In this series of mini-interviews, researchers and respondents in the Kenya Financial Diaries reflect on their experiences. Hear more from them at the launch of Living on Little at the FSD Kenya Annual lecture on November 19th, 2020. Register here to follow the event from the comfort of your home, office or mobile device.
Nekesa (Researcher): Can you please tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Agatha. I live here in Mombasa. For my daily livelihood, sometimes I am called to go and do laundry for others and have these groundnuts that I prepare and sell; and that helps me in life. I live with my children – they are three, but one isn’t around. He is in prison. So for now, we are just three.
I am the mother and the father of my children, so I am forced to take up whatever job I come across. I have to hustle so that the children can get something to eat. I do not make enough money really to save and advance. Everything goes to food, rent, and school fees. I have a son in form four, which you know takes a lot of money.
N: As a mother, what are your expectations and hopes in the future lives of your children?
I have the expectations and the hopes that… I thank God for giving me the strength and capability to continue hustling for my children so that I educate them so that they can have a good life and not go through all that I have gone through.
I hope they will be employed and every end month they are getting at least KSh 5,000 or 10,000, and they can budget with it. That is what I term a good life.
N: What do you think stands in the way of development in Kenya?
The government should find out how people with low incomes live and look at their hustles and check on those with small businesses to promote them. The second thing is corruption. If there were no corruption, we could have benefited, but I do not see anything right now. There is a lot of politics and, there is… let us just say there is a lot of individualism. They do not check on what the people at the bottom are going through, they only mind their own and that is it.
N: How has your journey with this research of Financial Diaries been, since we have been here since 2012 till now?
I feel it is okay because when you came to me, you told me that you would be asking such and such questions and if you feel that you are not happy with the questions, you are free to get out of the interview I agreed. And another reason I agreed to it, sometimes when you come, and we share something – when I have something disturbing me, I feel that I can talk with someone and get relief from it, which helped me reduce my stress.
Maybe there is a reason, or there is something to hope for, or there is something that she is looking for that’s important, or she is fighting for you [your needs] somewhere, or she wants to know how Kenyans at the bottom are living because even none of our members of parliament have done what you guys are doing. No one has come to someone’s doorstep and asked them how they are living. So I was just happy because I saw someone came to ask me how life is with me.
N: What would you like the banks and other financial institutions to learn from this project?
They should come ‘down here’ and see how life is and check if they can help with the loans to boost those who are doing small businesses.
Even the government should come down here and take our lives seriously. Most of the time, they send agents, it’s all for show. They are also greedy. There is no message they take back. It just ends there. Like when Covid-19 was here, was there money put aside for the County –for food; to be given daily for a week. But you will find that even if it gets to the ground, it will go to the wrong person, the people who shouldn’t be getting those funds, do you understand? And then those who are supposed to get the cash will miss out, that is what I am trying to say. Because when it gets to a person, he will see that my cousin is over there, my aunt is over there, my friend is over there; he doesn’t see that there is someone who is here who is in need and should be helped. He doesn’t see that…that is my friend, that’s my family; I should take some money to him. Those are some of the things that happen here.
Like you have seen what has happened in my life, with my son. Many boys are facing these issues. [Agatha’s son dropped out of school to ride a motorbike and ended up getting into criminal activities.]
N: Maybe what can be done?
Oh, what I can say is that the young men do not have jobs, and then the Kenyan government usually looks after the girl child more than to the boy child. You will find that the boy child is just left pending and the girl child is being looked after more. Our boys have just been put aside. They are just sitting around. The government isn’t concerned with them and only uses them during politics when they want votes, and when they are done, they just leave them there.
N: Is there anything else about your experience in the project that you would like to share?
I can only say that I am very happy because sometimes Nekesa could come to me when I am very stressed. At least I am laughing today! Sometimes I am so stressed that I end up crying, but sometimes we share and then I calm down even if there was nothing she was helping me with but the sharing- I talk and talk, I share till…at least the heaviness in my heart could go or become light.
Nekesa Lilyan Wekesa is a Project Manager at Digital Divide Data.