July 2016

A prominent politician has appealed to the County Government of Kiambu to significantly reduce or waive the cost of trade and business licensing fees for reformed drug addicts and ex-commercial sex workers who intended to start their own businesses as alternatives to their previous activities.

Kiambu TNA Coordinator Gladys Mwangi Chania said that this new group of ‘converts’ were vulnerable and if not well taken care of, they would end up reverting back into their illegal past.

Speaking at the YMCA Grounds in Thika where she was the chief guest in the launch of the “Street Off Foundation, a programme aimed at getting commercial sex workers off the streets, Chania said that the county government needed to come up with commerce incentives, tax abatement and exemptions that would help boost their ability to trade.

“Many of the commercial sex workers and street families across the country share similar woes. They are willing to reform and start new lives if only someone opened their doors. They are ready to start their own small enterprises, create jobs and inject cash into their community. But they are stymied by the lack of capital to kick start, the myriads of permitting fees, bureaucracy and other challenges posed by the authorities,” said Chania.

She added that it was very difficult to grow the economy if everyone was not part of the growth. She said that by ignoring the plight of these people, the society was bound to live with the challenges of insecurity and other forms of crime.

“The County Government needs to work out some innovative solutions to address this issue, remove obstacles and improve the business climate. They need to extend the Biashara Fund to these people, train them how to run businesses and manage finances. Otherwise, we should brace ourselves for more security threats since these people are increasing by the day” she said.

Chania said that giving handouts or food donations to the street kids was just an artificial remedy to the problem. She pointed out that this only augmented the problem since it encouraged them to come back to the streets.

She also said that rounding up commercial sex workers and arresting them without offering them an alternative was counterproductive and would never offer any solution.

“We need to fund and manage initiatives that encourage them as we give them the skills to set up their own businesses. They may be faced with several obstacles such as the lack of skills or the experience to start and effectively run a business but that is where we as leaders come in,” Chania said.

She pleaded with the ex-commercial sex workers who had decided to reform never to look back. She asked them to prudently use the money granted them by New Hope Church to improve their living standards and those of their dependents. She appealed to them to be the ambassadors of hope in order to attract more converts from the streets.

“It will be meaningless if this dream dies with you. Be the ambassadors of hope and attract new converts. Draw as many youthful commercial sex workers as you can from the streets towards this initiative,” she concluded.

In the past, people were non-challant about breeding birds or cultivating crops for profits. But with the burst in population and demand for food, people are now beginning to realise the potential of providing the most important basic need of man.

The desire to inspire and prove to her own local community that they could earn great money even with their small farms prompted Mary Wangui Wahogo from Mang’u Location, Gatundu North Constituency, to venture into poultry farming and defy the common thinking about agriculture and self-employment.

Mary says that it was the high time people, especially the youth and women, thought beyond formal employment and sought greener pastures in business and agri-business ventures which guaranteed more freedom and great returns.

She reckons that the people in Mang’u area do not own big farms, a factor that had led to many of its residents to disregard farming as a business. Compared to their neighbouring districts, Mang’u too lacked the kind of cash crops that were propelling other areas into wealth creation. It is for this reason Mary is calling on her fellow community members to venture into poultry farming, which she says, needed littles space to rear and guarantees ready market.

“Mang’u is not blessed with tea or pineapples just like our neighbours. Our coffee no longer fetches us any money. And considering that we generally own small farms, venturing in ventures such as poultry farming can be of great benefit, considering the fact that we have a ready market in Thika and Nairobi, said Mary.

“Instead of running to seek employment which is rarely available, our people should start thinking beyond formal employment through job creation. When I myself was employed, I earned good money which only benefited me as an individual. But now I earn good money and has employed another person out of this business,” she added.

She argues that being self-employed helps one to broaden one’s scope of thinking and reasoning, not forgetting the freedom and proceeds that came with it.

Having talked to a people who were already in that business, Mary discovered the value of poultry farming, a factor that drove into rearing broilers and layers in their average size ancestral land. She asserts that if the poultry farmer is meticulous and diligent in how they set up and run their operations, they are assured of huge return on investment.

“Poultry farming is a viable business anytime any day; and to be sincere with you, it is currently one of the most lucrative businesses in the country. It is a business that anyone can pursue and with limited capital and resources,” she said.

Her training in sales and marketing has helped her a great deal in running her poultry business.

“I have been implementing the knowledge and skills learnt in sales and marketing to run and manage my business which has helped me a lot in anticipating the challenges and taking advantage of potential markets. I also consult experienced poultry farmers who share their experiences to us thereby helping young farmers like us to perfect the trade,” she said.

She has been using her farm as a demonstration project for schools, women and youth groups whom she trains with the aim of encouraging to venture into self-employment.
She points out that anyone can start a poultry farm regardless of the amount of capital they have.

“I started with only 200 1-day old chicks and I now have 700 layers. I recently disposed of my flock of broilers and I intend to bring more chicks soon. I usually tell these boys that they can start with five chicks even when in school. These birds will give you eggs that can sustain your pocket money as you gradually grow your flock. I have been encouraging the women to raise a few chicks that will earn them more money that going for casual labour that earns them only sh. 200,” said Mary.

Mary is encouraging the youth and women in her area and the country in general to form groups and combine their forces so as to start up their business ventures. She argues that different people possess different skills and talents which when combined, can make great strides in business. She also says that it is easier for a group to access institutional services and funding than when is one is working out a business alone.

She says that this kind of farming gives the farmer so much freedom and flexibility to handle other matters of concern. It also guarantees returns within a very short time. Layers start laying eggs in four and a half months’ time as broilers mature in just 4-5 weeks.

She says that it is always advisable for the farmer to seek for their market well in advance to avoid disappointments and losses when the time comes to sell the produce.

She adds that she also uses the manure gotten from her birds to grow crops such as maize and vegetables that add to her income. The feeds remnants especially from the broilers is also fed to the dairy cattle to boost their milk production.

However, she says that it is not all rosy in the poultry business as they are faced with a number of challenges.

If the farmer fails to adhere to the feeding and health programme of the chicks, she says, they are likely to incur a great losses or even lose the whole flock. This calls for great observance of cleanliness, feeding and watering of the birds as well as in their behaviour.

The prices of poultry feed has been the greatest challenge in this business since they barely leave any profit margin for the farmer.  Mary also accused the manufacturers of compromising the quality of the feeds they sold to farmers, affecting the output in terms of egg production and meat quality in broilers.

The high banks’ interest rates has been another big impediment as most farmers start these projects through loans borrowed from banks. This has resulted to very many of them having their property auctioned so as to recover the debt owed to these financial institutions.

Mary is therefore appealing to the government to protect the farmers from exploitation by unscrupulous feed manufacturers who compromised on their quality, thereby causing the farmers great losses. She was also of the opinion that the government controls bank interest rates as they were so high and a big detriment to the growth of small-scale poultry farmers.

She is also appealing for more incentives to the farmers from the government and other bodies so as grow this sector and improve the standards of living for the small-scale farmer.

There is a common argument those women and girls who indulge in prostitution do so by choice with some people even arguing out that it is a female sexual liberation and a way for women to give full expression to their deepest sexual fantasies. However, there is another school of thought who say that some women become involved in prostitution due to homelessness, child sexual abuse, trauma, previous sexual violence, drug and alcohol misuse, money pressures and poverty.

The church in Kenya is known to condemn and castigate these group of people and at no given time are they welcome to be among the congregation due to their ‘sinful’ nature. Majority of our people too perceive commercial sex work to be a disgraceful act that takes away the meaning of s3x. It is believed that these girls are primarily the reason for the rampant sexually transmitted diseases.

In Kenya, it is generally considered a taboo and despite being illegal, it still thrives.

Anyway, studies have shown that about 70% of these women seek to exit prostitution, often taking several attempts to do so. However, exiting is dependent on the consistent support they receive across the services and accessibility of those ‘helping’ services, in maintaining that departure.

One church, New Hope Church International, through their involvement with Wapate Initiative, heard the cry of these commercial sex workers who were going through hell in the streets of Thika and decided to offer hope to them and their families.

“When we heard their heart-breaking stories during our first meeting with them, we just felt moved to do something. And I believe that is what the church is all about. The church is a healing centre that should be engaging the community where it hurts to bring about healing and hope,” said Gloria Azikiwe, the lead pastor.
Pastor Azikwe talking to the press during the Launch of  'Street Off Ministry'.
 At the YMCA Grounds Thika, New Hope Church launched the ‘Street Off Foundation’ that seeks to empower ex-commercial sex workers who want to leave the streets and get alternative means of income. Each group of these reformed commercial sex workers will undergo a one-year programme that will see them go through spiritual nourishment, counselling, business training and actually running their own businesses.

“For the last six months, we have been in the process off empowering them in diverse ways, counseling them, walking the journey of transformation with them and finally we are today launching this initiative to see them walk through their new life in legitimate business. There are those among them here who also would want to go back to school,” she said.

According to Pastor Azikwe, the journey has not been smooth sailing for majority of these new converts. Many of them were really broken and into drugs when they came to the session. But with time, they went through counselling sessions, helping them heal from the trauma and experiences into accepting themselves.
She said that many of these women would receive business grants averaging sh. 50,000 adding that they were doing this in phases so as avoid overwhelming these new entrepreneurs into failure of making it in business.

“We want to walk with them all through their journey. Basically, we probably won’t be handing them direct money but we will be taking them to the source, help them buy the goods, rent out business premises for them so that they can eventually begin their business. We want to avoid a situation where one is tempted to spend the seed capital and eventually finding themselves back to the streets again,” said Azikwe.

Emmy Linn Kelly, an American pastor in Carolina said that it was a privilege to be in Kenya to celebrate the launch of ‘Street Hope Ministry’ and to see the beneficiaries of their initiative start a new life.
Pastor Emmy from New Hope Church in America.
“We understand that there is such a large need to empower women and a few men who are on the streets but really need to start a new life. We are here today to celebrate as they begin their journey in entrepreneurship and provide for their families in a healthy safe and positive way,” said Pastor Emmy.

Unfortunately, majority of those who had resolved to quit the trade were the older ladies who had seen it all and were only looking for a way out of the streets. The young commercial sex workers were still feeling that this was just an alternative means of livelihood.

“Many of the young ladies still feel not ready to get out of the trade. The majority of those who have come here are those who stayed in the trade for years and have seen the worst of experiences and came to a point where they have reached the end,” said Azikwe.

Elizabeth Wanjiru from Kiandutu slums was all praises as she recalled her previous life and the new hope that the church had brought into her life. She said that during her previous life, she had seen the best and the worst of this trade.

“I am happy that they have helped me reform and get to the church. Previously, it didn’t matter to me what or who I slept with as long as they had the money. It is hell out there. At times these men use you and instead of paying for the services I had offered they would attack you and beat you up. I have seen so many of my friends get killed or died of HIV/AIDS,” she said.

She appealed to those who were still in the streets to come and join them as there was hope in this new life.

Another beneficially, Catherine Muthoni, who has been in the business since the year 2013 agrees with Wanjiru that commercial sex workers undergo very many challenges in the course of their work. She thanks God that she is now out of the streets.

She begged all those who were about to indulge with this trade to think otherwise as this was like booking a ticket to hell.

Energy Minister Charles Keter officially launched the Last Mile Connectivity Project in Murang’a County and commissioned several transformer and power connectivity in Kandara and Kigumo Constituencies.

Speaking at Kariaini Village in Naaro, Kandara Constituency, Keter said that the project was part of the Jubilee Government promise to boost electricity power connectivity, improve last-mile grid connectivity and take steps to increase demand for electricity as many poor Kenyans as possible.

“Since independence, Murang’a County has had only 40,000 people connected to the national grid. However, in the last 3 years, the government has been able to connect 100,000 households with electricity. We are here today to commission this transformer that will connect 113 households with electricity in the next two weeks at a cost of sh. 4.8million,” said Keter in Naaro.

He notified the residents that the cost for installation of electricity had been dropped from KSh35,000 to only KSh15,000 so as to speed up the government’s agenda to have at least 70% of Kenyan households connected to electricity by 2017. Currently, Keter said, the electricity connection in the country was 55% up from 27% in 2013.

He added that those who were unable to pay the KSh15,000 at one go would still get connected and have the option of making their payment by instalments through their bills. He said that KPLC contractors on the ground would ensure that all households near these transformers were connected to power whether the owners have made applications or not.

“Our contractors will come knocking on your doors asking you to allow them to connect your households to electricity. When any of you makes a request to be connected, that single application will serve as a basis to install electricity in all neighbouring homes. The Ministry of Energy has come up with designs that will enable households that do not have internal wiring in their houses to use electricity by providing a ‘ready board’” said the Minister.

The ready board has switches, sockets and bulb holders and those who do not have wiring in their houses will be able to use electricity soon as they are connected.

He asked the beneficiaries to take full advantage of the connection to make business and increase productivity in their areas.

“Make use of this electricity to become busy with work by creating job opportunities tour people participate in growing the economy, become more productive and wealthier,” he said.

He promised to install more transformers in Mathuri, Kibuu Nursery and Kianjoga of Naaro Location and several other places in Kariua Division.

Area MP Alice Muthoni Wahome lamented that her constituency was ranked the last in electricity connectivity in Murang’a County at 31% hence appealed to the minister to commission more transformers in the area so as to benefit more people. She thanked the Jubilee Government under the stewardship of President Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto for their good work especially to the people of Kandara Constituency.

“On behalf of the people of Kandara, I would like to thank the Jubilee Government for the connectivity to the National Grid. By 2013, only about 600 homes had electricity but under the stewardship of the president and his deputy, we can comfortably say that more than 2000 households are now connected to electricity,” said the MP.
After commissioning the two projects in Kandara Constituency, the minister flew to Kigumo and Kieni Constituencies for the same mission.

Present at the occasion were MPs Jamleck Kamau (Kigumo), Kanini Kega (Kieni) and Njoroge Chege (Kasarani). Others were the PS State Department of Energy Eng. Joseph Njoroge, His counterpart in the State Department of Petroleum Andrew N. Kamau, Murang’a County Commissioner and other local leaders.

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