Irene and Halima standing in front of their music and movie shop.

Meet Halima, teen mother and shop owner

Meet Halima, teen mother and businesswoman. At 18 years old, and with a seven-month-old son, Halima is already managing to make a better living than many of her neighbours in the Nairobi slum of Kawangware.

Together with her friend Irene, she owns and runs a film rental and print shop.

A tough start

Life in Kawangware is hard. Here, in just three square kilometres, some 800,000 people, work, live and play. Water on tap is not available every day and safe drinking water is expensive. Disease is rife, especially HIV and malaria.

Kawangware, Nairobi, Kenya

Irene, 23, and Halima, 18, both operate businesses under the same premises in Kawangware's Elbulbul area and both are part of NGO Hand in Hand Eastern Africa's Young Mother's Case Study. Irene sells and rent movies and DVDs and Halima, who has a 7 month old son Tom, uses the same premises to earn money through a photocopying business.Orphaned at 14, Irene had to fend for herself from an early age. When she turned 19, Irene managed to secure a job in a local film rental shop. The owner gradually left her entirely in charge and Irene offered to buy the equipment from him, spreading the payments over several monthly instalments.

Finding herself in charge of her own business without really knowing much about bookkeeping or cash flow, Irene eagerly took up the offer of business training when Hand in Hand set up a group for young women in Kawangware. She also persuaded her younger friend Halima to join.

“In the group we learn that we have to help each other, so that is why I involved Halima in the business: she was just sitting at home, not making any money”

Following the training, Halima and Irene realised they could increase the shop’s profits by expanding the range of services. They borrowed money from their group’s savings fund and bought a popcorn machine to complement the film rental and a printer/photocopier to offer business services.

Increased profits

As a result profits increased and Halima and Irene were able to pay themselves KES 10,000 (US$ 120) per month. However, they soon realised that the high monthly rental costs of KES 9,000 per month almost wiped out their profits. Despite the steady flow of customers they often had to borrow from their Hand in Hand group’s savings fund in order to pay the rent.

Building a new shop

Undeterred, the two friends and Halima’s sister (Farida) pooled their savings of KES 20,000 to build a new shop – which would also contain a beauty salon run by Farida.

Halima and Irene | DVD rental shop owners in front of their new shop | Nairaobi, Kenya

Halima and Irene | DVD rental shop owners | Nairaobi, Kenya

Built on family land, the new shop’s monthly rent would be just KES 2,000. Irene, who has clearly absorbed the lessons of the Hand in Hand business training, explained their plan. On the day we met them, Irene and Halima were just about to open up the new shop – a gleaming corrugated iron hut of around 8 square metres (pictured right). The young women’s joint monthly profit will now increase to around KES 17,000 (US$ 200) and Halima can provide a safer future for herself and her son.

Halima’s results

Joining a Hand in Hand Self-Help Group changed Halima’s fortunes, both in business and in life.

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Monthly rent decrease from KES 9,000 (US $101) to KES 2,000 (US $22)

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Joint monthly profit of KES 17,000 (US $190)

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Able to provide a safer future for her and her son