People are not passive recipients but active parti
Dear Friends, Colleagues and supporters,
Towards the end of 2016, many participants in our finance literacy workshop with women majority were wearing a yellow HFAW t-shirt with words written on the back “Poverty in Our Minds, Wealth in Our Hands.” We were able to endorse kiva zip loans worth over $35,000 to our village women (including a few men), thanks to our friend and donor among you who introduced us to kiva zip Kenya. After a while we noticed that the businesses were not growing that much. We were so convinced that access to credits alone is not enough to ending poverty.
Workshop facilitator, Carol, a middle aged woman who works in a local financial institution and speaks local language was invited to handle this topic in Kisii language using hands on methodology. As she emphasized the value of practicing saving, Gladys challenged her. “But Madam how is it possible to save? Our incomes are very low; we hardly are able to cater for our basic needs? We are poor.” She stated. Carol went on to state that “I see wealth all over you. I am from this region and I know each one of us is rich. Let me ask you something,” Carol continued. “What do you have in your garden”? She said bananas, “and what do you have in and around your home?” She said the number of goats, cows, trees, chickens, and children and “I dig in my family garden,” Said Gladys. Carol asked if there are participants in the room with similar or more things. Everybody raised their hands up. Gladys went on to argue that “those things do not make us rich. We have no school fees, medicine, and money. Every day we wake up and struggle. The rich people are not like us.”
Carol went on to explain in simple terms issues concerning budgeting, savings, debt management and capital building including access to credits. Let us talk about budgeting. She asked Alice who rears chickens to explain how much money she invested and how much profit she has made so far. Alice explained that she just keeps buying chickens when she gets the money and sells them when she gets a customer. She might find a customer interested in eggs and she will sell. She will use the money in buying milk for the children. She confirmed that she has never kept a single record of anything. Carol explained how it is impossible to build wealth with random activities, no budgets and no planning. It turns out that most activities ranging from agribusiness are considered way of life and is treated as “they come and go” without any seriousness.
Carol asked where the bananas go since everybody seems to have them, Agnes explained that just two weeks prior, “a relative visited from Nairobi and carried in her vehicle because in Nairobi there are no gardens and people seem to be buying everything.”, Then Carol walked them through some costing and it turns out the bananas, if sold could have earned her Kenya shillings 10,000. That is equivalent of $100, money that is impossible to raise from women who earn a dollar a day. The women seemed shocked. They asked who will buy their bananas since all villagers own their own bananas. Carol then explained that she could have connected with people in Nairobi and those bananas could have earned her perhaps 20,000 shillings ($200). The room went quiet with shock.
When Carol explained how women could save milk, maize, chickens etc. and save, Erick complained. “Madam, do you want our wives to begin denying children milk so that they can sell and save? “Everybody laughed and applauded. Carol commended the man for his great question and explained how saving is possible without starving the children and the family. How many litres of milk do you harvest? Carol asked Joyce. Joyce said she only gets three a day. Is the cow well fed? Joyce said there is drought and there is no fodder. Did the cow get enough water? Was the cow inseminated by a vet nary doctor? And so many other questions that were important that no one was paying attention to. It turns out that Lawrence keeps only one cow but is able to harvest slightly more than 15 litres a day. “Lawrence can you explain what you are doing to get more milk?. And he went into details of how he even keeps fodder during the rainy season and use during the dry spell. He explains that he has to sell all morning milk and everybody has more than enough to use from evening milking. There were rounds of applause in the room.
“Raise up your hand if you are here and know someone who harvests 15 litres of milk”, Carol requested. Everybody raised their hands up. Story after story of how people took things for granted, misused or underused resources, never planned, never budgeted, had poor loan repayment record and did not even inform themselves where to sell products when they had plenty left everyone in the room thinking that they are poor. Carol used discussion groups, and question and answer method as well as Manila paper work to make her points clear. She also used her own personal stories. “A few years ago, my husband passed on and left me with four children. I was desperate and felt poor. But that was a wakeup call for me. I have saved, I have budgeted and I have taken loans and repaid them. I am educating my children in good schools and I am never stopping. “She went on. “I was inn worse situation than you are. You can do more than what I am doing.” She emphasized to a pin drop silence.
At the end of second day, people were emotional.” Madam, when we were invited to this training, we thought it was a waste of our time because such math education should be for the children, but now I am grateful” said Eucabeth. “You have spoken to our hearts and in a way we feel very sad how ignorant we have been.” She continued.
HFAW provides holistic program combining economic empowerment with self-driven community interventions by the community women themselves such as tackling GBV beginning with FGM. But HFAW understands that for transformative communities we need strategies that help people change their mindset. For economic empowerment to occur we must provide avenues for credits but women and communities have to learn how to budget, save, make effective loan repayments and build capital. They have to access mentors, learn to network and be able to develop strategies for real markets beyond their village. We have only taken the first step in unlocking one barrier to success and after just this one training we saw people thinking hard and wondering about things they often don’t think about. Karen emotionally expressed “For the first time, I know the meaning of these words on my T-shirt. Very true that poverty is in our mind, we have so much and we think we are poor.” She continued.
You have been with us from a distance when we began this journey. You helped us in training women to be community activist; then you linked us to kivazip loans through which they launched individual economic activities. You have been there when we have been doing various advocacies against FGM, child abuse and early pregnancies. Women have launched their own credit society to access credits and pay back. How can we forget you who have unwavering support and have even donated to the credit society? We wish you were physically present to witness the joy these women experience when they discover something so profound about themselves and when we share with them that you are their angels who support these projects. They know that none of these could be possible without your support.
We have now embarked on a schedule of finance and entrepreneurship literacy and agribusiness trainings, mentoring and technical support to be conducted through the 2017. All in addition to the continuing advocacy work against GBV especially FGM. We proudly welcome you to continue supporting us. Log on and give us your advice as well and how else we can do to address changing the poverty mindset. And thank you for believing in our cause.
With much gratitude
Carol in Blue captured their attention
How can we save, we have low income
An environment for people to share ideas &experien
People learn more when they are having fun
Effective group discussions
Poverty in our minds t-shirts/room full of activit
Kivazip certificate of appreciation of HFAW