_ Informal microfinance is one of the most powerful tools
being used in the developing world today to empower women. CGA is working hard
to assist the women in its community with microfinance loans and training. For a
number of reasons, we focus especially on widows.
We have recently introduced the SiSi Fund in communities in and around Kitale. Through this fund, individuals submit business plans for their proposed micro-enterprise and we try to connect them with donors who are willing to fund their businesses. All projects are monitored closely and loan recipients receive frequent advice and assistance with their projects. To learn about our entrepreneurs and to assist in funding one, please visit our SiSi Fund page.
Women, particularly widows, continue to be the most marginalized group in
Kenya, largely due to the strong paternalistic practices and cultural attitudes. The girl child is at a disadvantage from the day she is born, a condition that persists well into adulthood. Access to credit from formal lending institutions is one of the critical areas where women find themselves facing
obstacles. Access to loans requires collateral and in Kenya, this collateral is
usually land. When a woman is widowed, she traditionally does not inherit her
husband’s land. Instead, the land, house and all of his possessions are “returned”
to his brothers or other family members. Hereby, widows have no collateral to show the
bank that they are deserving of accessing credit. With no credit, house, land
or possessions, and often no, or minimal, formal education, widows struggle
immensely in Kenya, often inheriting the impossible burden of paying school and
medical fees in addition to feeding their children.
CGA works with a number of widows groups, each with about
30 active members. It is estimated that we have directed assisted over 500
widows with financial, logistical, agricultural and healthcare assistance,
having indirectly impacted thousands of women and children in the community. We
provide an array of services, all free of charge, to the community’s widows
groups. These services include but are not limited to:
Support: There are hundreds of widows groups in the surrounding villages,
about 20 of which we have been able to reach and support thus far. Groups are
comprised of about 30 members and hold bi-weekly meetings at which we offer
administrative support. Groups implement a “merry-go-round” table banking
method whereby, in its basic form, all group members put money into the loan
fund and that money is given out in a lump sum to one of the group members at
each meeting as a loan. The recipient invests the loan into her business and
repays it to the group when she can, usually within a few months. CGA helps
administer these meetings and helps to ensure loans are distributed in a proper
and fair manner.
Assistance: CGA has raised thousands of dollars to assist widows groups.
Through generous donations and funds raised through our volunteers, hundreds of
loans have been handed out to widows groups and their members. Loans are
sometimes given in a group format whereby groups work together to choose a
group project to work on together. A common one is to purchase grains during
the harvest season when prices are low and to store them until the dry season
when prices are high. They then sell the grains making a significant profit
from them and invest the profit in other activities, often poultry or
agriculture projects. Individual members are also sometimes given financial
loans from CGA. We target women who have demonstrated that they are hard-working
and are capable of running successful microenterprises. Some such
microenterprises include bakeries, small market kiosks or sewing shops.
Trainings: CGA is lucky to have a consistent stream of generous and
hard-working volunteers. These volunteers, combined with our local staff, have
provided countless business trainings to widows groups. Trainings cover
whatever aspect of business the women ask for assistance on and range from
bookkeeping and accounting, to management, marketing and economic trainings.
Agriculture Trainings:We have a
well-trained and determined team of agriculture experts at CGA. This team often
goes out into the community and offers Biointensive agriculture trainings to
widows groups. They teach about planting, growing and harvesting methods and
demonstrate proper Biointensive techniques that can be used to significantly increase
crop yields. We also support the widows groups with seed money so that they can
successfully start up their own gardens. The gardens are used not only to
produce income but also to sustain their family by providing essential food and
nutrients. They are trained on which crops have the most potential to be
profitable and on which crops are the healthiest and most nutritious to grow
for their families. A combination of subsistence farming and for-profit farming
are often recommended for the women.
Health and Hygiene
Education: CGA’s volunteers and employees often visit widows groups to
provide health and hygiene education. Many of the group members lack a formal
education and have never learned basic health information. They are instructed
on everything from the importance of clean drinking water, how to care for
dehydrated babies, when their children’s illnesses are medical emergencies, and
other basic health practices.
Through this initiative, lives are being transformed, basic needs met and dignity restored. Hundreds of widows we have worked with are now able to
properly feed their children, send them to school and treat their medical
ailments when needed. Some have been able to purchase livestock and even build