Faith walks into our offices smiling from ear to ear and you can easily tell that she is ready to share her story. She oozes enthusiasm and I couldn’t wait for our interview to begin. Donning a colourful Samburu neckpiece that perfectly complements her black dress, she is a true ambassador of the jewellery she sells.
We kick off the interview with her sharing intricate details of how she started out. “Before leaving employment, I worked as a personal assistant with a PR firm on Ngong Road. I used to do everything; from being the tea girl to designing the marketing strategies for the company,” she candidly shares.
This for her was a training ground as she admits that she learnt numerous lessons such as dealing with clients, strategic thinking and ways of communicating effectively, to name but a few. Seeking growth, she decided to quit her job in May 2018. Unsure of what to embark on, she went back home to Meru so as to chart her next course of action.
Once at home, she kept herself busy by engaging in different activities and in the process, through her mother, she got to meet a young lady by the name Amy Gueye. Amy, who is half French and half Senegalese, was in the country for a community project she was involved in, and also to explore Kenya.
“We got to meet and through our numerous interactions, I realised that we both didn’t like how the African story was being told and we decided to change the narrative,” she explains.
It was during their tour of the country and seeking to tell the African narrative as it was that Amy and Faith bumped into Samburu women making beautiful jewellery. They were awestruck. This compelled them to purchase some of the crafts. They knew the jewellery would excite the European market and this opened room for them to work together with the Samburu women. This gave birth to Kipepeo Women’s Organisation in August 2018 with an aim of enhancing the quality of life of Kenyan women and children through access to education and promoting Kenyan crafts.
The name Kipepeo is a Swahili word that means butterfly. With it’s beautiful colours, it was fit to name the organisation Kipepeo in reference to the colourful adornments they make. The organisation works with a group of 25 women from Naachaami village in Samburu and with students at Imani Junior Academy in Nanyuki, positively impacting their lives.
While working with the women, they picked up on a few things. “We noticed that many of these women run away from their matrimonial homes because of rape, early marriages and oppression by the men,” she reveals.
Through Kipepeo, they decided to enrich the lives of these women through the crafts they make. “We are able to get markets for their crafts in Paris, France, where Amy is based and the returns we get from the sale we invest in the lives of these women and children, empowering them economically and educationally,” she explains.
Just like many other non-profit organisations, finance is a huge challenge for Kipepeo as they have no NGOs or donors supporting them. So far they have been able to hold a fundraiser in Paris that has helped them to support the organisation. The contributions have enabled them to purchase books and stationery for the children at Imani Junior Academy.
“Besides economically empowering the women, we have also been able to cover other projects such as tiling the nursery classrooms and purchasing mattresses for Imani Junior Academy. We have also donated female hygiene products to the women and girls, as well as stationery materials to the school,” she shares.
From their interactions with the women and girls from the Samburu community, they realised that many of them suffer from low self-esteem. This led the organisation to start self-esteem camps for girls and women.
What lies in the future for Kipepeo? “We are looking forward to starting our volunteer programme in September 2019. This will help us to get more people involved in what we are doing. For anyone hoping to start a similar project or is looking for a way to give back to the community, you don’t have to have a million shillings to start. All you need is to start from where you are with what you have and give from the heart,” she concludes.