidelity, I'm glad you know my country. I live not far from Goma, in the province of South Kivu. I see you can understand the situation. The women for whom I plead are in our rural areas; since I see what is being said on WP, I am almost sick because I do not know what to do to help this girl or woman of the village who knows that God created her for the bondage: to live under the dependence, to the sweat of his forehead ... I am sincerely at your disposal to learn.
Be blessed
Seka

Bettina Amendi
Dec 11, 2018
Dec 11, 2018

Dear Fidelis,you have encouraged me greatly.Kindly reach us on www.womanshope.org and we see how we can complement each other.
Kind Regards.
Bettina

fidelity
Dec 11, 2018
Dec 11, 2018

Thank you Bettina,
i am also inspired by the amazing programs you have to empower women. i have browsed through woman's hope website it is amazing. i promise to visit you early January 2019 at your offices.
regards
Fidelity

Bettina Amendi
Dec 13, 2018
Dec 13, 2018

Thank You Fidelity for the complements,you encouraged us
You are very Welcome to visit us in 2019.Happy Holidays until then.
Bettina

Olutosin
Dec 14, 2018
Dec 14, 2018

This is mind blowing. My sister, I love your story! You are the woman every girl should aspire to be like in Africa. Nothing can stop us. I love love love love your spirit.
Keep on flying, daughter of the soil, Africa.

fidelity
Dec 16, 2018
Dec 16, 2018

Thank you Olutosin,
sure, sharing our stories is the only way we can connect and encourage one another. personally i have read grate stories of women in WP thank you once again. the sky is our limit.
fidelity

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