Posted in Kenya my country

Microfinance; an ingredient to alleviate poverty

Between cost of burials, health care, festivals and social obligations, sending money to families at home, and other seemingly urgent costs, there is hardly any money left to use for improved sanitation leave alone a working micro enterprise working capital.

In Kenya, millions of people are living without access to financial services such as loans, saving accounts, insurance and fund transfers. The micro-finance institutions have come as a savior but are they really? when they are all about profit? Yes micro-finance is inevitable to start any enterprise by the poorer. Micro finance is a good example of social business and social business funds could be available for micro-finance activity. This must have been what Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, had seen in Bangladesh long before the UN declared 2005 the UN International year of Micro-finance and he got the Nobel Peace Award.

This is clearly demonstrated in Nakuru Kenya by Waste Venture Fund offered by the Family bank that is offering affordable soft loans to solid waste management and sanitation businesses. With the implementing partners Practical Action, the bank through the financial support from WASTE- Netherlands is doing what no landlord or solid waste management businesses owners could imagine.

One of the most powerful service of micro finance is the micro credit. This has transformed a lot of business minded people’s lives but only if business and the business proceeds they venture in can help pay back the loans and offer livelihoods for the entrepreneurs.

This also means that they stay the banks clients and it becomes a win-win situation because they can then use other services such as savings and insurance that can help the clients better manage the risks associated with being in business.

Micro credit is not only the ingredient to alleviating poverty as capacity on how to manage the finances and become sustainable is also crucial.

Today, the world bank estimates that about 160 million people in developing countries are served by micro finance but just how many of these people invest in sanitation and solid waste ventures is even a more alarming question.

Posted in Kenya my country

Civil Society Organizations in Kenya; Making a difference?

It would be an understatement to say that I am exhausted. I just concluded a whole week of intense mapping and profiling of CSOs in Kisumu, Kakamega and Eldoret and I still can’t believe that I had all that energy.

I had an amazing team and if it weren’t for the hard-work and commitment they all showed I bet I would be stuck somewhere between Nairobi and western Kenya with my questionnaires.

I have met so many people, experienced different cultures and had hearty laughs with people I just met for the first time. These are some of the moments that I will miss very much when I go back to the office to enter and analyze all the data the whole day and get stuck in traffic for hours on my way home.

Kisumu is a port city in the Western Region of Kenya. I did not come to see the port but to see the ‘CSOs Headquarter’ as it is known in the NGO world. While I expected a massive number of NGOs who wold come out, I only got a quarter of the expected number and I was disappointed.

Kakamega brightened my face. After what seems like an endless road in the middle of potholes, I reached the motorcycles and bicycles filled streets that make them appear like swam of bees. Much cooler than Kisumu thanks to the dense Kakamega forest. The organization of the CSOs is amazing and I manage to visit a few as well. Six is a low number to choose from 50 but when each of them insist on giving you something to drink or eat, it can be a very big number. One of my hosts tells me that ”the culture dictates that when you come to visit me, I must offer you something and it is only courteous to take it”

Eldoret is a fast growing Kenya and at 2200 meters above sea level I found it a bit colder than Kisumu and Kakamega much to my relief. The CSOs turnout overwhelmed my team and I knew right there that they must be doing something really good. this was confirmed as soon as I started profiling the Community Based Organizations empowering their members, the Non Governmental Organizations that are advocating for peace and human rights, the Associations that are bringing together different sector actors, the Youth Groups that are not defined by the ages of their members and the women groups that are sending their members children to school; all registered. How more inspiring could it be?

Tomorrow I will catch a flight back to Nairobi with all the data but more important is what I cannot capture in a questionnaire or with a camera or my GPS receiver and voice recorder.

It is the expression on my interviewees faces when I interview and map them. The enthusiasm to explain what they do, the brightness of their faces when they talk about their achievements but also the sadness when they tell me the different challenges they face in the course of their work.

What I want to know is if CSOs in Keya are making a difference.

However tired I feel today, it was all worth it!

Erik, a GIS/GPS expert who is mapping tge CSOs observes that “If CSOs have to make a difference, the leaders have to see it not just like a job but as a chance to raise the living standards of their target beneficiaries”.

There is need to build the leaders as well as the personnel capacity so that they can achieve the organization’s objectives and be accountable.

Posted in Day....

International Women’s Day 2011

Each year around the world, the March 8th marks an important day not just for the women but for the whole society. March 8th is the International Women’s Day (IWD). March is set aside to mark the achievements of women around the world. Organizations, governments and women’s groups take part by choosing different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues. It is completely up to each country and group as to what appropriate theme they select.

Today I spent my International Women’s Day working really hard and taking time to reflect on different issues that I consider important to me as a woman.

I reflected a lot on the UN’s theme of Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women. It reminds me of a very lively discussion I had sometime back about involvement of women in development and the use of Master Suppression Techniques as identified by Professor Berit Ås, Norway. It is a technique used by people higher up in hierarchies to keep others, particularly women, in inferior positions.

As a communication and public relations practitioner working in environmental sanitation, I find a lot of promising opportunities to empower women. For example, echoing the conclusion of the sanitation actors’ gender training workshop organized by SEI in Stockholm, in sanitation projects, women can be encouraged to take leadership roles and play a greater part in decision-making. However, many needed changes in norms and attitudes may be more effectively addressed through activities beyond sanitation sector interventions, including income-generation activities and training to enhance independence and self-esteem.
Equal access to education, training and science and technology is indeed a pathway to decent work.

I have been going around the country mapping Civil Society Organizations work in urban development in Kenya and I see all these opportunities in all the sectors and I am particularly encouraged by the women who have dared to empower their communities and create a new generation of all-rounder-women.

It is not the strength but the will to do more; to be a better in their workplaces, in their homes and in their societies.