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Meet Jerita, the Safaricom customer whose albinism inspired her to empower others

05 Jan 2022Inclusion

Jerita Mutisya Mutinda was working at her cereals shop in a food market near Nairobi, Kenya, when a stranger approached her to tell her that, as a person with albinism, her blood had special powers that could make someone a millionaire overnight.

“I had to be tough and involve county officers at the market to talk to him,” Jerita recalls. “Because for somebody to have the courage to come and tell you that, you never know what they’re planning.”

Anyone else might have found this encounter frightening, but Safaricom customer Jerita’s fantastic sense of humour helps her see the funny side. “If my blood was supposed to make me rich, what would I be doing here selling cereals? I would be sleeping – or cruising the world,” she laughs.

<em>Jerita works at her cereals shop in the Machakos food market, popularly known as Sokoni</em>

Jerita works at her cereals shop in the Machakos food market, popularly known as Sokoni

Jerita’s bravery has been hard earned. At 47, she is used to hearing discriminatory remarks about her albinism, a genetic condition that means she has less melanin than usual in her body, causing her to have very light skin, hair and eyes. Because of her condition, Jerita’s skin is very sensitive to light and sun exposure, so she never leaves her house without her full brim hat, long-sleeved shirts and trousers.

But despite the day-to-day challenges she faces, Jerita has worked hard to grow several successful businesses. From the beauty business she started after leaving school to her cereal shop in Machakos market and, more recently, her real estate business, Jerita has had a diverse and fulfilling career.

And now she’s turning her hand to disability activism. “I believe in empowering young people to go to school by helping them get bursaries and through economic empowerment programmes,” she explains.

So much of the incredible work Jerita does depends on secure and reliable connectivity. “For my business, I depend a lot on Safaricom,” she says. Social media helps her reach a wide audience through her advocacy work, and it has become an important marketing tool for her cereals business.

She also uses M-PESA, a mobile money service established by Vodafone and Safaricom, to receive payments from her tenants and customers. This helps her keep track of her transactions.  “I prefer having the money in my account, rather than in cash, to discourage unnecessary spending. It’s safer and it helps me pay my loans on time,” she says.

<em>Jerita uses Safaricom products and connectivity to run her businesses</em>

Jerita uses Safaricom products and connectivity to run her businesses

As a board member for Machakos land use and planning, she has helped to ensure that processes are fair and inclusive, and that people with disabilities are involved in policy decision making.

And it doesn’t stop there – Jerita is also getting involved in politics. “We’ve been able to make more people with disabilities register for different political parties. We want more inclusion in politics. In 2022, we want to see more people with disabilities in elected positions. I am actually thinking of putting myself forward!”

She may not have “special blood”, but Jerita’s work is making magic happen in her local communities. “For parents of children with albinism, I’m like a role model,” she says. “When I talk to them, they see what is possible. I went to school; I started a business. I am talking to them having gone through the same challenges.”

  • Resilience
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