Kenya (MNN) — An estimated eight million widows comprise nearly 15-percent of Kenya’s population. This forgotten and overlooked group faces many challenges and social stigma; widows didn’t even show up on the census until 2019.
Thanks to Kenya Hope, widows in rural Kenya are rewriting their future.
“Some of our widows used to have day jobs in Kibera, which is the largest slum in Nairobi. Now, they don’t even do that anymore because the funds they are making [using] the skills we taught them are completely supporting their family and then some,” Kenya Hope co-founder Joy Mueller says.
Many women in rural Kenya depend on their husband’s income. When their husband dies, it’s difficult for widows to make it alone. Widows with small children face even more challenges. Trade training gives widows an opportunity to meet daily needs and plan for the future.
Widows typically have little to no spare funding to pay for job skills training. Sponsorship covers the operating cost of Kenya Hope’s two-year program. Once a widow is fully sponsored, “we [give] her food assistance, and then we start training her in some very basic skills,” Mueller says.
“The skill that has been a ‘homerun’ is bread making. We have widows completely supporting their families by making bread and selling it.”
Kenya Hope’s program varies slightly by location. In some places, Kenya Hope and its partners teach widows how to make soap.
Plus, “in Kenya, all the school uniforms are handmade, so we’ve been teaching our widows how to sew. Now they are sewing all the uniforms for our sponsored children, which is just incredible,” Mueller says.
Kenya Hope’s “Widow’s Might” program operates through the local church. “They (Kenyan believers) help us identify who the true widows are and the neediest widows. Our program is really holistic; we try to hit all the points of these women’s lives,” Mueller says.
For example, “98% of them have never been to school, so we teach literacy to the women,” she continues.
“Even though they might have heard things here and there, they don’t have a real grasp of the redemption line of Christ. So, we teach them chronologically through the Bible.”
In the header image, widows receive food aid from Kenya Hope. (Photo courtesy of Kenya Hope)