Woman who quit bank job puts smiles on the faces of autistic children

Margaret Njeri with her autistic daughter for whom she resigned from her banking job.

A woman who quit her banking job has found joy in raising children with autism, having resigned to take care of her daughter born with the condition.

With unwavering determination and boundless love, Margaret Njeri Kahiu has become a shining beacon of hope for parents of children with autism in Kenya.

Her decision to resign from her job at National Bank was not easy, but it was a sacrifice she was willing to make in order to care for her daughter who is autistis.

Njeri’s story is a powerful reminder of the challenges faced by families of children with special needs, especially in a country lacking the necessary resources and support systems.

In a society where autism is still widely misunderstood and stigmatized, Njeri has emerged as a fierce advocate for her daughter and others like her.

She recognized the lack of facilities and services for autistic children in Kenya, including crucial therapy equipment for developing important life skills.

Njeri has paved the way for a better future for children with autism, inspiring others to fight for the rights and dignity of those who may be marginalized or overlooked.

Her daughter, who was born in the year 2000, was stigmatized. She had to move residence five times to run away from hostile neighbourhoods. Some of her neighbours believed that autism was a curse and they did not allow their children to play with her.

Njeri enrolled the girl in kindergarten but teachers concentrated more on other children, avoiding her as they supposed she was only meant for special needs schools.

This forced her to start The Autism Foundation International (TAFI) in 2016, a community-based organization (CBO) in Ongata Rongai. She decided to end her job to concentrate on the association to put a smile on the faces of children with autism.

The centre cares for 100 children who are provided with safe psycho-social space.

TAFI’s primary mandate is to advocate for the rights of people with autism and create awareness in the community. The organization is in the forefront in sensitizing the community to embrace autism.

Njeri says autistic children are still neglected, mothers have been divorced because of giving birth to special need children, and the children have been locked in homes to hide them from the society.

“We support the wellbeing of parents with children suffering from autism by initiating projects that can improve the standards of living by providing them with reliable income through economic empowerment strategies and programmes,” she says.

Njeri noted that the government has not been supporting the children in terms of bursaries, there is still stigmatization, and some individuals still believe that these children have no right to education.

She has received several awards for her work, among them Peace Keeping Award (2023), Zuri Award, Rotary Award 2021, and Women on Boards Network Awards (2nd runners up) 2022.

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By Obegi Malack

obegimalack@gmail.com

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