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Young women of Armstrong women empowerment

Renowned scholar and scientist Albert Einstein once said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today,
and hope for tomorrow…”
Lillian Okal and Sara Atieno embody this message, fighting for a better future for themselves
and their families despite the challenges they have faced in the past.
Growing up in Kobura Ward, Kisumu County, they have both faced similar challenges that have
ultimately brought them together – and made them stronger individuals.
Lillian, 19, the younger of the two has faced not only societal challenges but physical challenges
as well.
Born with dwarfism, she has experienced immense stigma resulting in low self-esteem.
“My mother is old and my father passed away many years ago. However, out of the 12 children,
8 of whom have passed away, I am the only one suffering from this condition,” she says.
Lillian also explains that she has sought medical treatment and managed to secure an operation
several years ago. But the operation resulted in pain whenever her knees are put under strain.

“There were shoes I was supposed to procure after the operation to help me walk but they were
too expensive…” she explains.
Sara also knows what it’s like to forego an opportunity due to lack of money.
Coming from a large family of 9 children herself, she lost her father at a young age. This coupled
with the hardships of living out of town prevented her from joining secondary school despite
completing her national primary school exams, KCPE.
“I have always dreamt of being a salonist. I love doing people’s hair and generally working with
my hands,” she confides with a chuckle.
This love drove her to enroll in a cosmetic training course, two years after leaving primary
school.
But, about a year into the course, she had to drop out because along with her eight siblings, her
mother could no longer afford the school fees.

Feeling dejected and with no hope in sight, Sara married to young man in her community hoping
that this would signal a new chapter in her life.
With a background similar to hers, her husband came with baggage resulting in a fruitless two
year marriage marked by disagreements fuelled by his alcoholism.
Lillian, unable to continue with her schooling past class seven, also met a man with whom she
thought she would share the rest of her life.
However, this was not to be and she fell pregnant shortly after they met.
Her son, now two and a half years old, is her pride and joy. Although Lillian is a single mother,
she has accepted her situation and looks forward to looking after and providing for her son.
Her dream has always been to work as a tailor.
Both women joined the Armstrong Women’s Empowerment center in 2018 – and they have since
gained skills enabling them to make a living for themselves without relying on anyone to
employ them.
“We have learnt how to make soap and door mats, which we then sell and use the proceeds to
provide for our families,” says Sara.
“We have also been taught skills on saving and loans, allowing for our businesses to grow,” says
Lillian.
Currently, their businesses have been put on hold as they are unable to come up with the money
for raw materials.
“Some of our clients would take our products on credit but to date have refused to pay. Therefore
we have no money to plough back into the business,” explains Sara.

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