We are so excited to kick off our series of inspiring women with Grace Baltazai. Grace is an entrepreneur, an exceptional role model and our hero. We met Grace in Kenya this past spring and were instantly impressed with her work ethic and all she stands for. Grace started Halisi to employ women in Nairobi to make school uniforms. Most of these women are young, single mothers. Halisi makes and delivers all of the uniforms Tailored for Education provides in Nairobi, Njabini and the surrounding areas. The 17 women that Grace employs earn between $5 and $8 a day instead of the $1 a day average in the area. Grace is working in her own community to provide jobs to women while their children are in school and she is ensuring that more children have the chance to attend school. Grace, we admire you!
1. Tell us about yourself!
My name is Grace Bahati, 28 years old. A last born in a family of 6, 4 sisters and 1 brother. I was raised in Mathare, one of the largest slums in Kenya. In the midst of great lack and a lot of challenges, my mother ran a business to fend for my siblings and I. It was not easy, but she taught me how to work, how to do business and how to use that to uplift myself and others around me. I saw her run small scale businesses and even as a young girl I would sometimes sit next to her after school or during schools break to help out where I could. Little did I know that I was picking up skills that I would use later on in the future. I started working immediately after leaving high school in 2008. My first role was as a volunteer teacher at a school in Mathare. I continued serving in different roles in the community while also engaging in different leadership development courses until 2015 when I launched Halisi as a way to three things that I am passionate about: impact the next generation, improve the lives of women and do business.
2. How has education impacted your life? Is there a specific memory and/or person that influenced you?
My grandfather never believed in educating girls, that’s why my mother’s education ended at grade two. But she was determined that we would go further and she did everything she could so that I would get an education. Things were tough and I had to drop out of school for one year when I was in high school. Luckily I got a well wisher who paid for the remaining three years of my high school and I ended up being the first family member in my nuclear and extended family to complete high school. I then managed to support myself to get a Diploma in Project Management and I hope that I will eventually get my degree! Education has increased my confidence, hope and a foundation to better myself. A memorable moment was one morning as I was going to school I asked my mum for USD 0.001 to buy a pen and my mum didn’t have the money. So I left for school. After walking for a while I heard my mum calling and she had a pen in her hand. I was so happy! It gave me so much motivation to continue. A second memory is when I joined a new school in my second grade ( I was 6 years old) and I did not have the right uniform and my mum could not afford it. As punishment the head teacher refused for me to wear a sweater until I bought the proper school uniform. Since it was very cold I was used to wear the sweater from home and take it off once I got to the school gate but I would spend the whole day freezing in school. It was only during the second term that my mum was able to get the right uniform for me. Seeing my mum’s commitment to my education and progress built a strong determination for me to overcome whatever barriers I face and succeed.
My other inspiration is Wangari Maathai , Kenyan environmental political activist and Nobel laureate. ‘Her little thing’ was planting trees and my little thing is to work with women so that they can support their children and teach them to succeed also.
3. What is your hope for girls around the world?
My hope for girls to find their unique voice and the strength to express themselves lifting their families and communities around them! That there is always HOPE and NOTHING can bring YOU down if you do not let it.
4. What inspires you about Tailored for Education?
That there are people out there who care enough to do something so important, so impactful as making sure a child who needs it has the dignity of wearing the uniform they require to school.
5. What advice that you would give your 12 year old self?
Everything comes to you in the right moment. Be patient. Be grateful. Don’t worry, God is never blind to your tears, never deaf to your prayers. And never silent to your pain. He sees, He hears and he will deliver you! It is in your broken places you are most often used by God!