The story of the Maisha Collective begins with Dahabo, a courageous and spirited young refugee woman from Somalia. After both her parents were killed in Somalia’s civil war, Dahabo moved in with a neighbor who provided her with safekeeping. At 14 years old, on a trip home from the market, violence broke out catching her and her caregiver in the crossfire. Dahabo lost her leg and her caregiver was killed as a result. Finally, at 17 years old, she managed to flee to Nairobi, a journey of nearly 750 miles. After reaching the city, she found that no one was willing to take in a girl they viewed as an outsider and burden.
In 2008, Dahabo was referred to Heshima Kenya where she received shelter, education, and support through the Safe House and the Girls’ Empowerment Project. Recognizing her leadership potential, Heshima Kenya sponsored Dahabo in an artisan training program to learn the centuries-old process of how to resist dye (or “tie-dye”) fabrics. Under the mentorship of a Somali designer, Dahabo gained confidence and was eager to share her new skills with her peers.
Dahabo’s enthusiasm and leadership inspired the creation of Heshima Kenya’s Maisha Collective, an entrepreneurship-training program where girls design, produce, and market a line of hand-dyed textiles, allowing them to begin earning and saving money. Although Dahabo is now resettled in the United States, her designs are still produced in Nairobi and she continues to work with Heshima Kenya as a Maisha Collective Ambassador. Visit the Maisha Collective here.