For the past 25 years Cluster member CHRISTINE ACHIENG OCHIA has run a hair salon in Kericho. But this is not an ordinary hair salon – it’s a place to train vulnerable local girls to cut hair and start their own business. This is the story of Christine’s Mama Vera Salon. The girls I train come from difficult backgrounds. Some are orphans who were forced into early marriages that later became abusive. Some have had unwanted pregnancies. Some have dropped out of school due to lack of school fees. The salon is an escape for them – it helps keep them focused on their futures. Before I started the salon, my life was not good. I was an orphan, I went through a lot and I got married when I was young. And so I understand the girls I work with. I think it’s important to tell them my story, and to counsel them. I also want to prepare them for life’s challenges by showing them that there are challenges they will face in business, but that they can overcome them.
I teach business and enterprise skills. I encourage them to form “chamas” – which are informal cooperatives where girls can pool and invest savings, and where they can buy items so that by the time they finish they are able to set up their own business. I have trained over 50 girls so far – 9 have gone on to start their own salon. This makes me proud. Most of the time it takes between 6-12 months to train them. Cluster meetings teach me business skills and motivate me to be a better person. I learn how to drive a successful business. I am encouraged to see other people helping youth locally. I have also made new friends. It’s a blessing!
Meet another enterprising Kericho Cluster member here.