By: Sharon Mumbi, Sr. Discovery Coordinator

Helen Mwanja, a Ugandan native, has been living in Kangemi, one of Nairobi’s sprawling urban informal settlements for nearly a decade. She had a full-time job as a teacher at a local private school but with her desire to be a full-time stay at home mom, Helen opted to leave her job and care for her newborn baby. Helen started a childcare micro-business in her single room house – a 10 foot by 10 foot corrugated metal shack – to make a living.

Helen bought a used mattress from the local second-hand market and opened her daycare the following day. Within a month, she had thirty children under her tin roof. “It was congested, there was no lighting and hygiene was very poor. The house was brimming with houseflies. I always had a child suffering from diarrhoea,” she says.

In 2015, after launching a model Early Childhood Development Centre in Kangemi, Kidogo reached out to informal daycare operators in the community, including Helen, and invited them to join our social franchising pilot program. Helen jumped on the opportunity to become one of Kidogo’s inaugural Mamapreneurs, and over a period of 18-months, received training, resources and weekly mentorship to learn how to run a high-quality childcare micro-business.

“The children I used to take care of were so scared of me because I was harsh; now I see change in them. They are confident, happy and playful around me. Most times they don’t want to leave when their parents come to pick them up,” she affirms, hiding her signature gap-toothed smile.

Kidogo’s social franchising program emphasizes the importance of both early childhood development skills, such as responsive caregiving, health & nutrition, and positive discipline, as well as entrepreneurship skills, such as pricing strategies, marketing and financial tracking of childcare fees.

“Previously, I couldn’t tell you how much I made because of mismanagement; all I knew was the number of children I was taking care of. Now I have a finance tracker from Kidogo which helps me keep track of my finances,” she says, “I’ve managed to get a bigger space for my business and I have a great relationship with my customers. I can even pay 2 rents, one for my own house and one for my daycare and pay school fees for my son. He now goes to a very good school. I am very proud of where I am today.”

At the inaugural Kidogo Gala in November 2017, Helen was awarded the prestigious #Mamapreneur of the Year award, as selected by her peers and Kidogo’s childcare experts.  Not only did her quality and caregiving techniques improve, Helen was able to manage her business to be more profitable and resilient, allowing her to overcome numerous challenges throughout the year. Helen’s centre, Harietta Daycare, received a customized upgrade & renovation and she is looking forward to expanding later this year.

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate Helen and all of our mamapreneurs across Kenya, who provide safe, loving childcare. Every day, you enable women to work with peace of mind, while giving their children the best start to life. You are our heroes.

Follow the journey of our Mamapreneurs at www.kidogo.co