Empowering Women Entrepreneurship in Northern Kenya
Published November 25, 2015 by Dorothy Mwangi
28th July 2015, Sharma Sheikh Hotel, Wajir County was the venue where representatives from 15 women groups, representing 450 women, patiently waited to receive their start up grants from the USAID funded Resilience and Economic Growth in arid lands – Improving Resilience in Kenya (REGAL-IR).
The meeting was attended by high level representatives from the County Government, local area chiefs, private sector representatives, and media houses. Each of the 15 Self Help groups received a total of Ksh. 250,000 for individual or group livelihoods diversification projects for engagement in income generating activities for increased resilience of their families, empowering them both socially and economically. A total of Ksh. 3, 750,000 was disbursed to the community.
The concept of Self Help Groups among women in the arid lands is a development model that offers a unique approach to mobilizing the community. For that reason, it has become a key component of REGAL-IR’s grassroots organizing efforts among communities in Wajir County.
From the ‘get-go’ the members are encouraged to start saving, contributing a small amount to the group (e.g. 100 Ksh) each week. Because economic empowerment and improving the incomes and entrepreneur opportunities for the participants is such a key objective, REGAL-IR encourages the groups to invest funds in some form of economic initiative. By adding value to a basic product for example, slaughtering goats and selling meat at the butchery, or opening a tailoring shop or grocery shop – the women will be able to sell their products at higher prices in the local markets, thus earning additional income for their families.
Training is an essential component of the success of Self Help Groups. After the women have received a solid grounding on how to function as a Self Help Group, they also receive training in leadership skills, business planning, production of value-added products, and much more. Other growing societal issues including nutrition, conflict mitigation, are also openly discussed in the group.
Habiba Ali Omar, 49 years told us that one of the biggest benefits for her as a member of a Self Help Groups is that members feel they are part of a close knit family on whom they can rely for support, protection and counseling should they experience personal problems. And for most of these women, the Self Help Group has provided them with an economic activity, enabling them to earn additional income, while developing new skills, knowledge and self-confidence.
This project is made possible through the generous support of the American people through USAID and Feed the Future Initiative (FtF).