| Nov 25, 2016
Chama: What goes around comes around.
Naima with a member of the women's group
In September, I visited several women’s groups in northern Kenya that are supported locally by Seed Program International partners HODI and SSNK. I want to tell you about the Khairi Women’s Self Help Group in Marsabit, who is using a popular Kenyan form of self-financing called a Chama to supplement the agricultural resources SPI provides.
Chamas are self-managed and member-invested groups of 15-25 women who meet regularly to support one another and decide which member-led business initiatives the Chama will finance. Its systems are kept simple and transparent to ensure that all women participate in decision-making and benefit from the collective investments.
Groups are usually formed with trusted friends and family, so meetings often feel like family gatherings or a tea party with friends. Besides business planning, meetings also provide the group with opportunities to participate in educational programs with HODI and SSNK where they learn about the benefits of setting goals, planning ahead, and saving. Women at the Khairi Women’s group in Marsabit participate in a monthly business management and savings training, and also receive individual mentoring.
Qarsi, the Khairi Group’s chair woman shared her gratitude for HODI’s Economic Empowerment Program:
“I have learnt to look for creative ways to save and earn money, and to look for solutions that will help me provide for my family. The saving scheme helped us learn how to save while giving us a platform to help each other.”
For many of the women in the group, this opportunity for self and financial empowerment begins the transformative process of self-awareness, something we sometimes take for granted. This approach to empowerment cultivates our ability to make choices for ourselves that also improves improve whole community’s well-being. By creating a means to economically empower themselves, they have made a tangible investment in both themselves and their entire community.
During my visit, the women were developing a plan to purchase water holding tanks for their community greenhouse. Water is a precious resource in Kenya and these tanks will not only enable the community to grow nourishing vegetables, but will save the time and labor that would normally be spent transporting water from wells that are sometimes hours away. Purchasing these tanks is only possible because of the women’s investment in the Chama, which subsequently improves their children’s education, health, and the livelihood of the entire family.
Thank you for supporting these women, and for supporting our work across the world!
Seed Programs International
Khairi Women's Self Help Group in Marsabit, Kenya