“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast the stone across the water and create many ripples.”- Mother Teresa
When people ask me why I created Olive & Annie, and why we so passionately advocate to end sexual violence, one young woman comes to mind immediately.
Her name is Jackie.
In February 2016 I heard the story of a 16-year-old young woman from Kibera slum in Nairobi who was a survivor of sexual violence. Olive & Annie was still a thought at the time – a fair-trade brand I had only dreamed of, but had yet to turn into a reality. Her story shook me to my core. This young woman was simply walking home from buying bread when her world changed forever. She became a single mother and bravely pushed forward for the sake of her child. The true definition of a survivor.
I heard Jackie’s story on a Facebook forum for Expats in the country. The post was simply asking for donations for her child and shared little bits of her story. When I read the message I was in shock. I asked the first questions which came to my mind – had she received hospital care? Had she been tested for HIV? Was she receiving counselling? My questions were met with no answers. I was told she was fine and just needed donations for her child. I didn’t push forward. I prayed for her and her child.
Flash forward to May 2016. I was doing consulting for a non-profit organization providing education to children in Kibera slum. During my site visit in walked a young woman with what appeared to be her mother and her newborn baby. The Director of the NGO greeted them, the baby was coming for a check-up. Being a single mother myself I focused on the young girl. She looked no older than 18. She was disconnected, almost as if she was in a daze. The Director said her name – Jackie. Suddenly it all connected in my mind. THIS WAS JACKIE. I’m a true believer in signs and this was no coincidence. This was fate. I introduced myself to Jackie. I explained that I am the Founder of ZLT Home of Hope – a children’s home in Nairobi. I explained that I am a young single mother and I was deeply touched by her story and her perseverance. I asked her if she had family supporting her. She explained she was a single orphan and being raised by her step mother, who was present. She shared with me that she had been tested after the rape but that she was not receiving counselling. I asked her step mother what the plan was for Jackie. I was quickly filled in that Jackie was in Grade 8 but would be dropping from school to study hairdressing. That she needed to help take care of her 6 younger siblings and her baby. These stories of sexual violence are so incredibly common in the slums, within Kenya as a whole. 1 in 3 Kenyan women under the age of 18 years old will experience sexual violence. Though Jackie was just ONE of the millions of Kenyan women and children who had survived sexual violence, her story mattered. I asked her, “would you like to join the ZLT family? Would you like to create a successful future for you and your daughter?” She said yes.
After Jackie joined our family I proceeded with my vision for Olive & Annie. I was inspired. Together with my partner and primary Investor we created a brand that shares the stories of single mothers, orphaned children, and survivors of sexual violence. Every piece of Olive & Annie jewelry tells a story and every pair of our fair-trade moccasins is inspired by Africa.
The She Matters Movement aims to share the stories of survivors of sexual violence and provide funding to our grassroots initiatives to empower single mothers, provide authentic sexual health education to youth, effectively equip GBV units at hospitals, provide counselling and support to survivors, mentor young men in an effort to end sexual violence, and actively advocate on a global scale to end sexual violence. The She Matters Movement is a call to action to declare that SHE MATTERS. Stating that no factors justify rape and that we need to support survivors rather than encouraging silence.
I am a survivor of sexual violence and stayed silent for 3 years out of fear. Initially when I came forward I was told that sharing my story would jeopardize my future and negatively affect my child. The time is now for the She Matters Movement.
For our mothers.
For our sisters.
For our friends.
For our daughters.
Will you join me?