Empowering Girls in Informal Settlement

The sight of women struggling to raise their families within the confines of slums became a distress call for one woman: Stella Mwende Agatha. Stella, also brought up in a slum, is the founder of Mrembo empowerment centre. Mrembo empowerment centre is a social enterprise that was started in 2017.

In Swahili, Mrembo means beauty. Stella’s passion for beauty drove her to initiate a social enterprise with the main essence being training in hairdressing and beauty, enabling her students gain and create employment on completion. The beneficiaries of Stella’s enterprise are not only the students who get the training. Mrembo’s benefits extends to the rest of the community, particularly to women who get to work in the Mrembo centre.

Stella’s passion for beauty and her desire to soothe suffering women through free makeovers they receive from her trainees, leaves an indelible invigorating mark on the women’s hearts and they are encouraged to soldier on despite the challenges of life. “I want women to feel beautiful… When you come to the centre, I want you to live when you are smiling. It doesn’t matter what problems you have in your home.”

Unlike other beauty and hairdressing colleges, Mrembo schedules the two courses on separate days so that students can have more time to interact with the course contents. At Mrembo, students also get to learn of the experiences and journeys of various guests invited, who give them motivational speeches.

Stella’s personal experience drives it all. She was brought up in a single parent home, with her mother as breadwinner. Stella nurtured the thought of one day improving the lives of those struggling in her community. She yearned to make a difference particularly in the lives of women and girls who strived hard to overcome their challenges.

Stella’s aspiration is alive as Mrembo empowerment centre’s positively impacts on the lives of the young women. Single mothers are trained and enabled to work, helping them to provide for their families. Some sex workers have left their trade and are now employed or have started their own businesses. Moreover, through Mrembo, women in abusive relationships have been given the independence to leave their partners. Stella states her delight in the impact she is making through her social enterprise Mrembo.

The impact inspires Stella’s resilience that is also clear as she explains her challenging entrepreneurial journey. She narrates the challenge of being discouraged by many who did not believe in social entrepreneurship. This led her to save for her equipment when still in college and, after gaining some employment, she managed to set up Mrembo Centre from her own meagre resources. In surmounting this obstacle, it was just the beginning of her leap over other hurdles in her journey as an entrepreneur.

Stella believes that as a social entrepreneur in Africa, there are a lot of opportunities and so there is a lot of growth in her field. She hopes to register her empowerment centre as a college or institution to give her students an opportunity of having a recognized certification that validates their training. She also hopes to set up her own franchise one day.

Mrembo empowerment centre has become such an inspiration of hope within Stella’s community. Stella’s dream to change the lives of her people is being realized through her passion, patience, and resilience. Stella shares her tip of success for the aspiring entrepreneurs “as a person, you need to sit down and write your own script…as you know it starts with passion, it starts with your goals, you know where you want to get.”

(Breda Achieng Okungu)

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