Empowering Women Through Micro-Finance
By: Laura Barrantes, REACH Executive Director
The Maayi Agiri women’s micro-finance group has 70 members and meets weekly on Tuesdays at Arlington Junior School.
As part of my visit, I had the opportunity to stop in on their weekly meeting and chat with women in the group.
These women are weaving baskets, running restaurants and shops, growing extra vegetables to sell and more to help provide for their families and send their children to school. The group requires that members save at least 2,000 shillings a week (about 60 cents). Each woman’s contributions are tracked in her passbook and the group has a savings account at a local bank. Members apply for loans and if approved, make payments every two weeks with 10% interest. These women have used the loans to purchase additional basket making supplies, fertilizer to grow vegetables, and stock for their shop or restaurant to help keep their business running smoothly.
When I asked why they were members of the group and how they believed the group helped them, the first person to put a hand up was a man! Jessica, the group coordinator, said that when men come (on behalf of their wives to make the weekly required deposit), “we call them women! When they are here, he is ‘she’.” This wise husband introduced himself using his wife’s name and said that he has benefitted from the group as a man because with her business and saving skills, his wife is able to contribute to the home.
Margaret Masifa, grandmother to one our third grade students and owner of a secondhand clothing shop, said there were benefits to the group beyond the savings and the loans. She described how she shares problems with the group and others do too and together they work out solutions. “We are problem-solvers!”
Another member, Loyce Wekoye who runs a tailor shop and a restaurant, spoke about how she was able to use the small profit to pay the school fees for her children and “buy them a pen and a book while the men were out in the forest.”
It was great to see these women leaning on each other for both moral and financial support and feeling so empowered by their accomplishments.