On one of my recent trips to Kenya, I met Everlyn, the chairperson of PowerWomen, a cooperative that supports women who are HIV positive. PowerWomen markets handmade products made by the women they serve. The primary mission of the organisation is to strike down the stigma that’s associated with women who are HIV positive. ”When a woman is abandoned by her husband, and the community as a whole, we are there for her. We raise awareness, and support single mothers and generate an income through the products we make”. As we talked, I noticed, hanging behind Everlyn, a sign from PowerWomen’s last workshop which read ‘Sita Kymye’ which means ‘I won’t keep quiet’. I knew from that moment that Everlyn was not just going to be a friend and a partner, but also a teacher and a source of inspiration and I too decided that I will not keep quiet.
PowerWomen’s second mission is to be economically independent through the sales of the products. I thought about all the obligations a mother might have and I asked Everlyn how the mothers were paying the school fees which are quite high. “We deny ourselves”, was Everlyn’s reply. My facial expression was undeniable … I needed to know more. ”Kids come first. When the time comes to divide the money, those of us with kids going to high school are the priority. Ruth’s kids are my kids. This is the generation that is our future”. I wept.