|Community Rehabilitation and Sustainable Livelihoods: Nairobi|
Small Business Offers Milkia Bright Future
Today Milkia is a confident young woman who owns an underwear stall in Huruma, an informal settlement in Nairobi that became infamous for harsh brutality during the post-election violence of 2007.
However, Milkia was not always the self-assured woman that she is today: she grew up lonely and stigmatized as people in the community looked down on her, due to her physical disability caused by paralysis on the right side of her body, and her slow learning caused by a developmental disability.
She says, “Growing up I hated myself, because people in the community did not like me and would treat me badly. I would fall a lot and people would laugh at me and call me names. It made me feel horrible and I felt like I was the only one with this problem.”
Milkia’s main support was her single mother, and Milkia often wondered what her future would hold if something happened to her mother. In order to contribute to the family income she started to skin goat legs at the local slaughter house: “For every leg that I skinned I would receive 1/= (equivalent to $0.08 USD). The work was very challenging because of my physical disability, but I knew that I needed to do something to contribute to the family income of my single mother.”
Milkia reflects: “Those days were miserable for me. I was frustrated because I felt that I was a burden to my family, and felt so alone.”
Then three years ago a member of the community introduced Milkia to Kenya Association of the Intellectually Handicapped. This was a turning point for Milkia as she met other people that had disabilities similar to hers. “I realized there were other people like me. I felt very encouraged because I finally felt like I was not standing alone with my challenges.”
Through KAIH, Milkia had the opportunity to participate in many activities, including peer education training, where she learned about her own rights so that she could become a self-advocate in the community. Through the peer education and self-advocacy training Milkia felt that she was finally able to express her opinion and that her voice was being heard.
“I decided that I wanted to start an underwear stall,” recounts Milkia. With the support of her mother and some basic business training from KAIH, Milkia established a stall in her local community where she sells men's, women's and children’s underwear, and nappies for babies.
“Being a part of KAIH and starting my own business has given me hope for the future. I don’t feel that I will be alone if something happens to my mother, I will be able to care for myself,” explains Milkia.
Milkia is now an advocate for KAIH and people with disabilities in the community, and she carried a banner in an awareness walk for people with iintellectual disabilities.
“I loved that I could stand in front of people within the community and show that I can make a difference. I hope that the other parents who have children with disabilities could see me and understand that they should no longer be hiding their children in the house just because they have a disability.”
As she pauses to reflect for a moment, she says: “I want the world to know that I have learned to accept myself and my disability. I don’t hate myself anymore.”
1. Stigmatization within the community
2. No livelihood to become self-reliant
3. Lack of knowledge about her human rights
1. Greater acceptance within the community.
2. Has a small business to generate a livelihood.
3. Knows her rights and can advocate on her own behalf