Christine Abonyo came to Nairobi back in 1987 in search of better job opportunities from her rural village in Nyanza county. She had taken a short course on tailoring and thought it best to migrate to Nairobi and set up a small shop, tailoring women, men and children’s clothes. She started fittings and slowly grew her small kiosk in Makina market. It was not until 2003 when she met VICOCAP, a non-profit based in Kibera whose vision is to transform lives and society through economic empowerment.
“We work in the entire 14 villages in Kibera serving 17 women, youth and self-help groups improve their livelihoods through economic empowerment” Jackson Mose, the Programmes Director at VICOCAP shares. VICOCAP is in partnership with KCDF through the Comic Relief grant in a project dubbed Sustainable Economic Empowerment Conservation (SEEC) whose grant amount of KES. 2.1 million is seeing groups boost their business’ by providing much needed capital and increasing their savings.
In the year 2000, Christine decided to reengineer her business having suffered a multitude of challenges. “My business was not doing as well because the main competition became the second-hand clothes market which provided a cheap alternative for my clients as opposed to tailoring customized fittings” adds Christine. She then decided to switch to fitting school uniforms and supplying them to schools. However, that needed a capital boost and looking at her savings then, it was not much.
“I did not transition fully to uniforms at first, I was still doing fittings to a small number of clients and would make little savings and then buy uniform material in bulk. My women savings group was introduced to VICOCAP when we heard they were looking to support entities like ours though very informal at the time” quips Christine. VICOCAP offers loan and credit facilities to groups and assists them to register their groups formally, provide training on business and entrepreneurship, link groups to micro-finances, devolved funds and other credit facilities as well as facilitate loan management for the groups they target.
Christine started by borrowing KES. 10,000 which she injected to her business by adding uniform material stock. She was able to boost her business and more and more parents would buy school uniforms from her enabling her not only to make savings but also repay her loan facility that is managed by VICOCAP. To date, Christine has borrowed up-to KES. 150,000 as business capital and has secured four main clients she provides uniforms for as the focal point provider. She has also managed to employ two full time employees who help her with the business.
Christine Abonyo, beneficiary of VICOCAP at her shop where she tailors and supplies school uniforms to various primary and secondary schools in Kibera Slum
“The trainings and exchange learning visits facilitated by VICOCAP opened my eyes to another world of business. People result to helplessness here in the slum given the hardship environment we live in. I doubt without that exposure I would be able to be where I am today without their assistance” shares Christine. Through the KCDF grant, six similar groups and their members have benefited like Christine. Not only are the groups formally registered, and accessing the loan facility, each member is equally saving KES. 200 per week from their business profits and growing the revolving fund set-up. The fund to date has KES. 2.2 million in savings.
“We try to empower the group members through various trainings as well as a lot of exchange visits for learning and benchmarking. Companies have been helpful in providing mentorship and coaching for these business groups which gives the members a confidence boost” adds Jackson Mose. VICOCAP has also had their own lessons in terms of offering more support to its member groups beyond economic empowerment. “The issue of health cannot be ignored in our context and we partnered with Kenya Community Based Health Association is providing a community medical health scheme for our members. A lot of our members would default on their ARV treatment due to minimal savings that they would put in their business just to make ends meet and support their families. It is through the KCDF grant 39 members are able to access their treatment through the medical scheme without affecting their income generating activities” shares Jackson.
Christine is content with her business as it is doing well at the moment enabling her make profits of KES. 150,000 per month. Her biggest worry is the political climate at the moment that is affecting many business and cash flow. “During the recent election period there was a lot of tension in the area. We would close our business’ and hire security by paying some youths a certain amount to protect your business so that it is not burnt or destroyed by errant youth. The young people here do not have job opportunities, so politicians use and manipulate them for their selfish reasons and that creates a vulnerability, a ticking time bomb” cautions Christine. Christine at 55 years of age has been able to support and provide for her three children as a single parent. Her eldest daughter is in university, her second born son in secondary while her last-born son is in primary school.
The future of VICOCAP is focusing on supporting more groups in Kibera urban slum. “We realized the deliberate need to include working with persons with disability as they are a vulnerable group. We also want to upscale our programs to reach to Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums by reaching 10 groups in the area” shares Jackson. VICOCAP has also reviewed their strategic plan so as to realize their need to be sustainable as a group through diversified sources of income aside from IGA’s. VICOCAP is looking into venturing to social enterprise and also providing markets and linkages to their member groups.
Benson Onyango who is a member of VICOCAP has been able to expand his business in selling motorcycle and bicycle spare parts