Tasha*, 23, from Kenya's Nyandarua County, faced hardship, sexual exploitation, and orphanhood at the tender age of 5. Her life took a hopeful turn when a "nyumba kumi" leader identified her and introduced her to the 'Training and Employment of Children and Youth at Risk of Sexual Exploitation' project, which helped her acquire hands-on skills in dress-making, entrepreneurship and life skills. She now thrives with newfound skills, hope and confidence about her bright future.
23-year-old girl Tasha (not her real name) was born and grew up in Nyandarua County in Kenya, under the care of her mother and grandmother. She is the last born of four children. Her family depended on subsistence farming to cater for their basic needs and send Tasha to school. However, in 2005, Tasha's world was shaken when her beloved mother passed on and she was left under the care of her grandmother. Her 26-year-old brother is epileptic and was placed in a disability home whereas her two sisters, who are between 30-35 years old got married and are living in Nairobi with their families, distant and uninvolved in Tasha's life.
Living with her grandmother, Tasha was responsible for completing most of the household chores. She would cook, wash utensils and clothes before going to school. In the evening, she had to look for jobs like washing clothes, weeding and harvesting in order to support herself and her grandmother. Tasha's grandmother struggled to raise school fees but luckily, she was still able to complete her primary education.
When Tasha joined a local high school in her village, life became extremely difficult. She occasionally missed school due to a lack of school fees. As a result, her academic performance was adversely affected. Tasha would weed and wash people's clothes, earning Euros 2.22 to pay for her school fees as well as their basic needs. At the age of 15, Tasha was sexually exploited by men aged between 20-55 years who she worked for, who promised to give her more jobs and money. Feeling lost and vulnerable, Tasha confided in her grandmother, who seemed more interested in the money Tasha made from the clients who exploited her rather than concerned for her overall well-being.
Tasha managed to complete her secondary education but scored a D+, making her unqualified to proceed to university. With no one to help her get to tertiary education, Tasha continued moving from one house to the other to wash clothes and was continually exploited sexually. In the course of her work, Tasha met a former classmate who worked on a flower farm. She encouraged her to move to Naivasha promising her a better job and income. Sadly, while working on the flower farm in the year 2020, Tasha encountered men who sexually exploited her. "My life was lost with no future, I thought I would die any time,” Tasha narrated.
Luckily, in 2020, Tasha left the flower farm and was employed in a hotel in Naivasha. She met a close friend and she opened up about the tragedies she had endured in the past. The new friend disclosed Tasha's ordeal to her parents who took her in and promised to help her. Tasha moved in with the family and through the parents, she was identified by a "nyumba kumi" leader who introduced her to the 'Training and Employment of Children and Youth at Risk of Sexual Exploitation' project. Tasha applied to join the project and she was successfully enrolled in December 2021.
After 8 months of training, Tasha acquired life skills such as communication skills, negotiation skills, and time management skills. She could express herself better and in a confident manner. Tasha also gained entrepreneurship skills and she is now able to calculate income, expenses, profit and losses, and can excellently run and manage a business. She underwent sessions on sexual and reproductive health services available for youth, learning more about how the health services can be accessed and their importance, and how to report any form of exploitation. In 2022, Tasha acquired critical technical skills where she learned the art of dress-making. Upon completion, she secured employment in the same apprenticeship place. Her teacher commended her diligence and decided to retain her as an employee. She is very good at her work. “Her dress-making skills have significantly improved and I am happy with her work,” cited the teacher, now Tasha’s employer. Tasha has worked there for over 6 months now and is currently footing her bills. "I can buy what I want without asking anyone for help," she explained.
Tasha currently lives in Naivasha and is employed by her trainer in a dress-making shop where she works from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. She has her own sewing machine to repair and design clothes for her clients. She no longer does laundry for people and she is no longer at risk of exploitation. She appreciates herself more and she is confident about her bright future. “I no longer call my sisters or relatives to beg for money,” narrated Tasha.
Through her skills, she is earning an income ranging from Euros 7.14 and 14.8 weekly and she is able to save Euros 3.7. Her financial stability has enabled her to rent her own single house with a washroom and bathroom. She maintains a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet. Tasha lives comfortably enough to help her extended family members. She is being monitored by the project team on a monthly basis, to ensure that she is doing well.
Tasha enjoys reading, writing and cooking. She aspires to learn more about designing clothes and satisfy her clients through amazing clothes designs. Speaking about her promising future, Tasha said, “I now have a plan for my life, I want to be the best dressmaker in town. I want to continue learning more designs as they come up and eventually have my own cloth line.”