Jully (35) was raised in a big family of eight children. Her father was an addict and this cost him his job at the Ministry of Agriculture. His drinking problem became worse and worse. Her mother suffered from hypertension and struggled to raise and feed her children. Jully and her siblings had to work to earn money to feed themselves. None of them managed to go to secondary school and some of her siblings even dropped out of school at lower primary. Jully managed to finish class 8.
Eventually Jully got married and left her other siblings, who also later had to get married at a young age. “Today I live with my children a small house in Siaya county, Kenya. The society here is very unfair towards women. They protect men and mistreat women – they want to see us begging rather than working. My husband died of AIDS and people here blame me for his death. His family consider me a killer. In fact, he was the one who infected me. I started taking antiretroviral therapy but he didn’t and he died.”
In order to be able to raise and feed my children, I found a job at a hotel, where I helped the owner cook. Life was hard because sometimes the hotel owner didn’t pay me and instead gave me stale food to take home. This food gave my children stomach problems. Then a good neighbour taught me how to tailor using her sewing machine. I left the job at the hotel and helped my neighbour mend clothes. This way I could earn a little income.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, people stopped coming to mend their clothes. People spent all their money on food because the pandemic made life very expensive and people could only afford to buy a little food to survive. I suffered as some days we would not make any money and I went home with nothing at all. I struggled to feed my family and was forced to take out loans to buy food. I didn’t want to do this but I had no other option – my children needed to eat. I felt overwhelmed.
Jully and her tailoring business
My own tailoring business
VSO gave me 10,000 Kenyan Shillings (almost 100 euros) and I used the money to buy a small sewing machine and cotton materials and I started my own tailoring business. Now I make clothes with good materials and this attracts more customers. I also display clothes as part of my marketing plan. It’s going well with my business and my customers also have more confidence in me. Now I see myself as a professional and modern designer; I’m happy and very proud of myself.
Although it’s going well with my business, I keep anticipating on the future. I want my kids to get better education and a balanced diet. I hope I will be able to make more money and save more. Then maybe in the future, I could open another business, like a beauty parlor.
Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Project
Jully is one of the young mothers participating in the Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Project (YEEP) in Western Kenya. In addition to seed capital, Changemaker Janet trains and mentors Jully and other participants so they can start their own businesses. She also brings the mothers together in groups so they can talk about the challenges they face as young entrepreneurs. In addition, she helps them grow their own vegetable gardens.
Want to know more about YEEP? Read the personal stories (only in Dutch) of mothers Vivian and Josephine
Written by: Hollie Longmore
Edited by: Henk Vaandrager, VSO Nederland
Photo: VSO/Obscura Media