At 42-years-old, Jane has lived through more than most people live through their entire life. Growing up in a rural community in western Kenya, she was abandoned by her parents and forced by her would-be mother-in-law to sell Changa, an illicit alcohol, at the age of 13. She had her first child when she was 14-years-old and followed her fiancé to Kibera slum, in Nairobi. Shortly after, her fiancé began forcing her to sell her body as a means of income for their family, so she left him and sought to make it on her own.
A single mother of three, Jane continually struggled to find steady income and support her family. As a woman with only an elementary school education, no skills training, living in one of Africa’s largest slums in a country where the employment rate is nearly 40 percent, the challenges she faces economically are numerous.
Jane was willing to try anything to earn income. She sometimes sold vegetables and mandazi bread on the roadside, but it was never enough to feed and clothe her children. She was forced, again, to offer her body as a means to earn income. Knowing full well the ramifications of such work, she continued to seek other sources of income, but always found herself back in the same place.
Her life took another turn for the worst six years ago when her oldest son was shot and killed by police in the slum they lived in. Over the next few years, Jane lost her other two children – one was stabbed during a bar fight, and the other passed while giving birth. She was left to raise her five grandchildren alone, all of which are under the age of seven.
Despite her circumstances, Jane continued to search for fulfillment in life. She attended church in the slum regularly. In February of 2012, her pastor, a member of Kibera Pastor Fellowship, recommended she join the LIA Konjo shoe project, an economic empowerment initiative.
As a member of the Konjo shoe project, Jane has been trained in both the skill required to make quality Shoes out of local materials, and also in business and finance skills, so that she can successfully earn an income and support her family. Furthermore, Jane has acquired a better understanding of her own worth, gained some renewed dignity and begun to view herself as the beautiful daughter of Christ she is.
When she first came to the project, her co-workers described her as severely depressed and broken. After several months of involvement in the program, one of Jane’s co-workers now says, “That’s the one thing I really thank God for – that even though she is economically empowered, more than that, this project has allowed her to be around people; it’s given her a community and you can tell it’s changed her.”
Jane says God’s opening the door to the Konjo shoe project has renewed her trust in the Lord’s plan for her life. When asked about her hopes, Jane responds by saying that she wants to see her grandchildren have a different life than what she and her children have lived. She also hopes to one day open a small business utilizing the skills she’s learned through the shoe project.