Mapenzi takes control of her destiny

When a Community Health Volunteer informed her about the Binti Biashara project, Mercyline Mapenzi decided to enroll in the program in order to benefit from the hand skills training that was offered by the program.
Born and raised in Zuoni, Magarini, Kilifi County, Mapenzi was lucky to complete her primary school education and get enrolled at a local day school for her secondary education. This was a great milestone as many girls in her village never went beyond primary school education as many got pregnant, forcing them to drop out of school while others got married at that tender age.
In school, Mapenzi worked hard and was determined to study and proceed to college. Her dream was to be an accomplished academic and a successful business woman, but luck was not on her side. While in form three, she got pregnant and had to drop out of school. Getting pregnant shuttered her dream. Back home, her parents were devastated as she had disappointed them. Unable to withstand the pressure of seeing her devastated parents and the stigma from all who knew her, she ran away from home and moved in with her boyfriend.
Moving in with her boyfriend never solved her challenges as he wasn’t financially stable. Getting a meal and preparing for the baby, who was due in a few months, proved a hurdle. She wished things had turned out differently and cursed the day she got pregnant.
“When I got pregnant, I felt my world had come to an end. I had disappointed my parents and other people who considered me a focused girl and a role model for other young girls. I cursed myself for getting pregnant and ran away from home,” said Mapenzi. She partly blamed fate, but with time she realized that she wasn’t well empowered to make informed sexual and reproductive health decisions. So, when the Binti Biashara project came knocking, she couldn’t waste that opportunity to enroll in the program.
Getting full details about the program, she informed her boyfriend about the project and her wish to enroll in the program as it was being offered free of charge. Her husband accepted and agreed to support her. In her community, the boyfriend (Mwenye) plays a bigger role in decision-making, and that is the reason why Mapenzi had to seek her boyfriend’s consent.
Filled with enthusiasm and hope, she enrolled in the project with the help of the CHV and dedicated her time to attending the mentorship classes in order to gain skills. To her, acquiring skills that would link her to economic opportunities meant financial freedom and independence. In addition, she also benefited from sexual and reproductive health information, including contraception.
“I believe if I had gotten information on contraceptives earlier, I would not have gotten pregnant early. With this information, I can now space my children even as I work and raise an income to support my boyfriend in raising our kids,’ said Mapenzi.
Our chat with her came to an end as she joined other young women who were lining up to receive their graduation certificates. “This will enable me to get an income that will help me support my boyfriend in raising our two kids.” I also have a plan to save and, with support from my boyfriend I will buy my own sewing machine and open my own shop, “she stated.
Walking away, she pointed at her tummy, indicating that she had done it for her second baby. “I dedicate this day to my unborn baby.” We have gone through the training together and we have conquered, but I promise to take a method after the baby is born. ”
The Binti Biashara project seeks to empower young mothers economically by equipping them with skills that link them to economic opportunities, while at the same time strengthening their sexual and reproductive decision-making by making it easier for them to access information and services. The project is implemented by PS Kenya with support from Maverick Next (an initiative of PSI) and the County Government of Kilifi.