Sujali: Post Covid – How has it been for this Self Help Group?

By | August 21, 2023

This blogpost has been written by Mary Kiguru who has co-ordinated the project from the outset. Sujali is a micro-finance project aimed at women entrepreneurs but which has allowed several men to join the group. All are located in the Ruai area of Nairobi. Sujali began with a small investment of £500 (KES66000). Further investments have allowed Sujali to grow and learn and it is a tribute to Mary and the women that it continues to flourish. Sujali is now 11 years old.

Sujali continues to be a transformative space for 10 and two men. It provides small but very substantial financial access to this group of people. Post-Pandemic has not been easy and there is always the fear that they might not pay. I have not expected them to pay at the rate required but they pay what they are able to afford. This has created trust. A few women have, however, not kept up as they have struggled with balancing between family needs and business. This is one of the issues that Sujali will address.

Kenya has become a very tough environment not only for the employed but particularly for the self-employed. Heavy taxation marks 2023. The informal businesses are required to pay for a license, on a daily basis, to operate. Many times, they sell zero but to still pay for this license. The women survive better under hard circumstances and remain more faithful to the payment plan and supporting each other.

Here is an overview of each of the women who have demonstrated that they are survivors and show resilience.

Grace, who ran a food kiosk, lost her husband and son in 2021 and 2022. This was devastating for her, but she did not quit. She closed the food kiosk and starting taking food to the construction workers. She put an old truck that her husband owned back into business. She rented the truck to Telkom Kenya for their promotion. She also started a hair salon for her daughter-in law. She is also sells clothes. She has survived, she is resilient. In addition, she still runs her motor cycle business. All in all, Grace is managing three businesses to survive. She borrowed KES200,000 (@£1,500) in 2022 to put the old truck back on the road and to start the hair salon for her daughter in law. That’s a lot of money in Kenyan terms for that community.

Alice, our well known ‘chicken lady’, is thriving. She moved from her ¼ acre of land where she started her 2000-chicken operation to a 1.5 acre farm where she is now rearing pigs and the chickens. Her animal feeds shop is also thriving. Her husband left his job and is now a full-time partner in the family business. What started as a simple engagement for Alice has become her daily occupation. She is passionate about farming.  

Elizabeth is resilient and focused. The hairdressing salon continues to blossom and has not been affected by the pandemic. Elizabeth has very good people skills that has made it possible to maintain her clientele throughout the season. It is during this season that she has borrowed KES300,000 and has been able to put a house. She is no longer in a rented house, but her family now proudly owns a home. We are glad to walk with Elizabeth and see this transformation.

Susan’s business has continued to thrive. She is consistent in her work. The boutique has maintained a clientele and she gets orders to send clothes outside Nairobi. We have been trying to train her on the use of social media, but she seems to have sufficient social capital to sell her clothes.

Jacinta’s food kiosk continues to thrive. She partners with her husband to provide outside catering services. She has now built some more rental shops to increase her income streams. When she joined Sujali as a founder member, her desire was to move from washing clothes for people and to have a sustainable income source to provide quality education for her children. One of her son’s is now in Form 1 in one of the best schools in Nakuru county. What a transformation!

Janet closed her clinic and now works as a nurse in one of the primary schools. She still remains a member of the welfare group.

Faith joined Sujali this year. She took a loan of KES20,000 to stock a greengrocery shop. Linet opened a bakery and is running a very successful business. She took out a loan of KES15,000. Jane is a counselor providing counseling services to the community.

Kitonga and Nzuve are the two men  who were admitted to the programme. They remain faithful to Sujali and their businesses are surviving through this tough season. Kitonga’s hardware shop continues to supply building materials while Nzuve runs a food kiosk.

While the year has been slow, I am glad to say that all the members’ businesses have not closed. They are not making huge profits, but they are able to sustain their businesses. Mike, who supported Mary in setting up Sujali, looks forward to visiting them all next year when he next visits Kenya.