thanks to projects such as Imarisha jamii, avsi Kenya has been helping refugees like fifi to enhance their social and economic resilience
By Margaret Wambuku
February 7, 2019 — Fifi was born in Goma, a border city which has seen much violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. One night, her family was attacked by rebels who killed her father and raped her mother and older sister. Fleeing to neighboring Rwanda, they hid in the forest for about a week, subsequently making their way to Kenya where they registered with UN refugee services in Nairobi.
At 17 years old, Fifi met a woman who offered her a job in Mombasa, but there she was sexually assaulted by the woman’s husband and sent to live in an unsafe area where she was again attacked.
With no money and no way to contact her mother, Fifi slept on the streets for three days until she met a kind woman named Salma who took her in to take care of her disabled son. That’s when Fifi discovered she was pregnant. After giving birth to a daughter, Salma arranged for Fifi to return home to her mother.
Things were not easy back home with the extra mouths to feed. Fifi started taking small jobs washing people’s clothes, but earnings were scarce, and she faced rejection as an unmarried mother and sexual harassment from the male employees. That’s when Fifi decided to find a way out of hardship and to go back to school. She was referred to AVSI Kenya, where she received a scholarship to study dressmaking at Imani Marianist, an institution that provides vocational and technical skills for needy women in the Eastleigh section of Nairobi. The institute was also able to provide day care for Fifi’s daughter while she studied.
In parallel with her dressmaking courses, Fifi was also able to complete her secondary school degree and is due to graduate in April 2019. The AVSI sponsorship has been life changing for Fifi; she excels at dressmaking and has started a small business which allows her to provide for her daughter and her other family members. “This has been a good year because I have not wasted my time,” Fifi told us. “I have done something that will last me for many years to come. I am really happy and thankful for all the support you have given me. In my family I am the only one who has finished school because all my sisters dropped out. My mum is really proud that at least one of her daughters has finished school.”
Fifi hopes to purchase her own sewing machine after graduation which she can use to build up her business. She urges AVSI to continue reaching out to vulnerable girls because it is quite difficult to get assistance with no education and the burden of raising a child. The opportunity to study has changed her life and her family’s life for the better; she has discovered a way forward of which she is very proud!