Guest post by Kelly Hoppen: with the help of Sport Relief, female entrepreneurs are changing the face of poor communities in Kenya
To mark International Women's Day, Dragons' Den star and successful designer and entrepreneur Kelly Hoppen visited a Nairobi slum, to see for herself how money raised by Sport Relief is helping Kenyan women to start their own businesses and pull their communities out of poverty.
Sport Relief ambassador
Fri 07-Mar-14 11:45:46
I'm a great supporter of women in business, and mentor many in the UK – I firmly believe that having a role model is the key to whether you’re successful or not. I'm always so impressed by how willing female businesswomen are to share their ideas and successes, but also their failures. Every entrepreneur has knock-backs – I've had countless, but that's how you learn.
For years I've wanted to investigate the opportunities available to female entrepreneurs in Africa and this week, I finally got the chance. To mark International Women's Day, I visited women who are striving to succeed in Kibera, one of the world's biggest slums.
In this dangerous and poverty stricken community in the heart of Nairobi, Kenya, young women are achieving incredible things. Against all odds, they have set up businesses which are helping to change the face of their community.
Most are mothers like me, working all hours to run a home and look after children, while also building enterprises that they are totally passionate about. Unlike me, they have to live in terrible cramped conditions, with no running water or electricity. Yet it's this grim setting that drives them on to improve their futures.
Crucial to their endeavours is the support they receive from the Kenyan Youth Business Trust, KYBT. Thanks to Sport Relief cash, it has trained more than 600 people in the last three years along with providing mentoring and access to loans. Incredibly, 95 per cent of those it's helped have achieved their business objectives.
‘Most are mothers like me, working all hours to run a home and look after children, while also building enterprises that they are totally passionate about. Unlike me, they have to live in terrible cramped conditions, with no running water or electricity. Yet it's this grim setting that drives them on to improve their futures.’
Kibera is home to up to one million people and they need businesses like nursery schools, embroidery shops, hairdressers and jewellery stalls, which young entrepreneurs like Deborah, 26, have started.
She struggled to find work and lived with eight other members of her family in one tiny room. But after joining KYBT last year, she now runs a busy hair salon, employs her brother to run the barber shop and rents her own place.
Deborah wants to show young girls in the slum that there are other options besides marrying early. “There are many child mothers here. I want to tell them that I survived. I did not marry early and this is my business,” she said proudly.
She has big plans for the future, and the conviction that's needed to pull them off. She intends to run a school of hairdressing so that, “I can help other young people here in the slum,” she told me.
And that's what I noticed time and time again – these women really want to help those around them.
With a huge smile, Millicent, 29, showed me her selection of colourful handmade bracelets, necklaces and earrings which she sells on a stall under the shade of a tree. After receiving training and a loan from KYBT she now employs four women, including her sister, and is keen to launch another stall in Mombasa. So she's taken the advice from her KYBT mentor and sent her sister-in-law to check out the competition first.
Her increased income enables her to pay her three children's school fees, as well as support her mother and two more sisters. Millicent also goes to a children's home and trains the youngsters how to do bead work.
I've seen how your money is helping women in the toughest places change not only their lives and their families, but also their communities. And it's great to hear that the UK Government is going to help by matching up to £10 million of donations from this year's Sport Relief, to get people living in some of the poorest countries up and running secure businesses.
The trip was an incredible experience. It changed me and opened my eyes to what can be achieved even in one of the hardest places on the planet - and that's hugely inspirational to witness.
By Kelly Hoppen MBE
I travelled to Tanzania in January with Sport Relief and second everything that Kelly says. Your small change makes change. In my case it was for street children and artisanal gold miners who just want to change their lives and be able to have an education or provide for their families. I have also had the privilege of visiting several UK projects where Sport Relief money is vital to make lives better.
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