As I think back on our time in Africa last week, I think of strong, courageous women who are taking a stand and making a difference in their families and communities. I can not wait to share stories of these women (and the men!) over the coming days but for International Women's Day today I thought I'd share the story of one woman in particular who stands out for me every time I visit with her. Meet Damaris.
The first time I met Damaris was in 2014, and I was completely impressed. Damaris is a mother of 5 and works so hard to support her husband and family. Besides her work as an artist with our group in Kibera Slums, Kenya she showed me how she was raising chickens and rabbits and collecting recycling for additional income. When I went back last year, she showed me some new skills like basket weaving she had learned to also bring in income. This year, Damaris was bursting to tell us of her newest endeavour. She had saved and saved... and had purchased a home in Kibera to rent out. She is renting 2 rooms currently to two tenants and renovating the 3rd room, as she's looking at expanding! She's considering opening a butcher shop in part as well. Damaris has also taken courses in roofing, masonry, construction and painting! She was so proud to show us the painting she had done in the home she purchased to rent out. Here she is in the one room she may turn into her butcher shop - love the fun colours she painted it!
We also love that our group in Kenya - which is made up of both men and women, have elected not one but two women to their leadership team! In a culture that is predominately male-led, we love that they are counter-culture and value women as equals. Damaris' role is Assistant Chair Lady. She says, "They call me Assistant Chairman sometimes; but I like to be called the chair lady." Here is the leadership team of our group in Kenya.
When asked what her hope or dream was, Damaris left us with our favourite quote from the entire trip. "If I uplift family, then I uplift community; if I uplift community then I uplift Kenya; if I uplift Kenya then I uplift the whole world."
Damaris, I can tell you in all sincerity - you have uplifted me. Thank you for all you do!! Happy International Women's Day to you - and to all the women around the world who are making a difference! And a huge shout out to the men who are taking a stand to treat women as equals!