Whenever you see Obunga Slum in the local or international news channels, it is always for the wrong reasons such as, " 3 armed men were today shot dead for terrorizing residents, a man stabbed his wife to death after an argument over $1, police raided illicit brew dens and arrested vendors with over 2000 litres of illicit brew," and so on.
But behind this negative publicity are hardworking residents determined to improve their lives. Obunga slum has myriad problems. Families here lack appropriate housing and decent jobs. Poverty drives them to look for whatever solution they can find to survive. Women bear the greatest burden of raising their families alone. They fry and sell fish leftovers, charcoal, tomatoes, and vegetables to earn income to support their families and send their children to school
It is not uncommon to see other women venture into risky businesses like brewing and selling illegal alcohol and commercial sex working to fend for their families. They cannot just sit back and watch their children suffer. They must do something. They always say. Unfortunately, engaging on these illicit activities always bring them more misery than good. Often, they are arrested, fined heavily leaving them in debt and poorer, sometimes raped/sexually harassed and beaten up by drunkards.
As they go about the business of trying to earn a living, their innocent children observe and learn from them and go on to employ the same strategies to survive. Some alcohol vendors take advantage of stupefied drunkards and give them less change, or empty their pockets of all they have. Drunkards on the other hand misbehave by touching the women inappropriately before their children. Fights at illicit brew dens is nothing out of the ordinary.
She is only 10 years old. When she grows up, she wants to be a teacher. "I am happy and strong" are the words she says describe her well. Her favorite food is chips and eggs. She is afraid of lion, is good at singing, would like to learn how to cook, finds math to be hard and would love to visit Nairobi someday. If she could be an animal, she would be a dog to chase thieves away. And their house is the one thing she would like to change in her community.
Like many girls at Akili School, she lives with her grandmother, who brews and sells illicit alcohol to support their family of over 8 children and grandchildren. Her grandmother is a member of several women self help groups in the community. She regularly attends group meetings. When she does, she cannot close her business. She has to keep it open at all times. It is necessary to keep the throats of all her loyal customers watered and their thirst for alcohol quenched. And of course to earn her the much needed income.
Recently, her grandmother left for the meetings as usual and left her to sell the alcohol. One after the other, the customers flocked their house, and glass after another, she served them their favorite drink. The bitter the better, they say.
Having learnt the "skills" of trade from her grandmother, she watched as the potent brew took the better of one of her customers and decided to give him less change. No sooner had she handed the man the less change than he descended on her with hot slaps and kicks resulting into chaos in the house. The ensuing melee attracted the neighbors who rushed to her rescue.
Among the onlookers was her classmate Vera from Akili girls who later reported the incident to the school prompting teacher Annette to summon her grandmother.
Teacher Annette talked to and advised her against the dangers of exposing her grandchild to drunkards and potential sex predators as well as being a bad influence to her by selling alcohol in the house. She promised to change and support her grandchild through education. Since then, she has been coming to Akili School often to talk to the teacher and check on her grandchild's progress. Her uncle who is in high school has also been very supportive, helping her with homework.
Lilian has since registered marked improvement in her studies. In January 2017, she will join the Akili Girls Boarding school in Obambo, a safe home where she will be protected and allowed to grow, thrive and reach her full potential.
Just like Mary and her friends at the boarding school, Lilian has so many rights! She has the right to feel safe, no one is allowed to hurt her. And all adults like her grandmother and teacher Annette must make decisions that are best for her.
The quality education we are giving her will enable her to be the teacher she wants to be. She will earn income and support not only herself, but also her family and community without having to sell illicit liquor to make ends meet. Go teacher Lilian! Go!