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SPEECH BY HON. DR. NAOMI SHABAN, EGH, MP., MINISTER FOR GENDER, CHILDREN AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, DURING THE INAUGURATION OF THE WOMEN ENTERPRISE FUND( WEF) ADVISORY BOARD ON 9TH FEBRUARY 2011, AT NSSF BUILDING, 5TH FLOOR BOARD ROOM, AT 9.00AM
Mrs. Ann Mutahi, the in-coming Chairperson of Women Enterprise Fund
The newly appointed Members of the Women Enterprise Fund Advisory Board
Mr. Wanaina, Chief Executive Officer of Women Enterprise Fund
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me start by wishing you all a happy New Year and to congratulate the newly appointed members of the Women Enterprise Fund Advisory Board.

It is my desire that you will take up your assignments with great enthusiasm to drive the agenda of women economic empowerment and the promotion of gender equality among others.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I proceed further, I want to note with appreciation the good work done by the pioneer Board in the last three years. The Board laid down a firm foundation for a robust institution that will effectively serve women entrepreneurs in the country.

In respective to the above, allow me to mention some of the key milestones attributed to the board, they include:-

A functional secretariat with twenty seven (27) highly qualified and experienced staff who are supported by fifty five (55) volunteers in fifty five (55) constituencies
A three year Strategic Plan 2009-2013 to guide the Fund's operations and disbursement of loans amounting to Kshs. 1.143 billion. The Fund has so far disbursed loans to over two hundred and twenty two thousand, six hundred and ninety one (221,691) individual women entrepreneurs using the two distribution channels namely, constituency women enterprise scheme and financial intermediaries
Training of three thousand, seven hundred and forty six (3,746) women in business skills including record keeping
Automation of processes and creation of general awareness about the Fund's existence and mondus operandi is ongoing. The new board is expected to build on these achievements and deliver even better results.


Distinguished Guests

In regard to the foregoing figures, I can tell you that the Fund has just embarked on enormous task in as far as addressing the challenges women face in venturing or boosting their enterprises. These challenges are very familiar to all of us, namely, cultural barriers, fear of loans, low financial literacy, lack of collateral, high cost of credit, long distances to access financial service providers, lack of market information, language barrier and stringent requirements by lenders.

In light of the above, your mandates as a Fund is to put in place mechanisms that will provide a holistic solution to the above mentioned challenges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You are aware that the Fund is a flagship project under the Social Pillar in the Vision 2030. This underscores our government's commitment to the realization of the 3rd Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) on Women Empowerment and Gender Equality.

I am aware that the Fund relies totally on the Treasury for budgetary support for her operations. This arrangement is acceptable during the formative stages of an institution; however, it is not sustainable in the long run. It is therefore imperative that the board devises innovative fundraising mechanisms, including public-private partnerships and launching innovative and affordable market led products and services to generate sustainable income streams.

Distinguished Guests

As you settle down to implement the goals set in your Strategic Plan for 2009-2013, I would like you to critically look at the following challenges:-

Public awareness; though the Fund is three (3) years old, many women, especially those in the rural areas are not aware of its existence.
Politics; there is a misconception about the Fund's rationale, with some thinking that it is a political Fund. The Fund should be insulated from politics for sustainability.
Costs of accessing the loans and repayments; women are traveling long distances to access information and the mediums of loan disbursement.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In addition, other challenges that should also be addressed include:-

Complaints of stringent conditions by some of Financial Intermediary Partners have been received; the onus is thus on you as a Board to approach these institutions to relax these conditions to facilitate access to the Fund.
Drought and insecurity: - majority of women beneficiaries are in the rural areas, they engage in subsistence agricultural related activities. It is paramount that you seek ways to improve their farm outputs in a bid to increase their yield; this will go along way in promoting food security and hence improve their livelihoods.
Legal capacity, the Fund is a Semi Autonomous Government Agency; this limits its operational effectiveness. A draft Bill to transform it into a state corporation is still with the Attorney General, once it is cleared, I will table it in Parliament for debate.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to reaffirm my personal support and that of my ministry to ensure that the Fund succeeds in executing its core mandates. This board that I am inaugurating today is expected to provide visionary leadership and support to the management. You are expected to mobilize like-minded stakeholders to support your course. With determination, commitment and smart work, we should be able to economically empower Kenyan women, who constitute more than fifty percent of our population.

As I conclude my remarks, Ladies and Gentlemen, let us live the Fund's motto, "You empower a woman; you empower a family; you empower a whole nation".

With these remarks, I wish to declare the Women Enterprise Fund Advisory Board officially inaugurated. May I also take this opportunity to wish you success in your endeavor as we all strive to put a smile on the faces of the women of Kenya through economic empowerment.

Thank you

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