Ms Pamela is a woman domestic worker and a widow; she is a mother to 6 children with 5 more members in her household. The family has a total of 12 people living under the same roof. Ms Pamela’s children are Mr.Evans Otieno aged 23 years and works in construction sites in Ngara and High Ridge Estates. The second is born is Mr.Rodgers Odhiambo aged 20 years who is an actor with Elite thespians group in Kayole.Her third born is Ms.Lavender Akoth aged 19 years who graduated from high school in the year 2016 from King Barack High School in Kayole.The fourth born child is master Hillary Ochieng aged 14 years and is currently a student at Orio Boy’s High School, Homabay County. The fifth born is master Tony Braxton aged 13 years and a student at Ruaraka High school. The sixth born child in is master Ibrahim Otieno aged 10 years and is a pupil at Genesis Joy Primary School.
Ms Pamela also lives with two grandchildren and two of her brothers’ children who passed away some years ago.
She also supports her son’s wife and 3 children and his late brother’s 2 sons Mr. Emmanuel Odhiambo aged 25 years and Mr. Felix Otieno 20 years who are also working in various construction firms in Nairobi.
Ms. Pamela has had a challenge since the year 2009, she was involved in an accident and sustained an injury which rendered her physically disabled on her left side. The injury has compromised her ability to effectively do domestic work and as a result, she has diversified her sources of family food, through farming and poultry keeping that provides that supplements the family daily livelihoods. To further supplement household incomes, her older children and nephews do casual labour in various construction sites around Nairobi.
To restore her ability to walk, she underwent 3 surgeries including a reconstructive operation.
Among her children, 2 are still undergoing their secondary school education with bursary support from Mathare Constituency Development Fund of KES 5,000 per child which is not sufficient. The school fees for her sons Hillary Ochieng, Tony Braxton’s and Ibrahim Otieno are KES. 53,000, 21,458 and 7,200 per year respectively. To offset the difference; she saves her income from selling her vegetables and chickens from her garden and by washing clothes for her neighbours.
In the year 2016, one of her daughter who was in secondary school at the time was defiled, after being sent home over school fees areas. This incident occurred when she was a fourth form candidate at King Barack Mixed Secondary School. The matter was reported to the nearest police station in Kayole area but the police refused to book the incident due to lack of evidence. This was due to the fact that her daughter only opened up about the incident seven days after it happened. She was able to receive medical attention, counselling and antenatal services from Baraka Hospital in Mathare area. Also from the incident she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl.
Her perpetrators are yet to be found as the incident was not timely reported and properly investigated into by the police. This traumatic event has further compounded to a medical condition where she experience bouts of fainting.
Before Wezesha Jamii, life was hard for this large household. They would go hungry on some days without a single meal and relied on food hand outs from neighbours, including depending on doctors at the Kenyatta National Hospital while she was admitted.
Ms Pamela joined the Wezesha Jamii project in the year, 2017 through her membership with ‘Empower Women Group’: a domestic workers women group that engages with Wezesha Jamii Project. ‘Wezesha Jamii imeni Wezesha’(Wezesha Jamii has enabled me) she recounts.
The Wezesha Jamii intervention has enabled her to learn about her rights and how to access benefits that accrues to members of the public medical scheme National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). Utilizing her position as a community health volunteer and NSSF/ NHIF champion, she has been at the forefront in promoting the 2 public schemes by creating awareness and encouraging informal settlement residents of Mathare to enrol into the 2 schemes.
After Ms Pamela joined the Wezesha Jamii Project from the community meetings, officers from the National Social Security Fund visited her group. The officers advised members of the group on how to access funds from the scheme. From there, she learnt that she could make follow up on claims of her deceased husband’s retirement benefits. The husband had worked at Muthaiga Golf Club as a casual labourer for several years.
As a result of this information on how to access benefits, she visited the NSSF Eastleigh Branch with her late husband’s death certificate. She was provided with his statement and was directed to NSSF Homabay branch for further assistance. After following up the necessary procedures, she was able to access KES. 10,000 from her husband’s savings with the scheme.
Ms Pamela says, ‘without Wezesha Jamii I would not have known about my husband’s benefits. I always saw his NSSF card in the house after his death but I did not know what to do with it. Previous rumours from my neighbours implied that the process of claiming the benefits would be a tedious one. However, I am now a living testament that truly members are paid their dues and i am a happy woman. The money helped me to pay part of my daughter’s school fees and the rest boosted my monthly merry-go round contributions’.
Ms Pamela is now more determined than ever. She says that even though her age has advanced, she plans to join NSSF as well. In addition she said Wezesha Jamii has been an eye opener for her life she is more knowledgeable on how to claim benefits as an NSSF member and supporting other households who wish to follow-up on their membership benefits.
If Wezesha Jamii would have not been implemented in Mathare, she would still been ignorant on the benefits that accrue to members and would have not joint NHIF or know how to claim her late husband’s contribution.
Similarly, her family would still be food insecure and her children would have dropped out of school. Further authorities, would still be violating her rights without knowledge and skills on what recourse to take.