“Training of Trainers” in Kenya
The TOT (Training of Trainers) project started up in 2003 with help from Kianda Foundation and the European Union. The aim was for women from Ngarariga, Riara and Ngong to become promoters and owners of micro-businesses so they could better support their families.
Since then 1,297 women have benefited from the program. Most of them are between 25 and 50 years old, though some are older than 60. The latter are grandmothers who have taken over the upbringing of their grandchildren because the parents have died, often of AIDS, so they need to start earning money again.
The program is taught by women who are studying business or economics at university. The students monitor the women for six months to help them solve any problems that may arise, study initiatives, and evaluate possibilities for future expansion. Additionally, Kianda Foundation then puts them in contact with micro-credit programs and helps them get loans to improve their businesses.
After the initial orientation, in a second phase they begin sessions on how to run a successful business: planning, budgeting, accounts, marketing, viability and savings. Each university student takes charge of helping a small group to plan their own businesses.
The women who attend the TOT program value it highly, because they learn to run their businesses in a professional way, and improve their standard of living. They particularly appreciate the “life skills” that are taught as part of the course—human and Christian virtues—because they discover ways to improve their characters and their way of working, and how to bring up their children well. All of this has a positive effect on the whole family.
Confronting problems with a generous spirit
Both the TOT initiative and the Kianda Foundation are inspired by the teachings of St. Josemaría, the founder of Opus Dei. As he once said: “A university must educate its students to have a sense of service to society, promoting the common good with their professional work and their activity. University people should be responsible citizens with a healthy concern for the problems of other people and a generous spirit which brings them to face these problems and to resolve them in the best possible way” (Conversations with St. Josemaría Escrivá, no. 74).
Susan Kinyua, TOT’s program director, says: “I explain to the volunteers the situation of the local women and our aims. Then they have a series of sessions on development and habits acquisition. During this time the students visit the homes of the 80 women who will take part in the program, and give them a questionnaire to fill out.”
Most of the University students find that participating in the TOT project helps them to work with a professional mentality. They learn to make better use of their time, to work diligently and constantly, and to be responsible about the things they have undertaken. They comment that they would like to give a social dimension to their jobs, for example by introducing specific community development targets in the organizations they will work in after graduating.
Education and access to means for economic emancipation are key questions. The women need to be able to obtain credit and acquire the knowledge necessary to improve their productivity. The micro-financing plans are a way of helping the women who have repeatedly shown they can repay loans. Lack of opportunity is one of the characteristics of those who live in conditions of extreme poverty.
“We want women to be at the forefront of economic growth,” says Susan Kinyua. “I remembers a woman who had been widowed, lost everything and had to leave her children with their grandmother because they had nowhere to live. She thought that if she were on her own it wouldn’t matter where she lived. Thanks to the Training of Trainers project, she was able to set up a small business and buy a house, where she lives today with her children.”
The Kianda Foundation, which is responsible for the initiative, is a not-for-profit educational organization set up in 1961 to promote the educational, social and spiritual well-being of women in Kenya. Pope Benedict XVI has often referred to the need for genuine solidarity: “There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable.…For young people, this widespread involvement constitutes a school of life which offers them a formation in solidarity and in readiness to offer others not simply material aid but their very selves” (Deus Caritas Est, 25 December 2005, no. 28 and 30).
Real-life Stories From TOT
Grace Wahu Nding’uri (Limuru): Fabric, flowers for export, and milk for the family
Wahu is married and has two small children. Before joining the TOT project, Wahu had a sewing-machine and repaired clothes, earning less than 1,000 KSh. (Kenyan shillings) per month—about $14. After doing the TOT course Wahu was able to buy fabric and make clothes; this increased the number of her customers considerably. Encouraged by this experience, she decided to embark on flower cultivation, and rented a plot of land. Currently the flowers are earning her 5,000 KSh. per month. With her savings and a loan, which she has already repaid, she and her husband bought a quarter of an acre of land in Kinangop. Then they spent 10,000 KSh. on a calf, and she hopes to have milk by the end of this year. As well as increasing her income she will have milk for the family, and will be able to move her children to a better school. Her comment was “Maisha yangu imebadilika kabisa!” (My life has changed completely!).
Tabitha Wangari Kinyanjui (Ngong): Electricity, hairdresser’s shop and investment plans
Wangari is married and lives with her two sons in a shanty-town called Mathare, in Ngong. When Wangari’s mother went blind her father deserted the family, and her mother had to manage with the children on her own. In 2008 Wangari heard about Kianda Foundation through the TOT project. When she completed the course her husband, who is a carpenter, built her a little shop of corrugated iron, and she set up as a hairdresser. She obtained a loan of 16,000 KSh. to connect electricity in her house and the hairdresser’s. Next she bought a hair-dryer so that she could do styles with braids and extensions, which are more profitable. Now she earns enough to support the family, buy food and clothing and the other things needed for the house. In her house everything has improved a lot. This year she wants to buy a gas-cooker. Spurred by Wangari’s success, her husband set up a carpentry business with two friends.
Agnes Kigondu (Kagonogo): Selling chickens and the right to ask for help
Agnes is a mother of four, and before she did the TOT program she used to wash clothes to earn a little money for the family. She also cultivated a small piece of land, but was dependent on rainwater. When she finished the training course Agnes decided to make use of the water from a local well, and she went to see the local agricultural department to ask for help. Before, it had never occurred to her that poor people had access to government offices, but now she goes there confidently, knowing her rights. She planted potatoes, beans and maize, and the harvests have improved a lot. Over Christmas time she sold chickens, acting as an agent, since they did not belong to her. She would buy a chicken for 230 KSh. from a supplier and sell it at 260 KSh to hotels. Between 12 December and 1 January she earned 6,000 KSh. She now also has ten hens, which give seven eggs a day. She uses some for the family and sells the rest to her neighbors. She makes around 40 KSh. per day from the sale of eggs. The best lesson she learned from the training course was how to draw up a budget so as to cut costs and put her hard-earned income to the best use. She now has a savings account in Kiambu and is thinking of buying a milk-cow and 200 chickens. She is studying the question of whether to take out a loan or to save up enough to fulfill her dreams.
Mary Maithya (Ngong): From cabbages to wholesale bananas
Mary made women’s clothing, but her husband walked out and left the family with no house or anywhere to carry on the business. She had four sewing-machines but nowhere to work. They were living off the generosity of neighbors and friends. In 2007 she heard about the TOT program through a friend and decided to take part. When she started the course, her only source of income was from selling sukuma wiki (cabbages), because it did not require much capital, but she only earned 50 or 100 KSh. a day. Since she had the sewing-machines she thought about setting up a dressmaking school, but when, having completed the course, she did the calculations, she realized that she would make more money by selling vegetables, grain, paraffin, charcoal, fruit, etc., because these are things that people need every day. She began selling these items, and her life has improved a lot. Now she earns around 500 KSh. a day, because she sells at a strategic spot, quite close to where she lives, and has plenty of customers. She buys unripe bananas, ripens them little by little, and sells them wholesale. Her oldest son has completed his high school studies thanks to the growth in her business, and her second son is attending high school now. Best of all, in 2009 she and her husband got back together.
Priscilla Wanjiru Njenga (Kamirithu): From KSh. 4,000 to 30,000 per month and accounts all square
Priscilla is an older woman who lives in Kamirithu. Before she did the basic TOT course she used to sell second-hand clothing in Limuru market, which is open two days a week. She knew nothing about marketing, and would put the items of clothing for sale, dirty and creased, in a pile on the ground. After the training course she opted to open a boutique in her village, Kamirithu, and the results have been excellent. She displays her clothes, sorted, clean and freshly ironed, on hangers according to type—men’s, women’s, or children’s. The display is very inviting. She goes to the central market where second-hand clothing is imported wholesale, and selects what she wants to sell. She has developed good taste in combining blouses, skirts, scarves, etc. Before, with luck she would make 1,000 KSh. per week; now she earns an average of 30,000 per month. This is enabling her to expand her business by renting space beside her stall to have a greater variety of items. She keeps her accounts all square, as she learned on the course. She says that TOT changed her life; now she understands the meaning of things like profit margins, marketing, accounts, and savings, as well as many other things.
Mary Wambui Wamwenja (Kagonogo): Seven children and a DDO husband
Wambui is around fifty, mother of seven and a grandmother too. To earn her living, she used to do any casual job that came up: digging, washing clothes, housework. But jobs were scarce, and the worst thing was that some people took advantage of the plentiful labor available to delay paying, or even failed to pay at all. When she filled in the questionnaire to begin the TOT training course, she replied humorously to the question on “Husband’s job”: “DDO,” standing for “Daily Drinking Officer.” Wambui is very happy to have done the course, because now she grows all sorts of vegetables such as parsley, cabbage, squash, and arrowroots, and sells them in the market two days a week. She brings water from the river to irrigate them. The days she doesn’t go to market she sells them to the neighbors. So far she has managed to save up 5,000 KSh., has bought a tank to collect rainwater (since there is no water supply) which cost her 8,000, and has also bought a table and a table-cloth. Seeing what his wife was doing presented a challenge to her husband, and he sold a small plot of land he had and bought a cow and a goat. He gave Wambui 2,000 KSh.—the first sum he had ever given her since they were married. As well as the management skills Wambui has acquired, she really appreciates what she learned about using time well. She has also improved her relationships with her neighbors, which has also been good for business and helps her live in peace.
Romana, No. 50, January-June 2010, p. 160-163.