Mary Akoth , Kenya
Mary Akoth lives in Ahero Town, one of the poorest rural parts of Western Kenya. She is thirty- eight years old and is responsible for her five children, whose ages range from five to twenty-two.

Mary's husband left her in 1979 leaving her destitute, as her own family rejected her. She was forced to move with her children to Ahero Town and reduced to the most degrading means of earning money to pay the rent and purchase food. Her life was a constant struggle. She had no present and no future.

In 1992, Mary attended AFRICA NOW training as part of Nyando Women's Group. One year later she received a loan of Ksh 200 (US$4) from AFRICA NOW through Nyando Women's Group. She started trading in chapatis and tea on the roadside at Ahero Town. Soon she began to make Ksh 40 profit per day. After six months she added rice and beans to her product range which enabled her to increase her client base considerably. As a result she requested a plot &om the local county council and constructed a temporary kiosk. She then hired a young man to help her with her growing business. In 1995 Mary was able to hire two more people and became the owner of a lucrative business.

Today, Mary makes a profit of US$8 per day, twice the size of her original loan. She uses the money to pay rent and school fees for her two school age children and provides good food for her family. She employs three people and plans to expand her business further. She says she is no longer embarrassed and does not feel isolated and helpless as she did before. She says she now looks forward to a future for herself and her children she never dreamt could be possible. She says she has regained her dignity.

Name of microfinance programme: AFRICA NOW
Source: Microcredit Summit 1997 - Institutional Profiles.

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