More edited ongoing extracts from the diary of Kate Copstick who is currently in Kenya working for her Mama Biashara charity which gives small grants to help poor people start their own self-sustaining businesses. It also gets involved in wider social issues.
The full diary is posted on her Facebook page.
I am more than a little pissed off to learn that my 22kg of donated bras is not yet ready for collection. Something about being lost in Paris. Tomorrow, says Morris the Export Man.
I go to Corner to meet Doris. I am, to be honest, rather dreading this. Our last attempt at getting some actual paperwork done ended, if you remember, somewhat tumfily (Scottish word, a tumf is a bad mood). Since then, her texts have been entirely in Kiswahili (never a good sign) and quite formal.
But she is fine.
However, the news from the weekend is troublesome.
Since we accidentally opened this Kenya-sized can of worms and found a pit of snakes, the ghastliness has just kept on coming. All of it hidden away, all of it culturally approved (by men, mostly) and none of it ever, ever addressed.
While I was with Nais (see yesterday’s blog), Doris was around Limuru meeting a group of girls (14 in all but only 5 made it out to the meeting) who are living in a sort of forest area far outside the town. These girls (aged about 15-18) are in the same state that the Kangeme girls were.
Sent by their parents to relatives ‘in town’. The relatives say the girls will get an education or vocational training. But, when they arrive, they are house slaves for the women and sex slaves for the men. The girls are much the same in demeanour as the Kangeme girls – utterly cowed.
But they had got to hear about the Kangeme girls and got a borrowed phone and called Doris. She has absolutely no idea how they got the number. They have no skills, no ideas about business. And they are pretty much broken. We discuss what options we have. When these girls leave their community it has to be like the Kangeme girls and the women from the quarry we rescued – they all just have to disappear. Or any who are left will be beaten.
We explore creating temporary safe houses – mine here in Corner, for a start. Doris says leave it with her so I do.
We go to Chicken Master and continue to administrate over lunch. I get all the info on the Magadi and Namanga groups and then Doris tells me something terrible but which will be wonderful. The leader of the first group, Ntoto Sayoon, has been in touch from his new home.
The charcoal business is up and running and everyone is so happy. But he has a best friend. And another friend. Who are still in the old village. They are in the same position that Ntoto was. The Maasai men show their dislike of incoming men by raping their wives and children in front of them. Ntoto’s best friend did not come to Mama Biashara for funding because he did not believe it was for real. He did not believe anyone would help them, much less get them out and into a new life.
So now Ntoto wants to bring his friends into his charcoal group. He says they will share their houses with them till they get somewhere and they will share the business. Gulp.
The bad news is that, as a result of the repeated rapes, both his best friend’s wife and young daughter are pregnant. And his wife is now unwell after trying to abort by hitting herself in the stomach with a hammer.
In other news, we have also been contacted (no idea how this number is getting around…) by a group of Maasai girls from up north.
Up North in Kenya is not the joyous beer, whippets, flat caps and real tea experience that it is in England. It is quite killy. And women are quite a long way below goats in the respect stakes.
This group of around twelve girls – average age 12 – have all been ‘cut’ (female genital mutilation). All are in agony.
After the entire clitoral area is removed like taking the top off a boiled egg with a teaspoon, the girls are sewn shut with parcel twine. All these girls have massive infections. The girl who spoke to us mentioned pain, pus and maggots (which are currently probably saving their lives). She says the smell in the classroom is appalling and all the boys laugh at them. If they try to remove the stitches to clean the giant wound, they are beaten.
Not quite sure what else to say here… We are working on it.
I have been asked to find a Jewish Cemetery by the fragrant Sarah Chew back in London. She makes the oddest requests, but I feel I can make a fist of this one.
David has no idea what I am talking about. “What is Jewish?” he asks.
The cemetery is a tragic sight. Not a headstone left intact, totally overgrown, full of litter and homeless people enjoying an al fresco bottle of glue. This is not anything to do with anti-Semitism. This is just Kenya. If no-one is actually defending something or paying money for it, it just gets trashed.
I take pictures and we leave to spend an hour and a quarter travelling 200 yards and get beaten up (just poor Mary, not David or myself) by a real bastard of a matatu driver. Mary has a nasty scar down one side now. I am not quick enough to figure out the Swahili for “Your mother sucks cocks in hell” and had to settle for “Mchinga” (stupid) and a wanking gesture… as he drove off – not daft enough to do it while he was beside us). I feel I have let myself down badly on the sweary insult front.
Market is quiet and we get back to Corner relatively quickly. My arms look like scabby mince, my face resembles a pink bag of marbles and I cannot take another night of mosquito torture.
In the back streets of Corner we meet a great group of prozzies and pimps.
“I love your hair,” says one girl. “Can I touch it?”
So I go over and she runs her fingers through my hair, as does her friend.
“So natural,” she says. She offers me a feel of her braids. “Mine is from China.”
“You look nice,” one of the pimpy lads tells me. “Are you available for service?”
This is the closest I have come to being chatted-up in years. I smirk girlishly.
“Some other day,” I tell him.
We get a net and meet Doris. She has been back out to Limuru and played an absolute blinder. Five of the girls managed to get away from their ‘families’ and make it to town. Doris has persuaded some of the well-off customers of our Glam project (you say what you want and for how much money and we find it for you… sort of a personal shopping service) to take the girls in and give them a job as, more or less, au pairs.
Very good money, nice accommodation and – best of all – these women are offering to sponsor the girls to be trained in either hairdressing, rug making or sewing. PLUS they are not even afraid that the ‘families’ will come after them.
“If they come we will expose what they have been doing,” say the ladies.
Doris is going back tomorrow to try and collect the rest. Mama Biashara will be providing fares to get them wherever they are going.
This is where the years and years of setting up small businesses all over really comes into its own. When the call goes out, Mama Biashara people will help. That is The Way of Mama Biashara.
Now back to Casa Copstick and we open the Big Box of Bras. I want to sort them out so we can make sure they go to the right women (the old ladies of Western are not that keen on underwiring).
As we sort them, I realise Mama Biashara knows some seriously well-stacked ladies in the UK. There are some gorgeous undies. Doris is working out where best for them to go and we will start distributing.
I manage to set up my mozzie net using a mop and a slight rearrangement of furniture.
Bliss is a night undisturbed by mosquitoes.
Copstick receives no money from the charity and covers all her own expenses, including flights and accommodation. The Mama Biashara charity survives solely on financial donations (you can donate HERE) and on sales in its London shop.