In response to the inter-tribal violence that followed the contested 2007 presidential election in Kenya, Village Enterprise launched a Peace and Business initiative. It equips members of different tribes to run a microenterprise together, lift themselves out of poverty, and promote inter-tribal peace and reconciliation. Felika Njeri, a Kikuya, tells her story:
“After the election in late December, 2007, members of the Luhya tribe started harassing me, stealing and destroying my property. Marauding youth gangs violently confronted me as I walked home and told me “either leave now or we chop off your head.” My neighbors were chanting “Kikuyas must go back to their homes.” Carrying my youngest child–and with my husband in tears–I sought refuge at the Chavakali police station. Life at the station was tough. We slept on the concrete floor. My husband, a Luhya, brought food for me and the child. The youth outside shouted “Burn it down, kill the Kikuyas!” I left the police station one night. I took steps to ensure that no neighbor knew I was back in my home. Yet after a week, one of my neighbors called on me. I was shaking; I feared she wanted to confirm I was at home so that she could alert the youth. I was furious and told my visitor, “Yes I am back. Go tell your boys to come and kill me!” Yet she was calm. She said that I should not be afraid because things would be okay.
She took my hand and asked me to pray with her. She told me of an organization that was assisting people who were affected by the violence; this organization brings people from different tribes together, gives them training on peace and helps them restart their lives with a small grant to start a small self-sustaining business. The organization was Village Enterprise. She asked that I accompany her to the YMCA center to learn more about the program. At that meeting we were told to share one piece of bread as a way to show that we had forgotten the past and we are ready to forgive our “enemies” and restart our lives.”
Felika and four partners (three Luhyas and a Luo) now run the Lucii Group grocery store in Chavakali. In their first year of operation, they grew their $150 seed grant to $750 in goods for their store, and average $12 in daily profits.
Felika concludes: “We are very happy and healthy, and eat three meals a day. We feel empowered as women to have such a successful story to tell. When people see us nowadays they say, ‘You people, you truly love one another.’”
Two-thirds of Village Enterprise business owners are women.
75% of Village Enterprise businesses are still in operation after 4 years.