A KENYAN SIDE EVENT DURING THE 55TH SESSION OF CSW IN NEW YORK 0N 25TH FEBRUARY, 2011.
BY S.T. WAINAINA, CEO WOMEN ENTERPRISE FUND
Women Enterprise Fund( herein after WEF) is a government agency established in August,2007
Rationale: why women?
they constitute over 50% of population yet their contribution to GDP is not fully recognized
37.5% of adult females do not have bank accounts(2006)
They face more serious challenges in accessing credit and other financial services
Realization that sustainable peace, stability, equitable human development & progress cannot be achieved with women at the periphery
International commitment-3rd MDG on WE & GE
Mission and Vision
Mission- "to mobilize resources and offer access to affordable credit and business support services to women entrepreneurs"
Vision - " to socially and economically empower women entrepreneurs for economic development"
WEF provides holistic solutions to challenges women face in starting or expanding their enterprises, viz: capital, low financial literacy, access to markets, decent work spaces and linkages with big enterprises. The legal mandate is to solve these challenges
Government has allocated USD 26.2M since inception
interest and collateral free loans to women in registered groups. Loan size USD 625 to USD 2500.0 Repayment rates up to 98%
Subsidized loans at 8% p.a. on reducing balance to individuals through competitively selected no. 74 MFIs. Loan size USD 6200 to 25,000.0. Interest repayment by MFIs 100%
Loans amounting to USD 14.3M have benefited over 221,961 as at January, 2011
CHANNELS OF LOAN DISBURSEMENTS
Channels of Loan Disbursement
economically active Kenyan women aged 18 years and above-As individuals, groups or women owned companies
Both start ups and growth oriented enterprises –micro, small and medium
No discrimination-clients include women living with HIV/AIDs, persons with disabilities, single women, widows, etc
All legitimate enterprises in all sectors funded
According to an Impact assessment report by National Commission on Gender and Development, dated March 2010, the Fund has had the following positive impact:
improved access to credit
Entrepreneurial skills development
Enhanced household incomes and expenditures
Business sales gone up
Increase in household savings
Access to markets
Better/decent jobs for self/women owners and others
221,961 client borrowers across the country
3,746 women entrepreneurs trained in business skills
USD 14.3M loans disbursed
98% loan repayment by registered women groups
WEF the only institution with women borrowers from the 210 parliamentary electoral units-ensuring equality in access to resources
Recruitment of nos.74 financial intermediary partners as retailers of funds
Work-in-progress-use of mobile phones for loan repayments, procurement of weather-indexed insurance for borrowers in agriculture, enabling women sell their products using WEF website free
LESSONS: BEST PRACTICES
Women entrepreneurs need more than credit to succeed, i.e. a wholesome package
Equity in access & national outreach can be achieved through program design. For example, through community mobilization, equitable allocation of loan funds per electoral unit
Most useful "collateral" that every woman owns and has total control over is her CHARACTER/TRUSTWORTHINESS
use of mobile phones to reduce transactions costs and deepen outreach/financial inclusion
Women are forming own rural savings and credit organizations( SACCOs) to access wholesale funds as WEF partners ( instead of complaining about banks' conduct-real empowerment/taking charge)
Use of young community based volunteers and gender officers to carry out free capacity building in rural setup-not urban workshops/seminars
Public-public-private partnerships to scale up operations
subsidized government lending/empowerment programs can succeed with political will at all levels, community involvement, professional management and proper targeting
Breach of banking "confidentiality rules" where loan cheques are issued to women groups at public meetings or "barazas" promotes public accountability and hence loan repayment
The WEF has been successful in promoting WE & GE because unlike the traditional MFIs that just give loans at very high rates( blamed of robbing the poor!) it provides a total package of business support services to her clients.
economically empowered women provide better education for their daughters, friendlier/ cleaner home environment, better nutrition and health care. Such girls are able to break the vicious circle of poverty in their families and become better mothers
Governments should not be apologetic when they intervene in the market place to address historical/cultural injustices/inequities like marginalization of women.
Economic empowerment of women is the most important enabler of other empowerments. It gives women voices/broaden their choices/dignity and confidence to claim their space in the society.
Innovative use of ICT-mobile phone technology very effective in promoting financial inclusion.
WEF lives its motto: - "Empower a Woman: Empower a Family: Empower a Nation."