45-year-old Jane Wangechi Ngoge, has revolutionised her life, from being the down trodden woman who lived from hand to mouth, to a successful entrepreneur, striving so hard to break the glass ceiling of agribusiness in the capital city of Nairobi.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, the mother of 3 was having marital challenges with her partner. His meagre income as a mason could not sustain the family comfortably. She started selling samosas by the roadside in her neighbourhood in Kayole, however this was short-lived.
“During lockdown and restriction of movement in the country, my world came crumbling down. My husband left. I had to start doing menial jobs to support my children and I. The jobs were also not easy to come by,” Narrates Wangechi, as she recounts the challenges she went through to ensure she provides basic needs for her children.
It was during her low moment that she was listening to a radio show where CREAW’s toll free number 0800 720 186 was shared for anyone who needed psychosocial support. Luckily for her, she was interrogated and put under the 3 months’ cash transfer program, which sought to cushion families from the adverse effects of COVID-19.
“When I got the first cash transfer of Kes 7,000, I started selling fruits around my neighbourhood. I joined a chama where I was saving Kes 300 every 2 weeks. When I got the second and third instalments, I opened a shop coupled with an M-Pesa agency,” Says Wangechi as she chuckles.
That was never the end for her. Wangechi was among beneficiaries who went through business development training, where women were taught on how to budget, do record keeping as well as finding market for their products.
“Access to information and business skills remain a major challenge to women survivors of GBV. Providing training on financial literacy and life-skills is crucial for efficient use of financial services and products. With the right training, they are able to revive their businesses, acquire productive assets and save for their future plans,” Confirms Moses Okello, the Women Economic Empowerment Lead at CREAW, who has been supporting women under the program rebuild their life post-COVID-19.
With the introduction of Jasiri Fund, the first of its kind financial inclusion program for survivors of gender based violence to access affordable loans, Wangechi took a loan of Kes 90,000, which she used to restock her business as well as hired a motorbike operator who has been supporting her in delivery of goods as well as transportation.
“From the money I had saved in the Chama, I got a dairy cow which delivered recently. I milk 13 litres of milk daily and I sell a litre of fresh milk around my neighbourhood at Kes 70. I also added some chicken, two goats and two pigs.’’
Through the business training she underwent, Wachechi has mastered the art of creating several flows of income. From the milk she sells, she makes roughly Kes 910 daily, whereas the shop has become her other economic backbone. In a good week, she fetches Kes 3600 in profits.
“I am now comfortably supporting my children. My firstborn son joined university recently. I am happy to say that my life feels like a dream come true. I never thought that I could one day run
successful businesses as well as comfortably take care of my family single handedly,” Smiles Wangechi.
She has been comfortably doing her monthly loan repayments of Kes 8,000 per month and looks forward to taking up another loan to help her purchase a piece of land where she will fully venture into agribusiness. From doing menial jobs to now being an employer of 3 staff looking up to her, Wangechi now exemplifies the face of resilience and what a woman can do when economically empowered.
When COVID-19 pandemic pocked its scary nose in Kenya, food insecurity, sexual and gender-based-violence and job losses, were some of the news making headlines in the local dailies. As many were obsessed with casting their nets on the effects of the pandemic, CREAW through its partners was delving deep into the murky waters to find a solution for more than 5,000 survivors of gender based violence.
To dignify and empower women economically, Cash transfer was part of the solutions as it had the potential to help vulnerable households stay off starvation, reduce the vulnerability of survivors and those at risk of sexual and gender-based violence.
Mary Bandi from Kayole in Nairobi was one such woman. She had lost her hotel job and was now doing laundry work that could barely meet the needs of her family. On the side, she had an outstanding mortgage loan that needed to be cleared.
“My husband and I had separated long before the pandemic. As the sole provider for my two children and I, the heat was too much. I even developed blood pressure due to the economic stress I was going through,” Says Mary.
With the cash transfer she received totalling to Kes 21,000, Mary started selling crisps by the roadside outside her house. Little by little, she got orders from mini-markets around Kayole, where she supplied in bulk.
In her own words, she got a second chance at life. Mary was invited for a business development training organised by CREAW, to help beneficiaries of cash transfer program work on their business skills even as they rebuild their lives.
“What stood out for me was stock taking, saving and investing. I realised from the money I got, little went into saving. That is when I started saving little by little to help me complete my house mortgage. In a few months’ time I will be through with the balance,” Proudly states Mary, casting her eyes around her house.
Thanks to the introduction of Jasiri Fund immediately after the business development training, Mary saw an opportunity to grow her crisps business as well as diversify into the fashion industry.
“I took a loan of KES 50,000. I spent KES 30,000 for buying 3 bales of handbags. From each bale I was able to make a profit of KES 40,200. This enabled me repay my loan in 3 months,” States Mary as she was taking us through her record book.
“Investing in women owned enterprises promotes economic development among women survivors of GBV. However, mainstreaming of GBV support services into the financial inclusion program is key to reducing women’s risk of experiencing violence as well as strengthening equal access to economic resources that enhances women’s empowerment.” Confirms Moses Okello, the Women Economic Empowerment Lead at CREAW, who has been supporting women under the program rebuild their life post-COVID-19.
By the time we were leaving her home, Mary had already gotten second approval for a loan of KES 65,000. She wants to use it in expanding her handbags business as well as find another branch for the same.
With support from Mastercard Foundation, through the Response, Recovery and Resilience Project in partnership with GROOTS and The Collaborative Centre for Gender and Development: CCGD, CREAW has been providing women like Mary with affordable financial services through Jasiri Fund. The fund is available in ten counties, that has enabled 1000 entrepreneurial women to access start-up capital to invest and expand their businesses.
Down the alleys of Leisha neighbourhood in Mombasa county, one of Kenya’s capital city, is where Evelyne Adhiambo Ngoto has set up her water vending business. The industrious 26 year old mother of one, is busy packaging the water into smaller cans for vendors who will collect them later.
Her working area is a beehive of activities. She has just gotten 7,000 liters of water from her supplier and she has to get down to business and ensure all her clients get some water before she closes shop. She is happy to have chosen the best business venture, since Mombasa county is always marred with water shortages making many households depend on her services to access clean water for house hold use.
“ I am always here by 8am after I have dropped my son to school. Most food vendors here are my clients so I have to get here in good time for their sake,” Says Evelyne.
Behind her enthusiastic baritone voice, is a woman who has battled many forces to secure her sanity and peace of mind. The Covid19 pandemic struck at a time when her business was struggling, worse still, she was not in talking terms with the father of her son. They had gone their separate ways.
“I was worried about my son, since I was not in a position to financially cater for his needs. The father was in a position to support the boy but I didn’t think it was his obligation to do so,” Chuckles Evelyne as she explains the steps she took towards finding a solution to her predicament.
The emotional burden weighed her down to the point of seeking counseling to help her cope with the drastic changes in her life. Through CREAW’s toll free line of 0800 720 186, she was able to access a counsellor and went through counselling. However, it was also brought to her attention that the she needed support with the son, hence the boy’s father needed to chip in to support him. A legal officer was assigned to her case to help summon the father of her child for mediation in order to come to agreements of how best they can co-parent.
“He agreed to pay for his education and health expenses. I felt a heavy burden lifted from my chest because I could now focus on reviving the business, which would help cater for our other basic needs like food, shelter and clothing,” Confirms Evelyne.
Like a stroke of luck had fallen on her side, Evelyne was among women who were supported through cash transfer amid the pandemic, to help cushion them from the adverse effects of COVID-19 on business. She was able to buy another 7,000 Liter tank of water and diversified her fresh water vending business.
“I have a bigger space at my shop, I wish to start selling fish and a grocery stall at the side to maximize on capital and the rent am also paying,” Insinuates Evelyne, as she looks to applying for Jasiri Fund, to allow her expand her business.
According to Evelyne, her water and Ice business depends on weather patterns and that on a dry season she makes a combine income of between Ksh 1500 and Ksh 2000, while on a rainy season she makes an average income of Ksh 800.00. She uses the profit to meet her basics needs and that of her son.
While government initiatives encourage enterprise development, most respondents, who participated in a study by the International Centre for Research on Women and Kenya Association of Manufacturers in 2020, reported difficulties in accessing those funds. Instances of sexual exploitation in exchange for credit facilities and compliance clearances were mentioned.
At the moment Evelyne has managed to pick up the pieces of her life and started living by herself, away from her mother whom she lived with when things fell apart. Her clarion call to women facing violence or any form of abuse: Stand up for yourself, there are others fighting for you, don’t let their efforts go in vain.
Kadzo Samuel Kaingu is definitely a woman without limits. She epitomizes resilience, as her never giving up spirit is show cased through her carpentry business. A venture that is less trodden by women, especially for a middle aged woman who is a mother
As the world was trying to come to terms with the ravaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kadzo was equally struggling to put her life back to order. Her carpentry workshop in Naeni location in Kilifi county, one of the 6 coastal counties of Kenya, had been vandalized. All her investment and hard earned money was taken away by the robbers.
“I was left stranded with nothing to cater for my needs and that of my children. At that time, three of them were in secondary school so I urgently needed their school fees,” Says Kadzo.
With no one else to look up to, Kadzo started doing menial jobs like laundry work as well as working in construction sites. Her woes in search of a stable job continued, until she was identified by a community champion, who recommended her for business development training, that CREAW was conducting for women led businesses in Kilifi County, with support from Mastercard Foundation.
“Through the training, I came to learn a lot of mistakes I was making in my previous business. I never had a record of inventory, I was also poor in budgeting hence I could not account for the sales I would make. I was more eager to start on a clean slate,” She adamantly agrees.
From the training, Kadzo was among the women that were selected for a cash support of Ksh 15,000 (USD 150). She took care of her immediate home needs and reinvested the remaining Ksh 10,000 in her business.
“I got a workshop near Kiwandani Prison and bought materials needed to run the workshop. I am grateful that now I can comfortably account for whatever I make. I have a record of things sold like beds, tables and even doors, which are mostly preferred by people who are building homes around here,” Smiles Kadzo.
According to a 2020 study by the International Centre for Research on Women and Kenya Association of Manufacturers, raising start-up capital is one of the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs in Kenya’s key manufacturing sector, with banks requiring collateral that most of them do not have.
However, CREAW with support from Mastercard Foundation was able to fill this gap by providing women like Kadzo with affordable financial services. Jasiri Loan Fund is available in three counties of Mombasa, Kilifi and Nairobi which has enabled entrepreneurial women to access start-up capital to invest and expand their businesses.
The joy and gladness on Kadzos face is a reflection of what women economic empowerment can do, to uplift businesses as well as improve livelihoods especially in women led homes, where majority are the drivers of the small scale economy in Kenya.