By Angela Rizner
“I work so that I can support my children. One day, they’ll work to support me. This is how we take care of each other,” discloses Beth, a radiant and delightful “Mama.” Her candid nature is revealed only to those who dare enter into the energetic vortex of her awesome spirit.
Beth sells samosas on a main thoroughfare in Kibera. Her kiosk balances delicately on the edge of a gutter – two legs in the open sewage, two legs on the walking path. On a crowded Monday, hundreds of people rush past; children running together in a pack, older men laboriously pushing carts, girls holding babies, and young men tediously carrying duffel sized bags of charcoal.
Despite the difficulty of Kibera, empowered women are leading the charge, and are happy and eager in their role succeed... "We are creating the future together."
Amidst the chaos, Beth sits perched on a chair, surrounded by her friends, seemingly untouched by the scene that surrounds her. “Every evening I come here to sell vegetable samosas with the other mamas,” Beth explains, “We are single women - we don’t rely on any man here in Kibera. It is just us and our babies.”
She proudly dons a clean, white shirt – which refracts light onto her huge, beaming smile. Her buoyancy and steadfastness are qualities that shine brilliantly in the tarnished environment she calls home. Beth is a single mother of five, and is solely responsible for her children’s well-being.
In Kibera, the informal economy is the main driver of local business; most residents immigrated to the city from the countryside in hope of better opportunities. For the majority, however, the promise of a better life remains an arduous, uphill battle. The difficulty and stress they face daily seems insurmountable. Many of the residents are undocumented, and aren’t able to afford papers – adding to the crippling and pervasive challenge of unemployment. On average, the daily income of a resident of Kibera is less that $1.00 USD per day.
Women in Kibera receive the shorter end of the stick. As they battle for a more equitable wage and access to education, they end up shouldering the majority of the responsibility. Frequently, men fall prey to economic and social shame because of their inability to provide for their family in a consistent, reliable way. As a result, alcoholism, drug-use, and crime entrap them in a cycle of apathy and anger. Women are often left alone in raising their children, forcing them to create streams of revenue outside of the traditional economy. They become entrepreneurs out of necessity. They are motivated by something deeper than themselves, most often by the need to provide for their children, who they hope will in turn provide for them.
The equanimity and joy Beth embodies reveals a deeper truth. Despite the difficulty of Kibera, empowered women are leading the charge, and are happy and eager in their role. She laughs, “We help our sisters, we look out for each other. We are creating the future together.” Thank you for joining us in this series “Shining Light on Kibera." #ShiningLightOnKibera #LightUpLife