25-year-old Mildred Wanjala dropped out of high school but her sheer determination has seen her now owning her own salon and barbershop in Bungoma County, Kenya.
Mildred’s dream as a child was to become a teacher. However, as the first born in a family of seven, she faced the added responsibility of providing for her younger siblings.
Furthermore, her parents, who were subsistence farmers on a small piece of land, were unable to raise money for her school fees, forcing her to drop out of Form 1 in 2010.
Speaking during a USAID interview recently, she said that dropping out of school affected her: “I felt like I had failed the entire family. Their success seemed to depend on mine. It was my duty to set a good example and inspire them to follow in my footsteps.”
She therefore worked hard to overcome the negative perceptions associated with dropping out of school and avoided getting married at a young age, which is something many young female students resort to when they fail to complete school.
She began to sell vegetables harvested from their small family land in order to contribute to her family’s income. Finally, in 2016, she learned about a USAID-supported village savings and loan association (VSLA), which offers small amounts of credit on flexible terms to the youth.
She underwent training and secured a VSLA loan from that enable her to start her salon and barber shop. More than a year later, her profits have grown and she is able to support herself and her family as well.