NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 4 – She was only nine years old when she had her first encounter with illicit brews.
Her environment was one that taught her nothing better to do in life than selling illegal liquor.
Brought up by a single parent, her role models were her father and grandmother who were the kingpins of brewing and selling illegal drinks.
Young as she was, her father and grandfather believed any 20 litre jerrycan of alcohol opened by Mary would bring luck to their business.
“I got introduced to it when I was in class four because they said I was sharp in math and that I had (kismat) luck. They said anytime I opened a jerrycan of brew, nothing would remain, it got many customers,” she recounted to Capital FM News.
Mary’s life was miserable. She had to balance between being a school girl and brew seller.
Her second official role was bribing the police.
“My primary school was opposite the police post. So every Monday before going to school I had to pass through the police to give them their dues.”
Selling illegal brew and being well connected with rogue police officers earned Mary negative popularity in her school.
But the business was thriving. That is the money that took care of the family and even educated Mary and her siblings.
Salome, a single mother of seven, started selling the brew after she broke up with her husband.
She also utilised the services of her children to prepare and sell it.
“My mother told me to help her with selling local brew. Initially, we used to do the business in our house, but because of police harassment, my mum rented a house at a different place where we used to operate from,” Salome’s 25 year-old daughter, Jane explained.
Her brother recalls the harsh days of spending cold nights behind police cells in Dagoretti.
“Selling illegal brew is not fun. It is something we did because we didn’t have anything else to do. It was very stressful. We lived in fear of police. Sometimes the little money we made, police would come and take it all.”
Thirty-five year old Joyce inherited the brew business from her mother at the age of 19. She had been selling it for 15 years before she quit.
“I decided to stop because it has a lot of challenges. You make like Sh25,000 and the police come and take it all. They harassed me; I asked God, why am I suffering like this?” she recalls.