We meet Anne Wanjiru in her semi-permanent house in Mwariki Estate, an informal settlement tucked in the southern part of Nakuru town. Menial jobs have become scarce and today, she is not washing clothes in the suburbs to fend for her family.
For the 42-year-old, every day is a struggle especially because she is singlehandedly raising her four children, one of whom has special needs.
Twenty two years ago, Ms Wanjiru safely gave birth to her daughter, Juliet Mugure. The joys of motherhood were, however, short-lived when the baby, at age two, started developing an eye problem.
After making several visits to local hospitals, she was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital where Mugure was diagnosed with an eye tumour. Surgery was recommended and after the procedure was done, the other eye got infected rendering the young girl visually impaired.
“The outcome of the prolonged treatment left Mugure blind and this put a financial strain on my already meagre income. I had to seek help from friends and family members but this was not sustainable,” she says.
Ms Wanjiru adds that although she struggled with her baby’s health condition, she kept hope alive and believed that one day, she would get help for her daughter. Sadly, Mugure’s health deteriorated and the long term effects of the treatment also left her with hearing problems.
Raising Mugure, her mother says, has been a costly affair because of the special needs she has. To aid her communication, she uses a hearing device she received from well-wishers that requires a special type of battery to function.
“There are times she has to stay without the hearing aid because I have no money for a new battery. At times she misses school because my priority is to feed the family,” she says.
On a good day, Ms Wanjiru makes Sh300 from washing clothes and she has to prudently spend what comes her way because of the uncertainty of her job.
There are times, she says, she can go without work for four days in a week meaning that my family has to survive on the little I have.
Recently, however, Ms Wanjiru’s family received some household essentials including food stuff and dignity kits that included batteries for Mugure’s hearing aid from a local non-governmental organisation.
Young African Women Initiative (YAWI) founder Ms Fidelis Karanja, who visited Ms Wanjiru’s family says many female-led households are faced with a myriad of challenges and especially where there are children with special needs.
“Financial constrains remain at the top for such families and in times like these, where the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on economies, many hand-to-mouth families are facing very tough times,” says Ms Karanja.
YAWI, which works with women in the grassroots (from low income settlements) to support their livelihoods supports an estimated 80 women every month. It is through one of their programs that they identified Ms Wanjiru and highlighted her plight.
During the visit, Ms Wanjiru expressed confidence that her daughter, who attends Kibos Special School in Kisumu County, will continue with her studies uninterrupted once the global pandemic ends and schools reopen.