It seems so long ago now, since we first started our three-year skills training project! Year One of the Hairdressing and Beauty Training has now been completed in spite of a 6-month break caused by restrictions of the Coronavirus.
On 9th September 2019, 25 women took their first steps towards a better life. These brave women were mothers who were suffering with unimaginable hardship. Some brought children into this world when they were themselves children, some were suffering with domestic distress, and others had no other choice but to become commercial sex workers to survive.
The one thing they all had in common? A determination to be strong, financially independent, and able to give their children better opportunities in life.
The aim of this three-year project is to equip 105 young and vulnerable women with the beauty and hairdressing skills they need to secure a good income to build sustainable livelihoods and provide for themselves and their children. The course includes a leadership and mentoring programme, where they were taught vital life skills, and sex education to increase women’s empowerment over their own bodies, and reduce unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases. Each of the women are also offered individual counselling by a qualified counsellor, to help overcome past traumas. I am glad to say that the first year of our three-year project has been successful, though not without its challenges.
Of the 25 women recruited, three women dropped out of the course, due to unexpected factors. One woman became pregnant and felt unable to continue. Two other women dropped out due to domestic abuse. Our partner, International Peace Initiatives, were fortunately in a position to provide these two women with additional support, giving them and their children a safe place to live at the Kithoka Amani Home, away from their husbands. They will complete their course alongside the Year Two cohort in 2021.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the course was forced to stop in April 2020. At this point, the women on our Hair & Beauty course only had three months left to complete. The majority of this was the opportunity to gain work experience in placements at existing salons, where the women could learn from other women who were already running their own businesses successfully. Thankfully, the Kenyan lockdown lifted in October 2020, and the women were able to resume their training.
Despite these challenges, we have successfully delivered 11 months (September 2019 – March 2020, October 2020 – January 2021) of Hair & Beauty training, as well as the accompanying Leadership and Mentoring programme to 22 vulnerable young women, who will be graduating in the summer of 2021 with a recognised diploma. These women 22 women have been:
The sex education component has also been a success, with only one new pregnancy, and no new STI cases reported. The women reported that they felt more confident and empowered, and have been sharing their new knowledge with other women in their local communities.
None of the women have returned to commercial sex work, and have begun earning a good income using their hair & beauty skills.
"Hairdressing is my passion, but is also helps me generate an income. I love the independence it gives me and the friends I am making. I can now provide for myself and have the confidence to be innovative. I want to open up a salon when I graduate and provide job opportunities for other women.” – Enda G. 2020 Graduate
“The designing of people’s hairstyles makes me happy…it helps me earn good money, care for my child, and I will train those interested in hairdressing from my community.” – Rosemary M. 2020 Graduate
“I started this course first in 2017, but dropped out due to many reasons. My home was no longer safe, so I left. I thank God that International Peace Initiatives didn’t leave me. They searched and searched until they found me, and helped bring me back. Now, I’m so happy. I’ve finished my course and will graduate soon. Me and my child can have a better life.” – Janice K. 2020 Graduate
Preparations are also underway for the Year Two cohort to start their hair and beauty diploma. This month, 35 vulnerable women are taking the first steps to building happier, independent lives. They are very excited to start their lessons.
I hope you will join us in wishing them the best of luck! Thank you for supporting these women.
My warmest wishes to you and your loved ones – I sincerely hope you are safe and well during this time.
Project Development and Marketing Officer
P.S. Between 8th – 12th March this year, this project is taking part in GlobalGiving’s International Women’s Week! All online donations to our Hair & Beauty skills training project via GlobalGiving will be match-funded by 50% (up to $50). Every penny will be used to support the running of the project and help the women who want to change their lives - and the lives of their children – for the better.
I think we can all agree that the past few months have challenged us in ways we couldn’t have foreseen. Here in the UK, people have worried for their health, their jobs, and their loved ones.
It’s been a similar story overseas in Africa as well.
In March 2020, our partners – International Peace Initiatives – unfortunately had to close their doors to comply with the lockdown in Kenya. That meant that the 25 women who were close to finishing their accredited Diploma in Hair & Beauty, were asked to go home.
Lilian, Enda, and Rose are 3 of the women who are waiting to return to their studies at International Peace Initiatives. They say, “There are no jobs, schools are closed, and we cannot even go to church. All we do is stay at home. We would have already finished our training by now…we don’t even know whether we’ll definitely be able to finish! The economy is bad, everything is so expensive now. There is simply no money, because there are no jobs. We stay at home in fear, but we really want to come back and compete our course. We were learning so much and now we feel stuck.”
With no other jobs available and no means of an income, their situation was bleak. Food prices were increasing on a daily basis and other provisions were becoming hard to come by. That still is the case, but thanks to donors who supported our Emergency Appeal, we were able to raise enough funds to support the 25 women and their children. We provided them with masks, soap, food parcels and money to cover their rent so they don’t become homeless.
Thankfully, we are now in a position to say that the restrictions are being lifted in Kenya.
The 25 women engaged in our Skills Training have been supported throughout the pandemic, and we are happy to let them know that they will be finishing off their Diploma in January 2021. With only 3 months of training left, Lilian, Enda, Rose and the other women on the course will be trained Hairdressers by April 2021, ready to grow their own businesses.
However, they have no income until January 2021. This is where you can help, to support them and their children until they are able to qualify as professionals.
We’re excited to let you know that our second cohort of students for next year’s course are currently being selected! In January 2021, 35 women will be taking their first steps towards a new life of equality and independence. No longer will they have to turn to commercial sex work to provide for their families. Instead, they will spend their time learning Hair and Beauty techniques – a respected and profitable skillset in rural Kenyan communities.
Despite the hardships that this year has brought us, we’re very optimistic about what the future holds for the women in our skills training programmes.
In these uncertain and trying times, I sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well.
We have never faced such a threat to our charity and the services we provide to support disadvantaged and vulnerable women and young people around the world. The pandemic has forced us to cancel all upcoming fundraising events and cease our volunteer programme, all of which provides a substantial amount of our yearly income. Our most pressing concern is the vulnerable people that we have helped since 1995. If we cannot raise enough funds, I dread to think what the future brings for Ecologia and our many vulnerable beneficiaries. The Coronavirus pandemic means that vulnerable women and children are in even greater need of our support. We simply cannot stop working for them.
Although the prevalence of Coronavirus is much lower in Kenya compared to the Western world, people are facing severe challenges. Food prices have tripled in price over the last month alone and has become even more scarce. At International Peace Initiatives (IPI) the women on our skills training course have had to stop lessons. The Kenyan lockdown has meant all schools have shut, and opportunities to earn money have drastically decreased. At IPI, they’ve had to temporarily lay-off 31 staff members while the lockdown is in place.
Ecologia International Team has been working tirelessly to help disadvantaged children and families impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. We took part in #GivingTuesdayNow and #DeclutterAndDonate on May 5th 2020 as part of our emergency appeal in the hopes to raise enough funds to support our vulnerable communities.
We knew we could count on our community of kind and compassionate supporters to help see us through this. Around the world supporters rose to the challenge and generously gave whatever they could afford. So far, we have raised £16,131.25
Because of supporters like you, we have raised enough money to get food provisions to the women of IPI and their children, so that they will not starve. We have also been providing them with masks, hygiene supplies, and money so they are able to pay for medications and their rent so they can stay in their homes while they do not have an income.
Dr Karambu, Director of International Peace Initiatives says,
"We are safe so far, here at Kithoka Amani Children's Home (KACH). We have been told to stay at home until June. We are home-schooling the kids and so life is busy here. Yesterday, we bought food and necessities for the women learning at IPI Polytechnic, as they were struggling for food, and took them to their homes. Thank you for being instrumental in the transformation of the lives of women and children in Kenya."
At a time where good news is hard to come by, we wanted to make sure you know how much you have been a hero to us all.
Please see the video link below to watch how we are supporting the women of IPI and hear them talk of their struggles during this pandemic. Every day they give thanks to you, their supporters, as without you, they would have no-one to get them through the Kenyan Lockdown.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
The Ecologia International Team and all in our International Projects
P.S. If you didn't get a chance to donate on #GivingTuesdayNow, a gift from you today will still mean the world to us, and help us reach our £20,000 target.
This is sadly, just the beginning for the vulnerable children and mothers in our International projects. Every bit of support will go a long way to giving them the chance to grow up healthy, educated, and safe.
25 women joined our project, International Peace Initiative (IPI) to train in Hairdressing and Beauty in September 2019. They were forced to work as Commercial Sex Workers to earn enough to support thier children. Six months into the year-long training, they are becoming confident in their skills, and are preparing to start their internships in the last four months of the course. Then they will be qualified to start their own business or to be employed in a salon.
Fridah tells us:“I am from a humble family of 10 members. I am 30 years old. I am a mother of 3 children and I am a single parent. I lost my parents due to illness. As I had nobody to support me to complete my education I joined sex work as I had to care for my children.
Then I joined the IPI training where I learn hairdressing and beauty skills, how I can start my own business, or be employed in a salon. I am learning how to socialise with others, and how to cope with challenges without giving up, self control and self esteem. In future I am planning to start my own business and to be self employed. If I will not be able to buy the equipment, I will be a mobile hairdresser going door to door. There are a lot of opportunities for me now, thanks to IPI’s training.
I can say that our lives have really changed and we are now going to be Someone in the community."
Thanks to you, our donors and supporters, Fridah and the other young women on the course have a future where they can earn a good income to suport their children and gain respect within their communities.
Look out for our next GlobalGiving Girl Fund Appeal on 6th March where your donation wlll be matched to benefit even more Kenyan young women.
Thank you for supporting us to improve the lives of vunerable women and their children!
Thanks to your support, it’s officially begun!
We are so proud to introduce you to the first class of our three-year Hairdressing Skills Training Project! These 20 women are the first of many who will start the remarkable journey of changing their lives for the better.
Their course started on Monday, 9th September 2019 and are due to graduate in the summer of 2020.
They have enrolled in our three-year Hairdressing Skills Training Course at International Peace Initiatives Polytechnic, Meru. This training will be delivered in three one-year courses, and will provide the women with beauty and hairdressing skills, so that they can break away from commercial sex work, develop a good and sustainable income, and give them the opportunity to provide and care for their families while running their business at home. Their new skills will also help to earn them greater respect in the community, improved social mobility, and greater self-esteem.
“We are so excited to begin this journey with them! Thank you so much for this gift and your support for these women!”
- Dr Karambu Ringera (PhD), Founder & President, International Peace Initiatives
We wish these women all the luck in the world and look forward to seeing their progress over the next year!
We’ve still got a long way to go in raising funds for the full 3-year duration, but with your continued support, were sure to make it. You truly are making a difference.
All the best,
Robyn and the Ecologia Team
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