Developing social structures to encourage some of the most impoverished, abused and traumatized women to be a part of the Hakuna Matata community
After carrying out various experiments aimed at the empowerment of women, we have now established that helping women through their self-created and organized women’s groups is by far the most effective. In working with the Women’s Groups, we provide interest free micro-finance, allowing the groups to engage in income generating self-help projects. We also offer entrepreneurial skills training to help them establish their own social enterprises.
Karimi Women’s Group
The Karimi Women’s Group started in 1982 with an aim of supporting members who felt need to come together for their well being.
There currently 18 members who are mainly peasant farmers.
Tumaini Women’s Support Group
Tumaini support group was started in the year 2008 and registered officially with social services and gender development government department in 2013 with membership of 36 members and currently 21 members are still active. Among the members 19 of them are people living with the HIV virus and are on care and treatment. They have 3 very aged members who need constant care.
The group is located in Ntirimiti market though membership is drawn from the wider community.
Widows & Widowers CBO
This community empowerment group was founded in 2013 and is based in the arid region between Meru and Isiolo.
The group was started mainly by women and a few men who had lost their spouses, and aims at giving them improved quality of life. This group has 135 members, subdivided into 10 sub units.
Kamathiri Women’s Group
Started in September 2013 with 50 members, they have various self help projects like buying and renting out utensils and cutlery to members of the community for special events and occasions, and help when a member is sick, bereaved or has any other problem. They are planning to keep chickens, start making soap for sale, and loaning money using the table banking procedure.
Wero Women’s Group
Starting in 2010 with 32 members, this group aims to help empower women empower. They have invested in cutlery and utensils for renting, tents, chairs and decorations for weddings and funerals in the community, and now have uniforms to identify themselves.
They are hoping to buy tents next year to rent them for special occasions in the community.
Upendo-Kamuketha Women’s Group
This women’s group was founded in 2009, with a membership of 25 women, aiming at starting self help projects. Some of the activities the group has engaged in are; visiting each other in what they call the merry-go-round, voluntary group savings and loaning money to each other and finally psychosocial support.
The group is based in a very arid region and has faced many challenges;
We have now funded 10 women’s groups, with more than 800 women accessing the micro-finance, and we are still identifying more for support.
Most encouraging are the testimonials we have continued to receive from the groups and individuals regarding how our assistance has helped the women’s groups, individuals and their families!
These women will earn a salary from working on the farm and caring for the crops and livestock. We hope they will eventually become self-sufficient and contribute their life-experience and acquired skills to the benefit of their families and community.
We are exploring the development of a Micro-enterprise Housing Organisation to enable the rent purchase of housing brick by brick for those impacted by poor housing, unstable rents and excessive purchase prices.
Women’s groups are well organised. They have annual elections for leadership posts such as chairperson, treasurer, and secretary.
There are by-laws and constitutions that govern most of these groups, to see to it that members stick to the group’s objectives.
Most women’s groups you see around don’t have offices. They operate and meet in the open or in members’ houses so that they can even learn of the problems affecting colleagues.
We have funded interest free micro-finance to a number of Women’s Groups across Meru and Isiolo, charging no interest, because we refuse to make money off the back of the poor. We are proud to see how effective the Women’s Groups have been at achieving positive change for the individual, community and society. These small scale investments often improve the financial situation of every member that leads to improved health and increased school attendance by their children. Most groups you see around don’t have offices. They operate and meet in the open or in members’ houses so that they can even learn of the problems affecting colleagues.
When they first formed these self-help women’s groups, women faced many obstacles, chief among them objections from husbands. At first, married women could be stopped from attending meetings from husbands who accused them of infidelity. Some dropped out of the associations following mounting pressure at home, but those who continued are now being admired. Ironically, those men who were adamant against their wives joining these groups are enjoying the proceeds from these groups. In some households where men are drunkards, and can’t support the family, it is common to have women assuming the role of breadwinner.
Following outstanding successes, the phenomenon of women’s self-help groups has compelled many women to form associations. It is the order of the day to belong to a women’s group. Weekly contributions and visits are known as merry-go-rounds, as they revolve from one member to another. The bottom line of every group is to have each member live a better life, where she feels loved and cared for, hence pulling many from lives of solitaire anguish and despair.
As the adage goes, sticks tied together are not easily broken
Perhaps this is what Kenyan women have in mind as they form co-operative groups to deal with social and economic problems that particularly engulf their lives.
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