Article by Shirlyn Njeri, Operations, Pezesha.

Mary in her micro grocery & fruits Kiosk

By looking at Mary, you would say she is your ordinary Kenyan woman. This statement, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. Mary is anything but ordinary. She’s a fighter and she is hardworking to the core. From her early 3 am mornings at Machakos bus stop picking her delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables, to her late nights at her informal grocery vending business (normally called “Mama Mboga Kibanda”). She’s always in her Maasai kanga with Swahili sayings written on the edges: “Mstahimilivu hula mbivu (a patient man will eat ripe fruits), Mtaka cha mvunguni sharti ainame (he who requires what is under the bed must stoop for it) are but some of the sayings. They mostly revolve around the message that hard work pays. Indeed, the sweat crystals dripping from her ebony tanned forehead to her double chin and eventually her soft torso do everything to imply hard work. The 12 o’clock midday sun shining above her full afro is not kind but does not dissuade her from her daily hustle. She bends, walks and stretches to ensure she never goes out of business. The “Mama Mboga” business is not one to be handled lightly or dismissively. Mary knows this and puts her best foot forward every day.

It was a cold windy Wednesday morning, she remembers so clearly, the day Pezesha field officers waltzed into one of her group’s usual monthly Chama meetings bringing the good news. A loan that did not require any savings and had fair interest rates with flexible repayment terms to give breathing room and ensure her business grows . One would almost say it resembled the missionaries bringing the gospel to Africa, only better received by this eager group of business ladies. Little did the bubbly vibrant field officers conducting the loan application process realize that they had brought the much needed hope to Mary .That day changed the course of her life forever.

“Pezesha loans came to me at a time when I had lost all hope in life. I had just buried my husband of ten years whom I lost from a gristly road accident. I had to learn to fend for myself and my 4 innocent pairs of eyes looking up to me” says Mary. Her first born daughter had also just been sent home from high school due to fees arrears. With no stable support system, you could say she was desperate. You couldn’t, of course, tell all this by just looking at her. She did not necessarily think of her long term goals when she applied for the loan. In that moment all she needed was to get out of the rut she was in, for her family’s sake.

A few months down the line she still speaks of Mildred, the field officer who did her loan application process, with utter respect and appreciation. In her very wise words, “it’s not everyday you get to interact with a company that is as welcoming and customer friendly as the Pezesha team. I am more than grateful to my fellow Kenyan who believed in me and funded my first Kshs 3,000 loan that has now grown to a Kshs 10,000 loan in a few weeks ” This in turn resulted in the timely repayments of her loans and gradual increase in loan amount. Her credit score has also grown to be excellent over time and now she can qualify for bigger loans to add more stock in her business.

Not a prado in sight to ferry her around at her whim and call, but all the happiness her life can gather. She has ensured her children are well fed, in school, healthy and sheltered every single night. Her business has grown immensely as well. Where she previously only sold a box of oranges in traffic along the streets and roads of Nairobi, she now has a fruit stall where she sells all types of fresh fruits with a growing clientele. Now she doesn’t have to worry about the city council authorities chasing her around the town for illegally hawking and the losses that are incurred during such an ordeal as she has a business permit. No public relations agent but for her soft spoken nature, wit, grit, dependability and good customer service, just to mention a few. She now makes smart business choices and knows that loans, if utilized properly, can lead to great success. She has learnt how to deal with the bad times, developed consistency, resilience, dignity and now understands better the value of hard work. She is the very definition of strength of a woman, overcoming her obstacles and rising above them.

I don’t know what your idea of success is, in this highly superficial society we live in, but this comes pretty close in Mary’s world.