When you think of women empowerment, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
According to Sangeeta Chowdhry, senior program director of economic justice, Global Fund for Women, “When I look at the word ‘empowerment,’ I see the word ‘power.’ And so when we speak of ‘women’s empowerment,’ to me it is about changing the systems, institutions, and mindsets that perpetuate patriarchal hierarchies of power and social order.”
More than one third of the world’s adults, most of them women, have no access to printed knowledge, to new skills or to technologies that would improve the quality of their lives and help them shape and adapt to social and economic change and in Africa, more so Kenya, some regions/communities still see the woman as a child-bearer and while there’s nothing wrong with a woman bearing children, that’s not all she is. She is a powerhouse.
And this is exactly what the Women Enterprise Fund is trying to do in Kenya; reminding us that our women are powerhouses that need all the support they can get.
WEF works as a stand-alone to promote access to affordable credit to women entrepreneurs, building the capacity of women entrepreneurs in business management skills & technical skills which they are doing in partnership with Coca-Cola, supporting linkages between women owned enterprises and big corporates for markets and technology transfer among many other things
So when we say women should be empowered, how exactly should she be empowered?
- Educate her
In most regions of the world, women receive less formal education than men, and at the same time, women’s own knowledge, abilities and coping mechanisms often go unrecognized. In a fast changing world like this, you can’t just rely on the education you received 20 years ago; moreover, since women receive less formal education, it is our mandate to expand their knowledge in whatever way we can especially when we have the means to do so.
For WEF and Coca-Cola, WEF is empowering one million women across Kenya through capacity building of women entrepreneurs through the volunteerism concept. The volunteers are based at the constituency level and their roles include recruiting women, training them and monitoring their projects and loan repayments. The training curriculum covers various areas including; Business skills; Market Access and Basic ICT skills.
Through the various collaborations with partners, a total of 1.14 million women have undergone various trainings to empower them socially and economically.
WEF and Coca-Cola Central, East and West Africa Limited (CEWA) announced that a further 285,000 Kenyan women will be empowered in their joint economic empowerment program. Coca-Cola committed Kshs 12.6 million (US$125,000) to support the initiative.
- Help her achieve economic self-reliance
While going through the very many WEF success stories, one of the main benefits that stand out is how the women who have registered as a chama/group with WEF have now become less dependent on their husbands to give them money and have basically moved 100% dependency to sharing family responsibilities and are now able to meet some basic and secondary needs with the surplus income they make from their various projects.
This also includes the fact that these women can receive loans of up to Kshs 2,000,000 as an individual and Kshs 750,000 with no security required and at a NIL INTEREST RATE. The only charges on the servoces being offered are a training fee of Kshs 100 charged for each member of a group and Kshs 200 for a loan tracker booklet for every first loan for every group. Tell me which bank/chama/financial institution is this flexible/lenient when it comes to loans.
These empowered women are not just able to improve their own lives but those of their children and communities at large thus creating a ripple effect of stronger and well-abled communities
- Improve and ensure women’s equal access to the labor market and social security systems
One of the things that impressed me about the partnerships that the Women Enterprise Fund has enabled is with the Kenya Bureau of Standards. They are able to sensitize women on the importance of certification of their businesses and also in subsidizing the cost of certification. This way, women are not sidelined when it comes to the manufacturing/production and sale of their goods and they are also able to produce goods/products in line with the KEBS Diamond Mark of quality. Through the facilitation and supporting of linkages between women owned enterprises and big corporates, we have women who not just look at selling at their markets in the village but also look towards producing goods worthy of the international market.
All these and much more are just some of the ways in which women can be empowered.We still have a long way to go. With more and more women being uplifted, we can definitely expect to see a change in the way communities, companies and economies operate.