The Sisi Fund – Micro-finance and Empowering Women

Kelly CGA - CopyWe 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 the donors who are willing to fund their businesses. All projects are monitored closely and loan recipients receive frequent advice and assistance with their projects.

Informal Micro-finance 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 tist community with micro-finance loans and training. For a number of reasons we focus especially on widows. 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 where volunteers can be of great assistance:

Katie teachingAdministrative Support: There are hundreds of widows groups in the surrounding villages that we work to support. 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.

Financial 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.

Business 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.

Biointensive Agriculture Trainings:  We have a well-trained and determined team of agriculture experts at CGA. This team often goes out into the community and offersFarming_Kisia with harvesting green pepper 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. The 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 new houses.

 

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