Enterprising Single Mother Meets Success
Volume 1, Issue 3 / February 2009
A single mother runs a popular restaurant in the midst of Kakuma Camp’s busiest market, and encourages other women to do the same
“I am a capable woman,” says a 28-year old single mother running a restaurant in the midst of hundreds of businessmen operating in Kakuma Camp markets. Reflecting on her success, “Ama”* says, “The breadth of my accomplishments is remarkable-buying, selling, and managing a business. My secret? I am diligent.”
Ama’s restaurant is nestled among shops in the vibrant and animated business area of the Somali market. The food is delicious and well prepared, attracting customers from all communities. The restaurant’s service is well organized and she delegates tasks to girls from the local community who assist her in business.
As a result of such smooth operations, Ama’s business is very successful. “I get more than 3,000 Ksh a day, receiving an average of 50 to 70 customers per full day,” she states.
Ama comes from the Rwandan community and has lived in Kakuma Camp for more than ten years. Her husband was killed more than ten years ago in Rwanda.
Despite her business success, Ama says that her experience has not been easy. “I am very depressed for I don’t want to raise my children without a father. It seems like no one even cares about me. My children see me cry often and it affects them,” Ama says.
Besides fighting such feelings as anger, guilt, and loneliness, most single parents face the challenge of holding a job or business outside the home and performing domestic duties. You may have to learn to use your hands in new ways.
“There are many occasions when you wish you had a man around,” Ama admits, “Like your car starts making noises and you don’t know where they are coming from. What can help?” Ama owned a car back home in Rwanda, and used it to cross the border to Kenya.
Ama’s friend, a Sudanese single mother and business woman says, “Being a single parent is like being a juggler. After six months of practice, you have finally been able to juggle your balls at one. But just as soon as you are able to do that, somebody throws a new ball at you!”
Ama sometimes forgets about her own needs in the midst of her busy life. “I tend not to think about meals until I’m hungry!” Ama admits.
Speaking of her own experience without a husband, Ama says, “This automatically affects the life of our children negatively. However, I could not stop from there. My husband has gone, but I remain a widow with children and I have to fight for the future of my kids.”
Youngsters in single-parent homes in Kakuma Camp often have their own struggles. They may have to contend with intense emotion in the wake of a parent’s abrupt departure or death.
Is it fair for children to help out with duties? Ama says that it may be understandable, but parents should always act in the best interests of the child. “So be careful not to overload your children,” she says, “but you will be wise to assign them small tasks such as taking care of the dishes and keeping their room clean.”
“In the end,” Ama concludes, “If you are a single parent, be conscientious about your domestic responsibilities; find satisfaction in such work, for this does much to add to the happiness of your children.”
“I never do anything without consulting professionals or expert people,” emphasizes Ama. She has traveled to Nairobi several times and makes a point to meet with other successful business women in the city.
By consulting knowledgeable friends, how-to books, and helpful professionals, Ama says other single mothers can also tackle business successfully. She encourages women to challenge themselves and succeed in their lives.
*Not her real name.