Kaptembwa women prove to be an oasis of hope

Members of the Oasis women group at work. They chose beading as a way of fighting poverty among women in the slum. Photo: Jackson Okata
Members of the Oasis women group at work. They chose beading as a way of fighting poverty among women in the slum. Photo: Jackson Okata

For many, the word oasis would pass unnoticed but for women in Nakuru’s Kaptembwa slums, this is a group that has given them a lease of life.

Since its formation and registration in 2013, the group has been keen on uplifting the status of women in Nakuru out of poverty through their project of hand-making quality jewellery, bags, clothing and kitchen accessories.

According to Irene Njoki, the chairperson of Oasis Women’s Group, the group was formed to provide a source of livelihood for scores of women living in an urban slum area where poverty, crime, drug abuse and prostitution were the norm.

Njoki says after all the hustles, they decided to work closely to ensure they no longer look for employment but rather create their own jobs as a way of empowering themselves.

Idea

“We came together and examined our lives and the direction we were headed and that is when the idea came up to create employment for ourselves rather than go looking for one,” Njoki explains. She adds: “That is how we formed the group and later in June 2013 we registered it as Oasis Women’s Group.”

Sticking to their core value of empowering the women in society, Oasis Women’s Group has been able to empower over 100 groups within Nakuru County.

Njoki says through hand-making of quality jewellery, bags, clothing and kitchen accessories, women no longer feel left out on the fringes of the society.

Challenges

However, their work has not been without challenges. She says market remains a big challenge adding that they have opened up social media accounts for the group to market their products.

Another big challenge they now face is the recent ban on plastic carrier bags which they have been using as part of their raw materials.

However, Njoki is quick to note that the group is exploring alternatives with the ban on plastic carrier bags.

“We got the information that there was a ban on plastic carrier bags which we have been depending on as one of our raw materials but with our innovative minds we have other alternatives since we also want a clean environment,” she says.

Oasis Women’s Group has also taken advantage of open forums such as the annual Nakuru Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) show to market their products.

“Members are optimistic that in the next two years we will be a big organisation that will empower and touch the lives of more women in society.”

Information

Asked if they have benefitted from any funds disbursed by the government to empower various women groups, Oasis Women’s Group members say it has been challenging for the government to do more in ensuring that women have information about the funds and how to access them.

“In the next two years we see ourselves as a big organisation that will touch more women in society. We also call on the Government to ensure more information reaches women in society,” says Njoki.

Similar sentiments are echoed by the group’s treasurer Grace Kinyua who has mastered the art of making beads and does all she can to produce the best items.

Kinyua advises women to be aggressive and work hard to ensure that they become empowered instead of being dependants.

“I call upon women in society not just to sit there but reach out to us and we shall empower them in a way that they will be able to get some money,” she says.

Miriam Kinyua, one of the group’s senior members and who happens to be a widow says since she joined the group she has greatly been empowered.

Kinyua advises the younger women in society no to lose hope but stay focused on what they want to achieve in life.

“To the younger women, they should stay focused and persevere in life. Life is all about perseverance,” says the elderly Kinyua.

Indeed knowledge is power and Oasis Women’s Group, has just realised their potential and are working to achieve their goal in empowering other women.