Women of Armstrong Women’s Empowerment Center

Women of Armstrong Women's Empowerment Center

2008 is a year that Evelyn Akoth, 33, would rather forget. Not only was it marred with violence and destruction from the previous year’s election, it was also the year she became a widow.

“He was in an accident and died months later from complications of the injuries he had sustained. I never thought I would be a widow at 22 years old with four children,” she explains.

Pamela Odipo, 43, whose husband who also died in 2017, knows too well the burden of living as a widow. Left behind with seven children, her husband’s income as a watchman had been the main source
of income. This is because, as a fishmonger, she could not sustain a family of nine on her salary alone.

“When my husband died, I didn’t know where or how to start. Most of my children were still in school, I didn’t know how I would provide for them,” she says.

“He was in an accident and died months later from complications of the injuries he had sustained. I never thought I would be a widow at 22 years old with 4 children”

Although Evelyn and Pamela don’t feel sorry for themselves it’s important to understand that their backgrounds have a bearing on their present lives.

With her mother passing away and her absentee father, Evelyn was raised by her grandmother. She managed to sit for her final primary school exams but was not able to move forward to secondary school because of lack of school fees.

Pamela on the other hand, managed to reach class 8 but fell pregnant and had to drop out to take care of the baby, eventually getting married to the father of her baby.

These two bright women were not able to acquire a proper education, limiting their choices in life.

Unfortunately, the cycle has continued in the lives of some of their children.

“My first child, a daughter, is 20 years old and had to drop out of school last year because she fell pregnant. Her child is currently six months old. I no longer have just 4 mouths to feed but 5,” says Evelyn.

“My eldest 2 are married but none of them completed high school. I can only pray that the other 5 will be able to complete their schooling,” explains Pamela.

Both joining Armstrong at the beginning of 2018, they have gained invaluable skills enabling them to supplement their income with the skills they have learnt at Armstrong.

Evelyn did menial jobs prior to joining Armstrong. She has learnt not only on savings and loans but she can now comfortably make doormats, fireless baskets and peanut butter which she then sells.

Both joining Armstrong at the beginning of 2018, they have gained invaluable skills enabling them to supplement their income with the skills they have learnt at Armstrong.

Making a profit of approximately Ksh. 100/= per day, Pamela’s business is not able to sustain her family on its own; the income from the activities at Armstrong offers her the opportunity to increase on her income.

Most importantly, Armstrong has offered both women a place they can come and seek help for the various challenges they face in their communities. They have found counsel and companionship in each other.

What do they think can be done to improve the lives of girls and women in their community?

“Vocational training that will enable them to earn a living and not get married early because they have no other option,” says Evelyn.

Pamela and Evelyn are both active members of their respective church choirs and are very optimistic about their future.

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