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A Black woman sits in a wheelchair next to a table of fabric

Despite Covid-19 challenges, entrepreneur expands sewing business

Zawadi Balagizi, 31, is an entrepreneur living in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Through training and mentoring, Humanity & Inclusion’s staff helped her cope with the effects of COVID-19 and expand her small business.

Zawadi was exiled from her family because she has a disability. After first seeking refuge in a church, Zawadi chose to migrate to Kenya.

“I began my journey from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Kenya in April 2018,” Zawadi says. “The main reason I embarked on the journey was to get medical attention at a hospital in Nairobi.”

After arriving in Kenya, Zawadi ran out of financial resources and was transferred to the Kakuma refugee camp. There, she started a small business using her sewing skills to make tablecloths.

When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global markets, Zawadi felt the impact as well. She depended on her church congregation to sell her products. Due to social distancing and quarantining, people stopped coming to help her, and her customers dwindled.

Expanding her business

Zawadi met Humanity & Inclusion’s team at the rehabilitation center where she received physical therapy sessions and a wheelchair. Zawadi was also included in HI’s livelihood support project. To help her conduct her business, the organization gave her a smartphone and supported her with counseling and training sessions.

“The support I received from HI has helped me cope with life in Kakuma and the business sector,” Zawadi explains.

Zawadi used the grant money she received from HI to improve the accessibility, expansion, and dignity of her business’ workspace. Thanks to HI’s support and the new skills she acquired during training and mentorship programs, Zawadi saw her living standard and business operations improve.

Zawadi intends to expand her business to provide uniforms, covers, and other fabric materials for a local school. She is hopeful that, with time, she will be able to promote her business on social media and open new branches in the Kakuma refugee camp and nearby Kalobeyei settlement.

These actions are supported by the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program.