What you need to know:
- Some of the skills imparted include basket making, bead making and soap making.
- They also design earrings, bangles, necklaces, table mats, and sew clothes.
When she travelled to the United Kingdom in the 1990s, at the time, she had no idea that she would go on to establish an organisation that would train disadvantaged women on how to carry out various businesses and become self-reliant in the process.
Balkhisa Bashir is the co-founder and director of Barwaqa Relief Organisation, which she founded in the UK. Her business partner is Hussein Dima.
The two formed the organisation after witnessing refugees face various challenges in search of a safe place to call home, challenges such as language and culture barriers.
“When I started this organisation, I named it Barwaqa, which means ‘the green land’ or ‘prosperity’. I wanted them to be happy. The refugees at that time came from Burundi, Ghana, Somalia, Kenya and some from Arab and European countries – the centre is, therefore, for everybody,” explains Balkhisa.
The organisation since moved to Kenya, and is helping women from all walks of life, including those from slums such as Kibra and Mukuru, as well as Mandera, Garissa, Wajir, Isiolo, Tana River, Bomet and Kajiado, by training them on how to conduct business, and giving them certificates after completion of training.
Apart from classroom trainings, they are also taught how to produce various products, depending on their interest.
Some of the skills imparted include basket making, bead making and soap making. They also design earrings, bangles, necklaces, table mats, and sew clothes.
Once the products are completed, they sell them to various clients, making a living for themselves.
“The whole point of running a business is self-reliance, thrown in into these skills is also how to save the money they make,” says Balkhisa, adding,
“For me, empowerment means being able to do things you had been unable to do, such as paying school fees for your children and not having to rely on another person for your daily bread and other needs,” says Balkhisa.
“One basket, for instance, is sold at Sh2,500. If they sell 10, that’s Sh25,000 – if they can save Sh1,000 of the Sh2,500, then they are guaranteed a bright future,” she says.
Apart from saving individually, the organisation also enables the women to do table banking, such that the women get a certain amount of money every month.
“They prepare a worksheet, which they use to guide them,” explains Balkisa.
For those that desire to return to college and further their education, rather than start a business, the organisation helps them to do just this.
Some of the other skills imparted include tailoring and cooking.
“For those interested in sewing, we take them to learn the skill in Eastleigh (Nairobi), training that takes three months – some have already gotten jobs. We pay for their training as well as transport,” explains Balkhisa.
They also offer cooking classes, which take three days. Those who qualify are invited to assist with the cooking during events, and are paid an agreed on amount. The cooks they train, says Balkhisa, are given priority when the organisation gets a catering job.
As for soap making, training takes one week because there are different types of soaps, such as detergents, bar soaps and liquid soap. Several women who have received this training have gone on to start their businesses, and are now financially independent.