Stateless, but thriving… In the Business!
Dotto Mongelwa, a 31-year-old wife and mother of four; resident of Kakuma, I would be a nun today had the Tanzanian government not declared her family stateless way back in 2011. She remembers the whole fiasco as if it happened yesterday. She was in a seminary school when the word reached her that her family of 17 members had been deported to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) allegedly their ancestral land. She blames this unfortunate turn of events on her father’s involvement in politics.
“It is true my great grandparents came from North Kivu, DRC. However, this was not enough ground for our deportation and eventual disappearance without a trace of my dad.” She explained as she painfully fought tears with little success.
“About two or three of my family’s generations (including my grandfather) are Tanzanians by birth, Kigoma residents to be precise. Why did the government do this to us?” she asked rather rhetorically. Her family’s statelessness landed them in the Kakuma refugee camp in 2014 facilitated by UNHCR.
“I had by then dropped out of the seminary and got married out of frustrations. My husband and father of my two children then, abandoned me when I lost my citizenship. I landed in Kenya a stateless, helpless single mother!” she continued.
Now a mother of four, Dotto who enjoys playing football set up a beauty shop at Kakuma 3’s Burundian market in August 2019. Until then, she had worked as a primary school teacher and volunteer football coach under LWF for nearly six years managing to accumulate enough savings to start her own business. She owes her teaching qualifications to the seminary school she had attended while in Tanzania.
“I also learned tailoring/dressmaking as well as beauty skills while at the seminary” she added
She currently sells beauty products at her Mama Angel Beauty Shop where she also offers manicure, pedicure, and as well as general salon services. She also stocks wedding gowns, shoes, and accessories for hire. When she joined our business incubation project (funded byUNHCR) in January 2020, we helped her to modify her business model to increase her profitability through the introduction of a barbershop to complement her wedding and salon services. Today, a groom can have his hair cut at her barbershop as his bride is assisted to wear her makeup and hire gown for their big day. This has increased customer traffic at her business and ultimately pushed up her revenues and indeed her profits.
She is not done yet. She plans to introduce a baby shop alongside her salon and barbershop, and start offering outside catering services to her wedding clients in the long run.
“. For instance, every day I meet three to four expectant mothers at my salon. I am pained that when they are due for delivery, they shop for their new-born elsewhere, thus denying me revenue. I am determined to put a stop to this!” she concluded.