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Kenyan Woman



MARCH 8, 2014

Women Enterprise Fund… committed to empowering women

“To empower a woman is to empower a family and in effect the whole nation” is the statement that defines Women Enterprise Fund. Vision 2030 has placed an emphasis on women empowerment. The 1st and the 3rd Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on poverty reduction, gender equality and women empowerment, that form a crucial platform for the Vision 2030, champion the support of economic growth of women in order to realize economic growth in the country. These MDGs champion the objectives of the Vision 2030 by making fundamental changes in four areas;

partners who have supported its work.

Achievements • Disbursement of Ksh 3.8 billion benefiting over 800,000 women spread in the 290 constituencies. In effect, the Fund is promoting financial inclusion and equity in access to financial services to previously marginalized women. • In the last 8 months a further Ksh 538.3M has been disbursed to 80,175 women in the constituencies. Women borrowers have invested loans in agriculture related activities, trade, services and telecommunication, sectors thereby creating decent jobs for themselves and other Kenyans.

• Opportunity • Empowerment • Capabilities ,and

• We commend the Kenyan women for their integrity and faithfulness in serving their loans recording a national average repayment of 92%. They have proved that one does not need physical collateral in order to service a loan, a very useful lesson to traditional banks and other lenders.

• Vulnerabilities.

Statistics Kenya National Bureau of Statistics places the population of women at over 50% within 290 constituencies in Kenya. Out of this statistic the women in employment or in business stand at only 12%. It is with this in mind that the government of Kenya saw it fit to financially empower women. This led to the launch of the Women Enterprise Fund in the year 2007 in order to cater to the women in Kenya and ensure that they are accorded financial empowerment. Women Enterprise Fund lends to groups and individuals (with emphasis to the groups). Women in Kenya are finding that there’s strength in numbers: if they pool their resources together in self-help groups of their own creation, they can radically change their lives and the lives of their families and communities. Kenya National Bureau of Statistics places the statistic of registered self-help groups formed by women in Kenya at an average of 3000+ per constituency. This could mean that there is an increase in the number of women using the self-help group mechanism to access funds in Kenya. This mechanism has made it possible for financial services to be availed to more Kenyans through the Savings and co-guarantee mechanisms that are the operating mantra within the groups. Indeed majority of the funds that are lent by Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) are targeted to the self-help groups. WEF has two channels of lending 1. Lending through financial intermediaries. This is done through banks, MFIs, Women owned companies and SACCOS where funds are allocated to these institutions at an interest rate of 1% for on-lending to women beneficiaries at 8% pa on reducing balance 2. Lending through constituency women enterprise scheme (CWES) channel. This is direct lending facilitated by constituency loan committees to self-help groups at ZERO interest with a one off 5% processing fee. The Fund has thus been in the forefront to execute the mandates of Vision 2030 through facilitating access to finance and other business development services to women entrepreneurs,

The Women Entreprise Fund (WEF) chairperson Ann Mutahi during the official opening of eco toilets donated to Kiukini Primary in Kitui. PHOTO: FILE

• The Fund in collaboration with the Ministry of Cooperatives has facilitated the registration of 46 women owned and managed Saccos spread throughout the country. The Fund is investing in this initiative to enable women formalize the ‘chamas’ to legal entities that are owned and controlled by them as a guarantee to long term sustainability of women empowerment agenda. • During the first half of the 2013/2014 financial year 29,624 women were trained in entrepreneurship in all the 290 constituencies

Members of WEF meet with Sisterhood Blind Women Group. PHOTO: FILE including capacity building and facilitation of access to business linkages among others. The Fund was established through a Gazette Notice and assigned five mandates, namely: 1. Provision of affordable and accessible credit to women for enterprise development. 2. Capacity building of women beneficiaries and their institutions. 3. Promotion marketing.





4. Promotion of linkages between micro, small and medium enterprises owned by women with larger enterprises. 5. Facilitate and support investments in infrastructure that support women enterprises e.g. markets or business incubators e.t.c. The Fund’s mission is “to mobilize resources and offer access to affordable credit and business support services to women entrepreneurs” and


the vision supported by this mission is “to socially and economically empower Kenyan women entrepreneurs for economic development” The Fund therefore performs to ensure that women throughout the country are empowered financially and are undertaking businesses that are stable and that contribute to their economic status and thus the country’s economy as a whole. In the past half year the Fund has achieved major milestones in terms of empowering women in order to raise their economic status. As we press on with the rest of the year we take this opportunity to share with Kenyans our achievements and challenges in the past half year. We welcome members of the public to scrutinize our work and point out areas that need improvement. The Fund thanks the Government for its financial support over the years, as well as various

• To support the commitment to promote women’s participation in public procurement, the Fund will be rolling issuance of bid/ security bonds later this month. This will be on a pilot basis for the Nairobi region. A good percentage of the goods and services bought by the Fund are from women • The Fund has also not been devoid of CSR activities some of which are: 1. The Completion of the Kiukuni Eco Pit latrines on 13th February 2014 in the Eastern Region valued at Kshs. 300,000 2. Issuance of textbooks valued at Kshs. 279,700 to Hon Khalif Girls Primary School on 27th November 2013 in the North Eastern Region • The Fund has been in the forefront of ensuring that women benefit from training in collaboration with institutions of higher learning within Kenya. This includes a business incubation program with JKUAT - Juja Campus and a training program facilitated by the University of Nairobi on poultry and green house farming. We urge women in Kenya who have not borrowed our interest free loans to borrow funds to create wealth for themselves and their families


MARCH 8, 2014

Kenyan Woman


Doors open as women come aboard councils of elders By Ruth Omukhango


“Women have been very useful in the council in articulating issues that affect the community and have been in the forefront of all our activities and our religion does not bar them from participating in any activities,” says Issa Abdulfaraj, Chairman of the Nubian Council of Elders.

Despite being custodians of culture, the structure of officials within the council of elders has majorly remained patriarchal even though most of the issues tackled by the elders have a direct effect on the lives of women and children. In fact in most of the communities, the council of elders retain the final word which is respected by the society.

“No matter how elite people are today, many people are still locked up in traditional cocoons in both private and public life and women have helped the council of elders to have wider lenses on gender issues that would have been ignored if men were sitting alone on the table,” says Dorothy Awino, a member of the Supreme Council of Luo Elders. According to a publication on accessing justice and protecting the rights of the vulnerable through cultural structures published by the Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS, often than not, the power of the invisible little aspects of culture determines a woman’s standing in her community and the need for issues to be addressed from a gender perspective.

Numbers According to Awino, who served in the Luo Council of Elders first as a volunteer, the number of women in the Council has been increasing gradually and this has brought sanity to the Council as members are able to objectively make decisions on issues that affect the community. Until 2006, the Luo Supreme Council of Elders had only one woman against 16 men but today out of the 20 members, seven women sit on the executive council. Efforts have also been made to ensure that at the district level; at least one woman sits in the committees. Equally, in the Nubian Council of Elders, there are three women sitting on the administrative committee out of seven men.

Women elders have been the custodians of their culture and established a peaceful co-existence with other tribes that live within the sprawling Kibera slums where a majority of them are to be found. It is the women who carefully pass the culture from one generation to the other. Since the formation of the council, women have been involved in decision making though in subtle ways as most of the elders understand the value that they bring in every process as caregivers and those that look after at the welfare of families.

ince time immemorial traditional council of elders have played an important role in maintaining peace and fostering reconciliation among communities. Notwithstanding the formal legal justice system, the councils of elders from different ethnic groups have in been at the forefront of addressing pertinent issues that affect men and women in the community, especially in the protection of rights of vulnerable groups.

However, with the changing times most communities have been forced to embrace women in the decision making structures and hence benefited much in terms of service delivery and impacting of the many lives in society whose majority are women.

community as a minority tribe that has been marginalised for over 150 years in Kenya.

Like the Luo Council of Elders, most of the Nubian elders are selected based on their repute and respect that they command in the community. According to Abulfaraj, many times the Nubian community is misunderstood by other communities but the community has clearly defined roles for men and women.

Despite the fact that most councils have been constituted to serve different interests according to the needs of the communities, the qualification for becoming a member of the council of elders for both men and women is that one has to have attained the age of 50 years.

Members of the Nubian Community Council of Elders. Three women sit on the administrative committee out of the ten members who form the council. PHOTO: FILE

Since elders are considered to be full of wisdom, the councils do not conduct democratic elections. The officials are handpicked based on their remarkable contribution and reputations in society. This, therefore, explains the calibre of women that sit on the decision making table. For a woman elder to be nominated to the Council of Elders, several factors have to be considered including her reputation in the community. She has to have charisma, be revered by many people and must have a good understanding about the culture. However, most importantly in her own way she must have made substantial contributions to development of the society.

Contribution According to Phoebe Asiyo, who sits in the Supreme Luo Council of Elders, one of the reasons why she became an elder was the immense contribution she made to the community through empowering widows and orphans as well as her exemplary work during her tenure as a member of parliament. She was also readily accepted by the community as her own father was a Ker, which is the highest position in the council of elders. She confides: “The involvement of women in decision making processes within the structure of the Luo council

of Elders has brought a shift in perceptions and beliefs among the male elders especially in the area of discrimination against women.” Asiyo adds: “There is a change with regards to retrogressive practices that impact negatively on the lives of widows and orphans such as the right to land and property ownership.” Asiyo says: “Although the Luo Council of Elders has also had women as members in their council, more women have not been enlightened and a lot has changed since women rose to the positions of decision making and much has been done to restore widows back to their homes after they were chased away following the death of their husbands.” She adds: “The women sitting in the council have supported families and had consultations with male family members to understand issues of inheritance and to support their families.”

There is a change with regards to retrogressive practices that impact negatively on the lives of widows and orphans such as the right to land and property ownership. Phoebe Asiyo, member the Supreme Luo Council of Elders

According to Asiyo, remarkable efforts in various parts of Nyanza have been entirely the work of women sitting in Council of Elders. “For example, women elders in Nyakach have been able to rebuild houses for widows whose homes had been demolished because they refused to be inherited.” Further, through support from donors, they have empowered vulnerable girls in their communities by providing them with bicycles to ride to school and protect them from insecurity.

Custodians In the slums of Kibera, Nubian Council of Elders was officially formed in 2001 to address the interests of the Nubian

“We have on many occasions given women an opportunity to speak and articulate issues themselves on pertinent issues that affect them” says Abulfaraj.

Successes Among their successes as a council especially with women’s contribution is the push for the rights of citizenry as minority. Further, the Nubian children can now access education, health services and women’s empowerment. “In fact it is the women who participated actively in the establishment of a cultural institute that has enhanced their culture and traditions,” says Abulfaraj. According to Khadija Doka, a member of the Nubian Council of Elders and a founder member of the Kibera Women for Peace and Fairness, the women have played their role in working with the elders in addressing issues of violence and insecurity in Kibera and as a result the rate of crime has reduced drastically. “Crime rate in Kibera is relatively low as compared to other urban slums in the city. This has greatly been associated with the Council of Women Elders who emphasise on the need to embrace culture which is live and let live,” says Yusuf Ibrahim, Secretary General of the Nubian Council of Elders. Despite the successes in influencing the council of elders, Asiyo feels there is still need for more to be done in order to change mind-sets as some of the elders tend to stick to the traditional way of thinking and are adamant about change. With the increase in the number of women in leadership, Asiyo hopes that the council of elders will remain alive to changes including the Constitution to see more women come on board.


Special issue of the Kenyan Woman newspaper for International Women's Day 2014

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