Against the Odds, Still Kickin’ It!
Baraka Women’s Center in Nairobi, Kenya is the first of Women’s Centers International. Opened in October 2012, the place promptly was visited by over 300 women, most from neighboring slums, to register as members. What followed was three years of impressive gains in membership and accomplishments: full adult literacy classes, computer training classes, a major health education and screening program, workshops and counseling for the traumas of sexual and domestic violence, and a vibrant community of support for women who’d had little access to any resources to improve their lives.
By late 2015, we imagined that we’d prepared BWC to carry forward without WCI’s financial support. But In 2016, with a membership of over 600 women, BWC suffered a major setback, and went dark for about six months.
Hip-deep in the process of growing Oakland Women’s Center, WCI did not then have the resources to assist.
One amazing woman, Teresia Mwangi, former BWC Program Director, decided the Center was her baby. She scrambled to attract funds from government agencies, and borrowed what was needed to get through each month. Through her commitment and resourcefulness, Baraka rose again in 2017. WCI Board member Grant Williams, a true believer in BWC, invested generously in the 2018 move to a new larger space.
BWC is a hub of activity, with many new members joining the old. The Center again provides the much-needed programs offered in its early days. It’s added a popular vocational training program and also accommodates the meetings of nine table banking groups with nearly 200 members. The entrepreneurs manage about $10,000 – which they loan to support new or expanding businesses. They voted for BWC with big loans (which Teresia has almost paid off).
BWC has gotten serious about a business venture: Baraka Creative Enterprises. BCE produces and markets unique fashion accessories handmade by BWC members. In addition to employing members, the business will provide a dependable revenue stream to support the Center’s programs. WCI maintains a small inventory of their products for sale in the US. Other outlets coming soon!
New connections with influential people, including the President of Kenya and the Governor of Nairobi County, are bringing BWC closer to a ‘critical mass’ of financial collaborators.
Operating expenses average $4,000 per month including salaries, rent, utilities and supplies. This is one-third of costs to run Oakland Women’s Center. (May it also rise again!)
Our campaign is about buying six more months of stability for BWC – while the local allies come on line for a sustainable financial future.
Ms. Waikuru also has proposed making Baraka Center the hub of new Women’s Centers to be opened throughout Kenya. The strategy fits elegantly with WCI’s vision for expansion. That will be our next fundraising campaign.
So here we are, rustling up money to boost Baraka Center’s momentum. We’d love you to join the surge,