By Robert Manyara NAKURU (Xinhua) --
Women from historically marginalized indigenous
communities in Kenya have embraced an innovative savings scheme
that has enabled them to break the yoke of poverty worsened by
retrogressive cultural practices and illiteracy.
Emily Kirui, a
single mother of one from the Ogiek community that resides in
dense forests in the Rift Valley region, endured the agony of
poverty and landlessness before the savings scheme came to her
salvation four years ago.
She is currently the
chairperson of Matumaini Young Women Group, which was formed by
14 women from the Ogiek community in the Mariashoni area of
Nakuru County in the Rift Valley region.
“We started the
group out of sheer need to empower ourselves, having gone
through a lot of suffering,” Kirui told Xinhua during a recent
“We were basically
surviving on wages from farm work in neighboring potato and
maize plantations since we have no land of our own,” she added.
Kirui noted that
back in the day, menial jobs were the only ones available for
women owing to the fact they lacked proper education to secure
formal and secure employment.
empowerment group has changed our lives. We have managed to
secure loans from Youth Development Fund and Women Enterprise
Fund, which we invested in Irish potato and maize farming. Our
savings have overtime increased and the members are now able to
meet their needs without working in other peoples’ farms,” said
Her group members
practice so-called table banking that enhances savings and
allows them to request for loans with minimal interest rates.
The group’s sterling
performance in table banking qualified it for a loan from the
state-administered women and youth funds.
efforts to eradicate abject poverty among women from indigenous
communities won accolades from the United Nations.
In 2014, the Youth
Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) granted each member of the
the group a 100 U.S. dollar loan for them to pay for rental fees
of an acre of land each to grow Irish potatoes and maize for
sale to nearby markets.
“Those who planted
Irish potatoes harvested an average of 28 bags while those who
planted maize harvested an average of 18 bags. The prices for
both crops ranged from 15 dollars to 10 dollars,” said Kirui.
She added that
besides managing to repay the loan, each member boosted her
savings, thereby strengthening the group’s revenue base.
“No member is
worried now about school fees for their children or capital to
start a business,” Kirui told Xinhua.
“I am excited now
since I can comfortably meet the needs of my 14-year-old
daughter,” she added.
The women and girls
from indigenous communities are vulnerable to harmful cultural
practices such as female genital cut and early marriages.
financial empowerment has cushioned them from the snares of
outdated cultural practices that often confine them to the
“When poverty is
rampant, girls are pushed into early marriages, but the case is
different when mothers are able to support them financially,”
However, the Ogiek
women are still challenged with inaccessibility to information
on how to benefit from government-run funds which they can tap
into and start a profitable venture.
“Many of the Ogiek
women are not aware of the existence of Uwezo Fund or Women
Enterprise Fund. There is a lot of work to be done to educate
them on how to form groups and benefit from these funds,” said
According to Lucy
Mulenkei, executive director of the Indigenous Information
Network (IIN), women from indigenous tribes are key players in
Kenya’s economy, hence the need to implement initiatives aimed
at empowering them.
Mulenkei said women
from marginalized communities should be encouraged to form
groups through which they can empower themselves financially and
free themselves from poverty.
“Savings schemes are
crucial to assisting women empower themselves socially and
economically. The benefits can also be felt by girls as women
are empowered to support their needs,” said Mulenkei.
“For example, an
empowered woman can help a girl overcome her difficulties in
accessing sanitary products. This way she will have enabled her
to go to school instead of dropping off,” she added.
The women-led savings schemes have advanced gender parity in
Kenya in line with the country’s Vision 2030 blueprint on