VELINA GATIRE

Velina was the ninth in a family of 16 children.  Her father was disabled and could not provide for her family; therefore, her mother had to farm for food and income.  None of Velina’s siblings were fully educated, going to high school or college.  Velina was no different and dropped out of school in the seventh grade so that she could marry.

 

Today, she and her husband live in a mud house compound in Kiumbe, Tharaka-Nithi and have four children: two boys and two girls.  The eldest boy finished high school and wants to go to college.  The next two children are both currently in high school, and the youngest girl is in fourth grade.  Because Velina highly values her children and their education, most of her family’s income is used to pay for school fees.  Velina and her husband are both casual laborers: she in farming, harvesting, and weaving and her husband in schools.  They try to save money by eating crops from their farm, but if the weather is not conducive to growing, they buy their food at the local market.

 

On a typical day, Velina wakes up at 6:00am and makes tea.  She, then, looks to see if there is a job available for her on anyone’s farm.  If there is a job, she goes to work, but if there is no job, she assists in a quarry or makes bags and viondo.  Afterwards, she walks six kilometers to get water, carrying a single 20 liter bottle.  Because Velina has an issue with one of her eyes, she is unable to carry water with a strap around her forehead, which is the efficient way that most women use, and must carry it on her shoulder.  If she takes a motorbike taxi, she can take three of the 20 liter bottles and spare her shoulder; however, this costs money that she does not always have.  Velina finishes her day by going home and making dinner for her family.  This is the only substantial meal that her family eats, as they have tea for breakfast and skip lunch.  After dinner, her children do their homework.  She would assist them, but she is unable, because she did not receive much of an education.  Therefore, she ensures her children complete their assignments while she makes viondo or woven sisal bags.  This is a skill she learned from her grandmother.  She makes both woven sisal bags and crocheted viondo, and her materials come from some of her casual labor jobs.  If she is weaving a large sisal tote bag, it takes Velina two weeks working day and night.  If she is crocheting a kiondo, it takes her three weeks working day and night.

 

Because there are many women in her village who also crochet viondo and weave bags, Velina is unable to sell her crafts in local markets.  Merry-Go-Strong (MGS) is her only customer.  With this income, Velina bought a solar lamp, which her children use to study at night.  She has also been able to buy more food and feminine products.  She hopes that future bag sales will allow her to keep her children in school and allow her family to buy a goat.

3562 Tally Ho Lane
Madison WI 53705
c/o Lesley Sager