It is during the month of March, 2020, that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic. The announcement sent shock waves across the globe.
Back home in Kenya, the ministry of health set a myriad of guidelines to help curb the spread of the virus. However, some sounded unachievable. For instance, how was it possible for people in informal settlements to maintain social distance? Worse still, staying at home order under the lockdown proved futile, since places like Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, is driven by the informal economy. A greater percentage of the population earns their daily bread by doing menial jobs.
It is during that time that Janeth Nyabika had just opened her salon business in Kiandaa area of Kibera slums.
“I had been working in someone’s salon for more than 2 years. In 2020, I decided to start my own salon. 2 months later, the first confirmed case of coronavirus was announced in Kenya. That was the beginning of my business dwindling and I was stuck,” Confirms Janeth, blankly gazing at the mirror besides her.
The mother of two was now struggling to make ends meet at home as the sole bread winner. She says as the country was grappling with cushioning it’s citizens from the deadly virus, she was cushioning her home from disarray, as her husband had abandoned them when he could not support the family economically.
“ I would struggle to pay my house rent as well as the salon rent. Affording two meals a day was not easy. It is one of my neighbours, who heard about services offered by CREAW at a community radio station that shared the details with me,” She says while smiling.
Janeth is among 300 women that have benefitted from the response, recovery and resilience project funded by CREAW Kenya with support from Mastercard Foundation. From the cash transfer she received to cushion her business from the adverse effects of Covid-19 pandemic, she opted to restock her salon business as well as diversify it.
“ I then introduced eggs into the business. I started with 5 crates, right now I sell up to 20 crates. With the profit I got, I added some other staffs like “Mabuyu” and masks. I also partly sell vegetables alongside the salon business,” confirms Janeth.
Mama Eddy’s Salon is strategically positioned at the Kiandaa road that has made her outstanding services easily accessible. Through the training she underwent on business management, she is now able to budget and monitor her sales.
“Whatever amount I get, I have to budget for my house rent, salon rent as well as cater for my children. This has really made my life easy,” Chuckles Janeth.
Meanwhile, as the ministry of health kept a daily record of an increase in cases of Coronavirus, there was a silent pandemic of gender based violence that was thriving in homes.
26 year-old Lensa Awour Opande, a resident of Katwekera village in Kibera, is all too familiar with this shadow pandemic.
“My husband and I would fight majorly due to money. It was never enough to cater for our needs at home. I had also closed down my Day Care business,” Narrates Lensa.
On this fateful day, Lensa was brutally beaten by her husband and left for dead. Her neighbours rushed her Nairobi Women’s Hospital where she was linked up with CREAW counsellors for psycho-social support.
“It has been a journey of rebuilding my self-esteem. Right now, I can confidently share my story because I have overcome the fear and stigma of being beaten publicly,” asserts Lensa.
Lensa is running a Day Care Center in Katwekera Village in Kibera. She has become a darling to many women who seek her services as they drop their children with her, as they try to eke a living for the day.
Apart from the counselling services, the mother of three has also gone through business training.
“ A lot has changed now. Prior to the training, I could not manage to pay rent because of mismanagement of funds. Right now I can set aside rent money and salary for my staff,” Confirms Lensa.
As the adverse effects of Covid-19 slowly fizzle out, Janeth and Lensa are optimistic of rebuilding resilient businesses and build back better beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.