Meet Your Maker: Carol Muhonja in rural Kenya
Carol is the Quality Control Supervisor at SOKO Kenya in the Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary. She manages a team of 5 people, and her daily responsibility is to make sure that all of the factory’s production is up to standard. “I guess you could say I’m a perfectionist, “ says Carol, “at the factory I like to make sure everything is checked with great care and detail.”
Carol is from the Vihiga county in Western Kenya. After completing primary school she moved to Mombasa on the other side of the country in the hope of getting a high school education. Unfortunately her mother passed away a few months after she left. Carol’s grandmother looked after her siblings and cousins, but she could not afford the school fees. Carol found work as a cleaner for a local coastal family and sent money back to support her grandmother. In 2002 she met her husband and became pregnant with her first child. She was 16 years old. Without family around her to help to look after her baby, she was forced to quit her job while her husband supported the family with his income as a bajaj driver.
It was in 2009 that Carol’s prospect’s changed. She heard about SOKO Kenya and she applied for a job as a helper. Over the past six years, through hard work and an eagerness to learn, she has been promoted to a supervisor role. “Employment has not only empowered me but also it has motivated me in so many ways,” Carol says. “My dream is to become a designer.”
Last year Carol was awarded a scholarship to the UK, and she spent two months attending a pattern drafting and garment construction course. “I got to experience a life which is so different to what I am used to. I felt like the UK was a different world, and it made me wish that Kenya would one day be a developed country like that.”
“I attended other conferences, particularly about design, and it inspired me to start thinking out of the box. I found out that there are all different types of designers, even ones who design road signs! When I came back after two months I had so much knowledge to share with everyone, and endless stories to tell. My heart was filled with joy, my face full of smiles and a song of thanks to God for making this dream come true.”
The SOKO factory is based in an area which suffers from the lowest employment rates in Kenya. There are high rates of prostitution, HIV/AIDs and wildlife poaching. SOKO aims to empower women by providing employment and training in a safe and fair environment. Through this we hope to establish an ethical and sustainable workplace which will benefit the local people and the wildlife both now and for future generations.