“It's been challenging because we are still living. We are still using water. We are still living in our house, so the rent days keep adding up.” - Mildred Lucia
The COVID-19 Pandemic has made life difficult for businesswoman and mother of 4, Lucia Mildred Photo by Brian Otieno/ Oxfam in Kenya
She pounds the pavement every day, chasing clients who have all but completely retreated to the safety of their homes, and who now fear street vendors like Lucia.
Facing eviction, and amidst mounting debts, the resilient entrepreneur hustled on until one evening she received an MPESA transaction from the EU-funded Safety Nets programme.
This is her recorded testimony, translated from Swahili to English:
Mildred Lucia's Family Photo by Brian Otieno/ Oxfam in Kenya
"My name is Mildred Lucia, I live in Dandora Phase 4, in a neighborhood called Gitare Marigo
I have four children.
I sell feminine tissues to women.
Before Corona started, I used to wash clothes for a living.
It's been difficult to follow the national COVID-19 guidelines.
As a businesswoman, I have to walk around, talk to customers, show them what I'm selling and talk to them about what I'm selling.
I'm afraid because my business isn't one of standing still, it's one of walking. So if I meet a customer who has COVID-19, and I sell them something, and they give me cash – I catch the disease.
I don't have sanitizers. I just walk. I wash my hands when I get home.
Business and life have gotten harder since then. These days people don't want to buy our street products. They don't let you bring those things to them anymore.
These days, if I sell everything, I will have made 200 per day.
Mildred Lucia's Daughter Photo by Brian Otieno/ Oxfam in Kenya
Before coronavirus began, we used to eat two meals per day – breakfast and supper.
These days, we only eat one meal per day.
With schools closed, there's no one to help the children to study. I have to leave for work, so they just play all day. It's affected their studies. And we don't always have water, so we don't always wash our hands.
And prices have gone up. We used to buy flour for 40 KSh, now it's 50 KSh. Even rice has gone up. We used to pay 40ksh for half a kilo, these days its 55 KSh.
There are days that we've gone without eating anything. When the weather was bad, selling tissues was difficult. So when I came home without selling anything, we had to sleep hungry.
When we sell we eat, when we don't we sleep hungry.
My biggest burden is paying rent. I have accumulated a large rent debt. Then there was a time when I was told I will be thrown out with the children at night. I pleaded with my landlord to help me.
He gave me three months, after which I would have to leave, because I had nothing to pay him.”
Mildred Lucia received her first monthly cash transfer of KSh 7,780 (€61.48) in August from the EU-funded safety nets consortium – consisting of Oxfam in Kenya, the Kenya Red Cross Society, Concern Worldwide, Impact Initiatives, The Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness (CREAW) and the Wangu Kanja Foundation (WKF) Photo by Brian Otieno / Oxfam in Kenya
“That monthly cash helps. At least if I don't sell, I can eat on that day.
I was shocked. I wasn't expecting that something like that would happen to me.
I was so happy. I felt that now, my troubles have lifted. It has helped me reduce my rent debt. We bought food, and we also reduced our food debts.
These days I can afford two meals per day for my family.
Mildred Lucia's plays with her daughter Photo by Brian Otieno/ Oxfam in Kenya
We are still in need. I can't afford three meals per day, because my business is still struggling, and we have many debts. We are still living hand to mouth.
When I get money, I pay off my debts, so we can at least eat two meals per day.
When I received my second cash transfer, with what was left, I bought tissues for my business, and I bought soap.”
Our Safety Nets Consortium, is grateful to the European Union for funding cash transfers to #KomeshaCorona and for helping us provide safety nets for vulnerable Kenyans.
To date, the consortium has transferred Ksh 326,734,040.00 to 16,411 vulnerable families in Nairobi, including 621 households that are victims or at risk of sexual and gender-based violence in Nairobi informal settlements.
By November, the consortium will have transferred Ksh 422,558,039.00 to 18,425 families (an estimated 73700 people) in Nairobi informal settlements, to help them afford basic necessities and cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.