Mother & Domestic Worker Beatrice Mbendo's Testimony - Part I

Beatrice Mbendo sits among other unemployed domestic workers in Nairobi desperately seeking work | Photo by Sven Torfinn / Oxfam Novib

“Stone lady”…This is the name used to describe women mostly from informal settlements who sit on stones in leafy suburbs of Nairobi and wait for the middle-class citizens in these areas to offer them casual domestic jobs. Beatrice Mbendo, a single mother of five young children is a Stone lady. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Beatrice was a domestic worker. She had four regular clients, who paid her at least Sh3500 weekly. She used this money to take care of her family’s basic needs. Life might not have been comfortable, but they managed. 

Then came COVID-19. Beatrice lost all her clients, and it became harder and harder to keep looking for work, on account of being 9 months pregnant.

Beatrice was registered into our European Union-funded safety nets programme in August. She received 7,780 from the consortium in September to help her afford basic necessities for her family. Stay tuned for a follow-up story on her after receiving her first cash transfer.

This is her testimony:

  • Beatrice Mbendo (right) and her eldest daughter (left) | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

    “In 2017, I came to Nairobi to look for greener pastures. I started doing paid domestic work to earn a living." - Beatrice Mbendo

    Beatrice Mbendo (right) and her eldest daughter (left) | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

     

    The safety nets consortium consists 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). Our 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.

  • Beatrice Mbendo (right) and her eldest daughter (left) | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

    "Through this, I was able to provide education, shelter, food, and healthcare for my family. My husband was employed when we met in 2007 but lost his job after two years. He struggled to maintain a steady stream of informal jobs in the construction industry." - Beatrice Mbendo

    Beatrice Mbendo (right) and her eldest daughter (left) | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

     

    The safety nets consortium consists 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). Our 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.

  • Beatrice Mbendo (right) and her eldest daughter (left) | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

    "We eventually separated after he found out I was pregnant. I have never seen him since." - Beatrice Mbendo

    Beatrice Mbendo (right) and her eldest daughter (left) | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

     

    The safety nets consortium consists 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). Our 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.

  • Beatrice Mbendo | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

    "When the pandemic struck, the government put in place measures to contain the spreading of the virus. Restriction of movement followed by calls to stay at home became the order of the day." - Beatrice Mbendo

    Beatrice Mbendo | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

     

    The safety nets consortium consists 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). Our 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.

  • Beatrice Mbendo's oldest daughter washes clothing | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

    "My life changed drastically due to this. All the clients I had, called and cancelled my services." - Beatrice Mbendo

    Beatrice Mbendo's oldest daughter washes clothing | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

     

    The safety nets consortium consists 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). Our 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.

  • Beatrice Mbendo and her son | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

    "The story was the same. “We will call you when the disease has been contained.” It’s been two months since I last went to anyone’s house to do laundry and clean." - Beatrice Mbendo

    Beatrice Mbendo and her son | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

     

    The safety nets consortium consists 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). Our 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.

  • Beatrice Mbendo and her son | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

    "My children and I have had to survive on one meal a day from well-wishers. Sometimes we are forced to go to bed hungry due to lack of food. If I get Sh100 from a well-wisher, I buy kerosene for Sh30, water for Sh10 for a twenty-litre jerry can, a piece of soap for Sh10 and a bunch of kales for Sh10 which I prepare for the kids to eat with ugali." - Beatrice Mbendo

    Beatrice Mbendo and her son | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

     

     

    The safety nets consortium consists 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). Our 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.

     

  • Beatrice Mbendo (right) speaks to Blandina Bobson (middle) Oxfam Kenya Director of Programmes while her eldest daughter (left) washes clothes | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

    "My landlord has not been easy on me either. I owe him 2 months’ rent arrears which has led to constant phone calls from him demanding his dues." - Beatrice Mbendo

    Beatrice Mbendo (right) speaks to Blandina Bobson (middle) Oxfam Kenya Director of Programmes while her eldest daughter (left) washes clothes | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

     

    The safety nets consortium consists 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). Our 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.

  • Beatrice Mbendo (right) speaks to Blandina Bobson (left) Oxfam Kenya Director of Programmes | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

    "At the moment, rent is not a priority as I use the little money I have to make sure my children have a meal to sate their hunger. “I am ready to sleep in a ditch with my children as long as they have food.” - Beatrice Mbendo

    Beatrice Mbendo (right) speaks to Blandina Bobson (left) Oxfam Kenya Director of Programmes | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

     

    The safety nets consortium consists 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). Our 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.

  • Beatrice Mbendo sits in a wealthy nairobi suburb with other domestic workers waiting for work that has all but dried up during the pandemic | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

    Beatrice Mbendo sits in a wealthy nairobi suburb with other domestic workers waiting for work that has all but dried up during the pandemic | Photo by Sven Torfinn | Oxfam Novib

     

    The safety nets consortium consists 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). Our 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.