Meet The Team | Monica Mwende

"I want others to know about the work that I am doing in the community to help the girls.”-- Monica Mwende, Zawadisha loan recipient and team member [TWEET THIS]

Meet Monica, a Zawadisha loan recipient and member of Zawadisha's Kenya-based staff, who has been able to make dramatic changes for herself and for her family since receiving a loan. Take a moment to see what she's doing--the return on what seems like a small investment will amaze you.

Z: Please tell us a little about yourself and your family -- where did you grow up, do you have brothers/sisters, how many children do you have now, what tribe do you belong to...
M: I identify with kiKamba, which is my mother's tribe. I am an only child. I grew up in Mombasa and went to school there. I later relocated to Maungu with my husband. I have 3 children, one son and two daughters.


Z: What has changed in your village/Kenya since you were a young girl?
M: Things were much cheaper when i was growing up. The economy doesn't seem to be that good anymore. People can't afford that anymore. Even back then when people didn't have enough money, they always seemed to have just enough. Now, it never seems to be quite enough. The level of education has also changed significantly. Back then, a class 8 level could find a job to support his/her family. Now, not even finishing undergraduate degree can get you a job.


Z: Now that you are a grown woman, what is the one thing that you are most proud of?
M: I am proud of my children.


Z: What brings you joy?
M: To see many more girls in school, and women being empowered, and not having to depend on their husbands.


Z: What does the future look like for you, your family, and your community?
M: I see myself and my family at such a different place than we are now. My kids will have all finished school and gotten good jobs. I also see more women continuing to be empowered, and especially financially.


Z: What do you want other people to know about you, your family, and/or your community?
M: I want others to know about the work that I am doing in the community to help the girls. I want them to know about the issues that the girls in the community are facing; lack of sanitary pads and panties when they need them the most because they cannot afford them. This means they have to frequently miss school. This is a huge problem in the schools here in this community. I want to eventually open a camp for the girls, as well as one for the boys that will teach them how to end GBV (Gender Based Violence), how to respect women, and to know that showing emotion does not mean that they are weak as they are currently being taught.


Z: If you could change one thing in this world, what would it be?
M: I would want men and women, girls and boys to switch genders for a year so that each side could really truly understand what it really is like to be us. This will help us truly understand each other.


Our Vision is Becoming a Reality

Zawadisha's home base is the Hub East Africa in Nairobi, but most of our work takes place in rural communities. We've been working toward opening our first satellite office in Maungu, and on January 13, 2016, our vision became a reality. What follows is a recap of the opening ceremony through the lens of our Resilience Development Director, Emilyn Kamya.

The day, the 13th of January, was just perfect weather  for the opening. Unlike normal hot and humid Maungu weather, it was slightly cloudy, providing a reprieve from the sun. The event was scheduled to start at 9 am, and the Chairladies started arriving around 8 am, and indication of the excitement over the office opening. It was a beautiful scene as more and more ladies arrived and joined the others. The Chiefs from Boguta and Marungu sent representatives, and the village elder joined in the celebration.  


“If you look to my side, you would think there’s power everywhere in the village. Solar is everywhere and that is thanks to Zawadisha. There are tanks flowing with water all over as well.” - Francis Mutuku, Village Elder


The official program begun with song and prayer, and we quickly commenced into speeches by the various representatives-- Zawadisha Coordinators Mama Mercy and Monica, our Resilience Director Emilyn, and our Opportunity & Empowerment Director Cindy.  


“We have come from far. We have always had issues with water, but as I look around, there is no one in this community without a water tank. This year is the year for making things happen, and it begins with the opening of the office. Let us move forward only from here. Let us now use the resources that we have gotten from Zawadisha, such as water tanks, to fix our environment. Let us use the water from our tanks to plant trees to help get our community’s environment back on track.” - Mama Mercy


The chairladies then shared what it meant to them for Zawadisha to open an office within their community. What was quite evident in all the speeches was the feeling that Zawadisha was now a reality in the minds of everyone present. It was almost as if a myth had just been debunked. And while most of our guests had been impacted by Zawadisha’s presence in some way, it wasn't until this opening that they believed Zawadisha was serious about helping the community long term. Our friends from Wildlife Works shared how amazing it was that we’d opened an office, and that this was only an indicator of bigger and greater things to come.


“We are very happy that you have actually listened to our needs and opened an office for us, in our community.” - Fenny Mambo, Chairlady


The mood then shifted to an even higher level of excitement when it was time for the ribbon cutting ceremony. We walked out of the hall towards the office in song and dance, which did not end until we had to remind everyone we needed to cut the ribbon to officially open the office! Even as Monica, Mercy and Cindy cut the ribbon, the were continuous sounds of joy. The event marked the day when Zawadisha's vision for the community finally came to fruition.