KENYA: Lucy Mugure: "I do not want my children to bring up their children here"

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lucy Mugure, 38, is a single mother of five and a resident of the sprawling Mathare slums. Mugure brews a type of illicit liquor, popularly known as chang'aa, to sustain her family.

Chang'aa is illegal in Kenya and has caused hundreds of deaths and blindness when adulterated by unscrupulous brewers who add methanol to 'increase' its potency. Mugure talked to IRIN about the challenges of being a mother in Mathare:

"We spend most of our time trying to avoid arrest by the police who pour our liquor away before taking us to court where we are fined or jailed.

"Sometimes you brew the chang'aa and there is no one to buy it. After spending 4,000 shillings (US$58) on sugar, molasses and sorghum or millet flour to produce a few gallons, which take two to three days to prepare, we sometimes go to sleep hungry.

"On the days when there are customers, I sell a glass at 10 shillings (15 US cents) - less than half the price of legal beer. Although most of my customers drink on credit, paying at the end of the week or the month, some refuse to pay.

"During good months, I make a profit of between 500 and 1,000 shillings ($7-$14) which is still not enough because I pay rent of 800 shillings ($12).

"Sometimes I only make 50 shillings (70 cents) in a day yet the children need to eat and we need to buy fuel. I usually end up sending the children to an eating place to spend 10 shillings (15 cents) each on a small plate of rice or a doughnut and beans to survive.

"The uniforms for my three school-going children are also expensive and I have to pay examination fees. Sometimes the children are sent home from school and I cannot afford to take them back to school; most of the time, at least one is out of school.

"Currently, my daughter is at home because she lost some text books belonging to her former school during a police raid on the Mungiki. [The Mungiki are a terror gang mainly operating from the Mathare slums. They also control public transport businesses.]

"I have been arrested several times but I will continue brewing chang'aa for the sake of my children. At least my customers trust me and know that I never add methanol to the chang'aa.

"Life is very difficult here in Mathare and I have decided not to have any more children. My last born, who is nine months old, was unexpected; I had gone to a private clinic for treatment but I still ended up pregnant.

"I have also decided not to get into another relationship; I want to concentrate on bringing up my children.

"I am hopeful that my children will get a good education so that they can start their own lives outside Mathare; only education can get them out of here; I do not know how I will pay for their secondary education but I will try. [Primary education is free in Kenya's public schools.]

"I was brought up here but I do not want my children to bring up their children here."

Source: IRIN