Kipepeo is a micro-finance project based in Kibera, Nairobi, which gives women from disadvantaged backgrounds a regular income, skills and opportunities to plan for the future.

The project is built on the principle of 'trade, not aid'. Kipepeo's aim is not to give money to people living in extreme poverty, but to give them means to rise above it. 

Research shows that empowering people is a complicated process. Moving an individual from the position of thinking of themselves as helpless to realising that they are able to make life choices is not easy. Education is therefore as important to the project as employment in helping the card makers reach their potential.

About the programme

Currently Kipepeo has a workshop with 16 women from Kibera making cards. Meet the card-making team.

The women working in the project have come from different backgrounds but all of them have very challenging lives, with multiple dependents.

Kipepeo is based on Christian beliefs. Before joining the project, the women are signed up to a Christian discipleship programme called ‘Samaritan’s Strategy’. After an induction period - which also teaches basic life skills - the women are taught how to make greetings cards. Find out about the card-making process.

The women are paid a fair price for the cards that they make, which enables them to take home a regular wage. This is unusual in Kibera, where most work is casual and wages paid by the day.

Ongoing training is provided to further empower the women and to encourage them to have an impact on the community in which they live. 

How the programme is run

The card-making workshop is based outside the Kibera district - this provides a much healthier and more pleasant working environment than would be possible in Kibera, and gives the women an opportunity to leave the settlement each day. A nourishing meal is provided for the women each day when they are making cards.

Making paper 

The project is managed on the ground by a programme coordinator, Harriet. She is helped by Nillah Mamba, the production manager, who has been with the project since the beginning. Nillah used to live in one room with her husband and children in Kibera. She has now moved to a neighbouring district into a flat, and has completed a certificate in business management.

Card sales in the UK and around the world

Kipepeo Designs Trading Limited, the trading subsidiary of the UK charity, purchases cards on a fair-trade basis from the Kenyan project.

The UK organisation then markets and distributes cards within the UK. In the year 2011 cards sold in the UK numbered more than 25,000. Kipepeo's goal is to increase this, allowing the project to be expanded in Kibera, and ultimately in similar environments in Africa.

Ploughing back profits

Profits made from card sales are used to develop the work of Kipepeo further. Revenue is used in different ways: to provide additional training and education opportunities for the card makers; to pay for occasional treats such as day trips outside Nairobi; to allow the project to expand by acquiring equipment or training new team members; or to grow the market within the UK.