WMI has collected data to demonstrate how loans to rural women help lift them out of poverty. However, while WMI can show through data and stories that these loans can help rural women, there is no better testimony than a woman telling her own story and how a loan has impacted her life. The WMI President, WMI Fellow, and BWA staff visited Shikokho, Kenya and asked some of the women to share their stories, and tell how they have used their loans and what impact it has had on their households. They were eager to share and here is what everyone learned:
Beverly Endesia – 35 years old – 6 children – married – White Group.
Beverly has a hair salon. She used her first loan she to buy supplies, a hair dryer, and hair chemicals and was serving women who were “just around.” She used her second loan to move to the market and rented a stall, and is currently serving many customers. She said being in a fixed location helps and she uses word of mouth to market her services. She also opened a small side business to sell tomatoes and vegetables to school children; this is very common with WMI borrowers, as ladies have learned to diversify their products.
Her husband cuts hair short (a different business then a salon) and sells SIM cards.
She said it is not difficult for her to repay her loan because there is enough of a market to support businesses in Shikokho.
The WMI President asked if Beverly knew anyone who defaulted or paid late because the 10% interest was too high – she answered, “No.” She said there are many women around who ask about the loan program. Flora, the interim head coordinator, added that they have a waiting list of women who want loans.
Beverly said the loan group support at the village level is critical for the women, and so is the training, especially when they are first starting out. She said because of the loan program: “Our brain is working here and there – we are not just idle.”
Anna Mmbone – 32 years old – 1 child – married – Pink group.
With her first loan Anna started selling tomatoes and onions (a common first business). When she got enough money she diversified into also printing scarves for women. She then got land along the road and built a structure with her profits – so that she is no longer selling from a tarp or blanket on the dirt – she said she “moved up” to a shop. With her next loan she plans to stock her shop with more items. Abba said her business would not be possible without the loan and that women need loans to start and grow their businesses.
Anna was very proud that Pink Group has a 100% repayment rate. She was adamant that there were no defaults among Pink members and that they were all working hard.