Meet Lucy and Jerita, two women from Amani ya Juu’s Kenya center who are making a difference in the lives of other African women.
Lucy, a founding member of Amani ya Juu and refugee from South Sudan, works in the stitching room on the top floor of Amani Kenya’s facility.
Jerita, a married mother of one, is Lucy’s fellow stitcher. The two are embarking on a 4 week journey to Liberia.
Africare, an organization committed to sustainable development in Africa, has invited them to participate in a sewing education program. “We will be going to midwives and teaching them different types of products,” says Jerita. “I’m excited!” she exclaims happily, falling into giggles. Africare has launched a sewing and marketing training project to enhance the incomes of traditional midwives in Liberia, who are being asked to direct mothers to hospitals rather than give birth in a risky environment. Using local materials to support the economy and promote appreciation of African textile art, the midwives are being trained to produce “Mama & Baby Kits” such as diapers, blankets and baby rompers, to be gifted to mothers as an incentive to give birth at a health facility.
Many mothers have serious complications while giving birth in countries like Liberia, often because they do not give birth at a health facility. Liberia, according to the CIA World Factbook, has the 7th worst maternal mortality rate in the world.
A book and documentary called Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s offers more details about maternal mortality in Liberia. “For too many women, especially in the developing world, pregnancy and childbirth can pose serious health risks. For some, it can even serve as a death sentence,” states a page on Half the Sky’s website.
A few months ago, Amani ya Juu’s country director in Kenya called Lucy and Jerita into her office. “She told us there is a training that she wanted to send us to, to go and do training for midwives in Liberia,” said Lucy. “So we were so surprised, we said, ‘Midwife! We don’t know anything about that!'”
Later, the two learned that because of their stitching experience and background, they had been selected for the program. In addition to stitching, Jerita is trained as an educator, making her a good fit for the program. “And I have been working with women and did community development, so I think that’s the criteria that was used for selecting us,” says Lucy.
Lucy dreams of returning to South Sudan to bring an Amani center to her people. For now, that day remains a dream. Life in South Sudan is unpredictable and renting space for a center is very expensive. So for now, Lucy is raising her family in Nairobi and encouraging the women both there and in Liberia.
“My heart is meant for women. So the talent I have I want to share with them,” she says. However, Lucy has a humble heart. “I’m not going there, like, ‘I know better than them’. I want for us to stitch together. The little I have, the little they have; I want to put it together so it will be able to uplift their lives.”
Both women acknowledge that teaching adults can be difficult. “In adult teaching, there is no person who is wrong, everything they say is right,” says Lucy. “You say, ‘Instead of doing this, let’s do it this way.’ But you never say something is wrong.”
The pair has been busy making preparations to be away from their families. “My husband will be taking care of himself!” says Jerita, giggling.
The two also plan to visit Yekepa, Liberia, where Amani has a center. Though Amani Liberia and Amani Kenya are a part of the same larger organization, Amani ya Juu, most women at our African centers have never met each other. “We are excited to meet the Liberia ladies,” says Jerita.
On the top floor of Amani’s Kenya center, the Lucy and Jerita are known as teachers. “We have a new lady called Eugenia,” says Lucy. “She’s from Rwanda. We are helping—she started peddling the machine and already she has begun stitching the gift bag!” The two are very excited to extend their skills beyond Kenya, all the way to their African sisters in Liberia.