By Mary Kiguru who leads the Sujali women
In June 2018, Sujali will be celebrating its 6th birthday. The organisation has come a long way from its beginnings with 3 women entrepreneurs and a small sum of £500 (KES66,000). A number of the women are growing their businesses, some quite dramatically.
Grace, for example, is continuing to grow her hotel (café) business. You may remember that she was making room for a shop and was already selling charcoal. Now that she has paid off her large loan of KES100,000 (about £800), she now wants to borrow more! She would like to invest in the motorbike business. She has already bought one (see photo). This is a thriving business in Kenya (and elsewhere in Africa where cheap Chinese bikes make self-employment as a courier or motorcycle taxi is attractive … and yes, dangerous). With so many people starting up their hotels around her, she now takes food to construction sites – breakfast and lunch to keep herself ahead of the others. She paid off her loan in less than a year. She now has her daughter-in-law working with her. As usual, such enterprises create employment for family members and others.
Alice, or ‘Chicken Alice’ as Mary calls her has also completed a loan of similar amount and ahs now borrowed KES200,000 (£1,600)) and is putting up her chicken house. She has actually bought a farm where she wants to invest in chicken farming. She built a two-storey building in her compound for the chickens but this was not enough. Alice was one of the first women and she has been an amazing performer.
Jane has diversified her banana business by starting a ‘hotel’ and runs a second-hand shop alongside this. She also does counselling and uses the food outlet to reach out to the community.
A new innovation is that this all-women group has been joined by a man. Kitonga owns a hardware shop (see photos below) alongside Elizabeth’s hairdressers shop (see photo) and needed an emergency loan. His hardware shop is well-stocked and he is proud to be a member of the group. The strength of the community is such that they all know each other and there is a lot of social pressure that helps.
It is interesting to note that since the women started saving, they have saved well over KES120,000 which is about £1,000 between them. This is beneficial in two ways: firstly, it helps them with the concept of savings and having reserves; secondly, it means that there is more money in the pot to share out in loans. The capital KES350,000 + the savings + the interest all mean that the gift just keeps on giving and each time is able to increase the impact on the lives and businesses of the women. The strength of the community is such that they all know each other and there is a lot of social pressure that helps.