It’s Tuesday afternoon, June 13th. I’m standing in Eunice’s garden in Kibera. I reach into my jacket pocket and I pull out a handful of organic green peppers and pink and purple embroidery floss. The gentle Kenyan breeze carries the sweet smell of supper cooking throughout the settlement. Life is good.
Now why might these two seemingly different items be in my pocket, you might ask? It’s because both of these items- in their own unique and special ways- make a difference in the lives of women. The photo above expertly captures the intersection of the two projects AP is implementing in Nairobi this summer. A little over a week ago, Bobbi, AP’s Quilt Coordinator, and Merry, an AP Board Member and quilting guru, arrived here in Nairobi for three weeks of embroidery and sewing training! I spent this past week with a group of approximately 20 women from the informal settlement Kangemi and watched as Merry and Bobbi demonstrated how to use sewing machines. Despite embroidering (or hand-sewing) for several years and having mastered the skill, for many of the women it was their first time using a sewing machine. And for me, it was my first time embroidering! While Merry led the way on the machines, the ladies taught me a few basic embroidery stitches. This gave me an opportunity to get to know the ladies and their motivations for joining the group.
The embroidered blocks and bags produced by the women this past week will be sold on AP’s online store, Southern Stitchers, to generate income for the women. However, the project doesn’t only support these women financially. From this week of training, it was clear to me that the project also fosters a strong sense of community, into which I was very warmly welcomed.
After a long and tiring first day of training, I met up with Stella to conduct a site visit in Kibera for Shield of Faith, AP’s composting partner. We went to check up on Verna’s and Eunice’s gardens and make sure the vegetables were all growing healthy and strong. Unfortunately, a few of Verna’s plants were struggling, but with some TLC and the 25 liters of Lishe-Grow she has on hand, her garden will be looking as good as new! As for Eunice’s garden, her massive Chinese cabbages were ready for harvest. I ended up bringing home some of this cabbage as well as lots of spring onions! Verna also took home some of this cabbage and loved it! As the 20 women in Shield of Faith are the primary project participants, it’s so important that they enjoy the foods that they produce. This way, they save a few shillings on their grocery bills, and they incorporate more organic foods into theirs and their family’s diets.
So, as you can see, the contents of my pocket- embroidery floss and peppers- aren’t so different after all. In the context of AP’s work, both of these items contribute to women’s economic empowerment. At the end of the day, us women are more than just gardeners or embroiderers, so it’s important that we are supported in more ways than one.
Posted By Caitlin Mittrick
Posted Jun 19th, 2023