Stories from the Studio: Meet Joyce

We're excited to share a story of hope and empowerment from Joyce, one of the incredible woman who is employed full-time with UBUNTU Made. Our sincere thanks to Joyce for sharing so openly - your strength is inspiring and you are truly creating the change.

Joyce moved to Maai Mahiu 6 years ago, a then 19-year-old mother with her 5-year-old daughter living with Cerebal Palsy, Tabitha. She earned a job as a house girl but was immediately faced with difficulties and mistreatment because of her daughter's disorder. Joyce can’t recall a time she enjoyed a meal comfortably with the family: “I only remember eating from pits with my daughter.”

“I was distraught at the treatment that I got from my then employer and thus decided to quit that job and get married to a guy who was then interested in me. I was very desperate to get a place to stay and live with my daughter and gave in.”

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When Joyce became pregnant with her second child, what should have been a joyful time instead came with fear and threats from her husband. He would tell her, “Make sure you don’t give birth to a lame child because my family is not cursed." He pressured her so much that he threatened to divorce her if the child was birthed with special needs.

She had no job then and no support from her family, who also claimed that Tabitha's "lameness" was a curse with which they were not connected. With no other option, she was forced to stay with her abusive husband.

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Things began looking up in 2011 when Joyce got an opportunity to enroll her daughter in the Malaika Kids School, a program for kids with special needs. Shortly after she earned a job at UBUNTU Made, working alongside women who also had children with special needs in the program. Not only did she gain a job, she joined a community of women who understood exactly the trials she faced.

“I thank God that I got a job at UBUNTU Made in 2011 at 7 months pregnant - my only prayer was to give birth to a healthy kid. I was hopeless to get a job anywhere with my first born daughter."

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Joyce gave birth to a healthy baby girl and named her Regina, but this only made it more difficult for Tabitha. Her husband started telling Joyce places to dump the "disabled kid" and keep only the “healthy kid” in the family.

“In 2012, I finally made up my mind to leave the father of my second born child as he would always abuse me physically when he got drunk and do all manner of obnoxious things at the house in the name of trying to teach me a lesson for not dumping my disabled child. I later got a small apartment in Maai Mahiu town and I started to live with both of my daughters.”

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After a year on her own, Joyce had the opportunity to invest in sand harvesting, a common industry in Maai Mahiu which employs over 30,000 people in Kenya, mostly young men. She applied for a loan and paid the initial registration fee of 120,000 Kenyan Shillings (about $1272 USD).

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“This business has enabled me to hire someone to harvest sand on my behalf, earning Kshs.16, 800 monthly (about $178 USD*) on top of my salary at UBUNTU Made. The business has also enabled me to buy a piece of land which is culturally vital, educate my daughter, pay for day care for Regina, and pay school fees for my younger brothers.

I am therefore grateful for the opportunity that I got at UBUNTU Made as it is the main contributor to my current status. Otherwise, I don’t know where I could be. Additionally, am also glad that I got a business through UBUNTU Made which is doing well and enabling me to help other people by way of employing and giving education to my siblings. I am certain that I wouldn’t have been able to leave the father of my second born daughter if UBUNTU Made had not presented an opportunity through employment in the organization. UBUNTU Made makes me feel like an empowered woman”.

That you are, Joyce.

*The average Kenyan salary is $76 monthly, according to this article