International Women’s Day: transforming women’s lives in Kenya

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March 8, 2021

Today is International Women’s Day – a day when we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

This year, Bishop’s Appeal is partnering with Five Talents, the Anglican Communion’s microfinance charity, to support communities in our Liaison Diocese of Marsabit in northern Kenya. Over the next year, the call will empower the women of Marsabit as they continue to challenge prevailing gender norms by training and equipping local people with savings, literacy, numeracy and savings plans. business skills to enable them to live more abundant lives.

Did you know that 80% of those Five Talent reaches with their transformative work in East Africa are women?

Thanks to the work of education and savings groups, 73% of women members are now able to cope with emergencies and 97% of members said they can afford three meals a day.

The stories below illustrate how these local training and savings programs are transforming the lives of women in Kenya.

Please celebrate International Women’s Day with us by donate to the bishop’s call to empower more women.

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How local savings groups are transforming women’s lives

It is one of the gatherings of a savings group in East Africa. Meetings are usually held outside under a tree or in the local church. Often, groups open meetings with a song, a prayer or a reading from the Bible – each group decides together! This group began with the president reading a passage from the Bible in the local language.

Then the local trainers discuss the lesson for the day with the group. This will vary depending on each group we work with and their level of advancement in the study program. Some days business training may be given on product diversification, while other days groups may learn to budget and save or practice literacy and arithmetic.

In Marsabit, only 26% of women are literate. Women rely on men in their communities for the simpler things like shopping and paying for school fees. Unfortunately, many men spend long periods grazing livestock and earning income. Women left behind are suffering.

These savings groups provide access to education, basic skills and possibly a cohort of other like-minded women in their community with whom they can borrow, save and share with them.

Group members participate in the lesson using a chalkboard and workbooks. The trainers guide them through the lesson. Sometimes they’ll make problem trees, recite the alphabet, or even learn to hold a pencil!

Once the lesson is over, it’s time to start saving and borrowing. Each member will bring their monthly savings contribution to the group’s management, who will record it in their passbook. Each member has their own passbook to record their total savings, loans and repayments. The group treasurer and secretary count and confirm the amount and (if necessary) our local trainers will also help the group members in this process.

As savings are recorded, members with loans will also make repayments. Then the group turns to issuing new loans. This always happens in front of the group so that all members are aware and each member with a loan can be held accountable. The group decides together who gets a loan and what happens if a member cannot repay.

Most groups also have an “emergency fund”: at each meeting, members contribute a small amount that can be used to provide grants or emergency loans to any member facing a sudden crisis, such as than a hospital bill. Some groups are also extending this support to those in need in the wider community. Any fines imposed by the group (for example for arriving late to the meeting) often also go into the emergency fund, or are sometimes used to buy sodas or other goodies at Christmas or when guests are in. visit.

In very rural areas, where there is no bank at hand, all the money collected is put in a safe with the passbooks. The box has three padlocks and three members each bring a key while a fourth keeps the box. The box is not reopened until the next meeting. But if there is a bank, bank agent, or mobile money agent nearby, two group members will go together to deposit the funds into the group’s bank account.

For some groups, a secure bank van collects the money so that our trainers and group leaders do not have to carry the money themselves, reducing the risk of damage, such as theft.

Once the savings and loans have been accounted for, the group will discuss any other issues – the group provides a safe place for members to talk about business ideas, home issues, or just to have camaraderie. Our members always say how much they appreciate this united aspect of the group. When the group is done, it often concludes with a song.

You can see the immense impact of social support, training and financial services on an entire community!

Carole’s story

Carol is the secretary of a savings group in her village in Kenya. She received the Group’s largest loan, worth Ksh400,000 (£ 2,700). Carol decided to use the loan to build a kindergarten in her community. The school was opened in January 2018 and has 43 students and employs 10 staff from the local community. Carol was delighted to share her school with us; she is incredibly grateful. Without the support of her savings group and the training she received through our program, Carol would not have been able to build the school and help the community.

Carol told our team that she hopes Five Talents continues to grow and serve others in her community. In the future, she would like to take out a loan to expand the primary kindergarten (and even secondary one day!) The school is covered in bright colorsyours, and beams with joy from the students and staff, although there are heavy and secure doors around the outside. Microfinance made school possible, but Carol’s brilliant idea and creative eye make the school a beacon for the community.

This blog post was written by Five Talents Creative Communications and Events Manager Megan Henderson with photos taken by Jean Bizimana of Take pictures, change lives.

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