Roak, a Rock for Youth and Women in Mombasa, Kenya
More than half of Kenya’s population is below the age of 35, according to 2019’s Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data. Out of this population, 13.7 million people are aged between 18-34 and over five million (39%) youth are unemployed. The Business Daily further records that among the three big cities in Kenya, Mombasa tops the list with a high youth unemployment rate of about 49%. Likoni, a sub-county in Mombasa is one of the poorest sub-counties in the Coastal region. Growing up in this area, Rosaly watched young people grapple with unemployment, which sometimes pushed them into drug dealing and robbery. Women bore the brunt of it all. When all hopes were lost for them, they would seek domestic jobs to work as house helps. Employers would take advantage of their vulnerable situation and underpay them —and in worst case scenario, they were sexually abused.
A tough start
After her graduation in 2018, Rosaly added to the pool of unemployed youth in Mombasa. To add salt to injury, around the same time, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Being the eldest in her family, she was left with the responsibility of fending for her siblings, as well as her mother’s medication. To pull herself out of ‘the unemployed’ statistics and meet her family’s needs, Rosaly started selling sandals in 2019 and this marked the beginning of her social entrepreneurship journey. Her customer target being women, men and children, Rosaly made her sandals from used tires and genuine leather. As time went by, her entrepreneurship journey became challenging. She not only had insufficient funds to run and grow her business, but also lacked purpose in her operation. This prompted her to join DOT Kenya’s Social Innovators program. When she saw the opportunity advertised in a Whatsapp group, she applied for it and was accepted in July 2021.
A new dawn at DOT
Rosaly found her learning experience at DOT Kenya to be very interactive and impactful. During the six months of training, she learnt and gained knowledge and skills, including creating a compelling vision for change, human centered design, gender and your local landscape, introduction to social entrepreneurship, measuring of impact, gender analysis and so much more. One session that stood out for her was on ‘bootstrapping,’ the process of using only existing resources, such as personal savings, personal computing equipment, and garage space, to start and grow a company. At the end of the program in December 2021, Rosaly was awarded a grant worth Ksh 100,000.
At the end of the launch learning plan, in December 2021 and further support from the accelerator program offered by Somo Africa, Rosaly tagged along the skills and lessons she had learned to expand her business. She has since been able to buy sewing and grinding machines that have increased the rate of production by 20%. Roak Swahili Wear, Rosaly’s social enterprise, is a fashion brand that seeks to empower women with bead-work skills. She also works with youth artisans from Likoni, who create beaded leather sandals and bags —with a touch of Swahili culture. So far the enterprise has been able to employ 25 women and youth. Through her enterprise, Rosaly hopes to achieve sustainable development goals 1 (no poverty), 2(zero hunger), 5(gender equality, 8(decent work and economic growth) and 13(climate action). Speaking of her plans at the moment,
““I’m currently focusing on starting a factory and expanding our product line that will offer employment opportunities to more youths and women,”- she said.”
A positive future
Quoting her favorite line from Rhonda Byrne’s book ‘The Secret,’ (“Remember that your thoughts are the primary cause of everything”) Rosaly says it inspires her to remain a positive thinker and dream big. The 25 year old Maseno University graduate class of 2018, strongly believes that her future is bright.
““I’m planning to create a safe space for women and youth for them to feel empowered, work without harm while providing for their families through our fashion brand,”- she said.
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