Florence grew up in West Kenya, in a polygamous family of 15 children. Having had a difficult childhood and striving to survive Florence understands well the difficulties that the members of Kar Geno face on a daily basis.
Florence: “Making a great change in the African perception of a woman’s role in community development has always attracted me. As a young girl, I dreamed of doing something big through empowering women. This really inspired me to form Kar Geno. My goal is to give hope in life. Kar Geno is a chance to give women a voice.”
Anna: “After finishing Primary school, I was unable to proceed to the high school because my parents couldn’t afford it. I got married young and I now have 7 children.
I used to be an active member of music and drama clubs during my primary education and that has stuck with me. Coordinating Children activities within Kar Geno is what I enjoy most. The children are mostly orphans and come from very poor backgrounds. Bringing them together and engaging them into activities brings joy to their faces, which motivates me a lot. I love working with young children and I do whatever I can to engage them.”
Flora married during the times when the education of girls was not valued. She was not given an opportunity to continue school studies after finishing primary school. Flora married into Mabinju village and has lived here ever since. Flora is a mother of 8 children. She has been involved in the village initiatives for a very long time and is an experienced mentor to many younger women.
Doreen was introduced to her husband at age of 15 when she came to visit her aunt in Mabinju. She is a mother of 8 and the second wife in a polygamous family. Since she got married she has been involved with small businesses.
She is an active member of women’s Microfinance Fund and has been since it was established. The fund helps our members to get loans without providing the collateral that most banks request.
Doreen: “The fund helps women to pay children’s school fees, food and even build their homes. Financial independence is very important for women. Also, meeting volunteers from all over the world is a blessing. We feel involved and important in our small community which gives us hope that what we are doing is recognised.”
In 1994 Beatrice’s husband died of HIV, her three children tragically followed later on. In keeping with local tradition she was given three other children to take care of. Such was the shame associated with HIV, it was not until 1999 that Beatrice went to a health facility to get tested, the tests came back positive.
Beatrice: “I kept the secret of my status for 13 years. I began sewing chair cushions to make enough money to buy food, the work offered little returns, and often I was not paid at all. I also began caring for other sick members of my community. Since joining Hope Designers, I have been able to provide for my family and educate my community about HIV-related issues”.
Raphine has a degree in Development Studies from the Great Lakes University of Kisumu. As a young graduate Raphine spent 3.5 years as a Research Assistant with the Kenya Medical Research Institute collaborating with the University of California on HIV/AIDS research projects.
Having learned about the issues such as discrimination and stigma that comes with the disease, he decided to return to his native village of Mabinju and help affect change. He did so by joining forces with Florence, who at the time was starting the first informal women’s group. Kar Geno was therefore born from the need for change and hope.
Raphine: “Ever since we founded Kar Geno I have been highly motivated, doing the work that I do. I admire the women of our community who persevere despite the most difficult life circumstances. They stay positive and provide the best care possible for their children.
I am passionate about my work, because I can see that my efforts help bring about changes into our little community. Step by step we improve the lives of our people and that makes me very happy.”
Marta was born in 1970, in a family of 9 children and went to school up to grade 7. When Marta was very young and inexperienced she became pregnant and followed the local tradition of marrying an older man at 16 and moving to Mabinju.
Before joining Kar Geno she was working on the Morenga project in an organisation named Dala Rieko for 6 years. Marta has a wealth of experience in cultivating and preparing the morenga plant.
Marta: “I was happy to introduce the members of Kar Geno to something new using my previous experience. Involving women in activities that generate income motivates me. Knowing that moringa benefits many people due to its nutritional and medicinal properties and that we have grown it and prepared it makes me very happy and proud.”
Wilkista was married at the age of 16 which was standard at the time. As a young mother Wilkista had to work very hard to feed her children as this was considered the responsibility of a woman. Her husband used to work in the city. Wilkista was living in the village which gave her the opportunity to join several women’s groups.
Wilkista: “It seems that I was born a leader because in all these groups I have been part of, they always elect me to lead them. I continue by leading this great cooperative within Kar Geno. I am happy we are part of this great organization of mothers, with one common goal of being financially independent. We are happy here and I thank God for how far we have come. We used to be called names, but we stood firm and fed our families by ourselves that is a good testimony to many other women.”
Dickens is a graduate of the Kenya Medical Training College. He has been involved in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, School Health and Waste Management initiatives in the Mabinju community. He worked with such partner organisations as UNICEF and Map International on projects in WASH and health education.
His particular interest is to enhance the well-being of the entire community by facilitating access to the relevant health information sources as well as the promotion of healthy living.