The WEMIHS Path to Change: Wangari’s Story

WEM Integrated Health Services transforms the lives of families and communities by equipping women with critical tools to change their economic circumstances. Read Wangari’s story to learn more about how. You too can invest in WEMIHS’ work to transform lives of women in Mwingi. With only 2 days left until the end our fundraising campaign, your support will enable WEMIHS to reach more women with start up capital and technical skills training.

Wangari Maina is a 43 year old mother of 11 children; 7 boys and 6 girls and a grandmother to 5. She lives in Kamuiri village in Maragua Ridge Location in Murang’a South District, one of WEMIHS’ areas of operation.

Married at 16, Wangari experienced extreme poverty. In search of a better life, her family relocated to an urban area, ending up in a slum where they rented a single room and lived on one meal a day. The family’s income was 1,000 KSHS ($17.00) a month. Life became so unbearable that Wangari took her children back to their rural home.

But life back home was not much easier. When Wangari enrolled in the WEMIHS Sustainable Livelihood project In April 2010, her income was under 50 cents a day, she and her family had been food insecure for almost seven months. She had limited knowledge and skills about agriculture, which is critical to survival in an area where subsistence farming is a way of life. She says, ‘‘I felt useless and hopeless because  life was so difficult and I couldn’t bear seeing my children going hungry and when sick I could not even afford health fees.’’

Through WEMIHS’ skills transfer program, which trains  women from vulnerable households on how to manage small-scale agriculture, incorporating techniques like crop management and diversification, compost manure production, digging techniques, and water and soil conservation, Wangari has now been able to take charge of her families’ food sovereignty and household income.

“Since joining the project my life has transformed tremendously. I have… increased my household crop production and can therefore afford two meals a day for my children. Through participating in a Sustainable Livelihood project group,  I have not only made good friends that support each other, but we have also been able to save money and have access to credit. That is how I managed to acquire livestock…Though I still do causal labor working in the farms, my income has tripled and four of my young children are all going to school and have each 3 pairs of clothes. My standard of living has significantly improved.”

Though I still do causal labor working in the farms, my income has tripled and four of my young children are all going to school and have each 3 pairs of clothes. My standard of living has significantly improved.

In great excitement, Wangari continues to say that “By the way, I now have more than Kshs. 5,000 ($86.00) as shares in my group and am therefore eligible to borrow more than Kshs. 10,000, ($116.00) which  I never dreamt of ever handling in my life..  I have been able to borrow  from the group to make 3 beds and can now boast of sleeping on a bed with my husband. I am no longer as vulnerable and stigmatized as I used to be. Instead, I command  respect from the community.”

Since joining the WEMIHS project, Wangari has been  able to construct a small house for her family. Her husband, who had been working odd jobs in the urban slums for years returned to join his family and he now supports Wangari in farming. “My husband and I now work well together and he respects my opinion which before never mattered much…I am very optimistic about the future and trust that together we will be able manage to provide for our family.”

WEMIHS offers a much needed missing link for women like Wangari, connecting them to the skills and resources they need to rise out of crippling poverty and support themselves and one another. By working directly with 3,000 most vulnerable households, WEMIHS reaches 15,000 beneficiaries and their work changes the reality for the women and communities that they serve.