On July 7, 2010, the members of the Maisha Collective came together for our first official meeting. From now on every week members will be getting together to discuss all of the details of getting Maisha up and running. One of the biggest issues to come up at the meeting was childcare. Out of the five current members of the Maisha Collective, four have very small children that they have to care for while they are working all day on the scarves. Also, when the girls are dyeing the scarves the babies are not allowed to be anywhere nearby because the chemicals are toxic. So who will take care of them? Once they start generating income, they decided to all contribute a portion of their pay to go towards paying for childcare. Even the one member who does not have any children agreed to contribute. Maisha truly is a collective in which all members support each other for the greater good of the group.
Another question was budgeting: how much each member should be paid; how much should be reinvested into Maisha to purchase more materials and dye; how will the members take care of their daily needs and save for the future? Once again the girls all agreed that they should set aside a portion of their monthly income to save for things like school fees, rent, and an emergency fund.
The Maisha Collective is unique because its members are also participants in Heshima Kenya’s Girls Empowerment and case management programs. All of the girls agreed that some of their money should go back into Heshima Kenya’s programming so that they can contribute to this work, too.
Once again, I left the meeting feeling so much admiration for the members of the Maisha Collective. With the prospect of starting to earn real money, these girls are faced with tough decisions about how to lead their lives. But, they are rising to the challenge with grace, and putting their future, their group, and their children as a priority.