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World Bank’s Sh.80 million grant changes women’s fortunes in Kitui County

The  World  Bank’s  seed capital of Sh.80 million is turning around the livelihoods of women engaged in poultry and agribusiness rural economies in Kitui County.

The  seed capital that was injected through Equity Bank Kitui Branch in 2017 has seen over 700 women and 33 women groups benefit directly from loans of up to Sh.69 million for the last two years to boost their business ventures.

According to a World Bank report of 2017, women economic empowerment is about women being confident about themselves, to be able to earn an income and manage their own finances.

The report indicates that through the guarantee fund, women are able to build their financial security and increase their influence over the household budget.

“It is about women claiming and holding the power to make their own decisions, how to save and spend their money,” says Mwende Muthui, a beneficiary of the seed capital.

Mwende says women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion has been recognised as key to achieving the vision 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development.

However, she laments that women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion remains largely an unfinished business, with Kenya not having achieved gender equality and women still being more likely than men to live in poverty.

“I applied for several loans that have amounted to Sh.660, 000 from the Bank to start my poultry farming enterprise. It is thriving and I can afford to cater for the needs of my family,’ said Mwende.

Simialr sentiments were echoed by Josephine Kitheka during a sensitisation workshop on access to affordable financial credit for rural women farmers held in Kitui on Wednesday.

Kitheka noted that women are more likely to be unemployed than men and many women than men work in vulnerable, low-paid, or undervalued jobs.

“Women empowerment is critical to power rural economies across the country. This funding has turned round the fortunes of women who can afford decent meals for their families during the drought season,” she said.

Kitheka, who hails from Mulango Ward, has a poultry farm and a motorcycle she uses to ferry her chicken to the market.

Commenting on patriarchy, she said that these factors combined with discrimination against women in financial markets mean that women are far less likely than men to have checking or savings accounts in their own names.

The  Grassroots Organisations Operating in Sisterhoods (GROOTS) in partnership with the World Bank said that the seed capital is the first of its kind under the World Bank managed trust fund.

The  GROOTS Executive Director, Fridah Githuku, speaking during the sensitisation workshop, said the overall aim is to contribute to women’s economic empowerment and improved livelihoods through enhanced agricultural production and access to markets.

“The underlying rationale is to equip women with relevant knowledge and skills as well as enhance their leadership and organisational capabilities,” said Githuku.

The  Executive Director said that this will enable vulnerable rural women become drivers of their own social and economic transformation in Nakuru and Kitui Counties with a focus on the dairy, horticulture and indigenous chicken value chain.

“Enabling women’s economic empowerment is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do for women to fulfil their human rights and access equal opportunities than men,” said Githuku.

The CEO said that she is determined to enhance financial inclusion of grassroots women by providing opportunities for access to finances though credit to expand their businesses and contribute effectively to sustained economic growth and development.

By  Yobesh  Onwong’a

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