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.
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.