Women founded financial institution grows in leaps and bounds
Ten years ago, Philomena Kahoro, chairperson of Jiweze Women Programme partnered with three friends to starting a credit facility.
They started this with only KSh960 which has since grown to a loan portfolio of over KSh160 million.
Jiweze Women Programme, now a renowned credit facility was started in 2003 in Nakuru with three clients who contributed KSh120 each and registration of KSh200.
“It just started like small gitati, (merry-go-round) and we contributed KSh120 each for registration of the facility and KSh200 for savings adding up to KSh960 in total,” explains Kahoro, a 32-year-old mother of two.
Having been employed as business development officer by a non-governmental organisation that was giving credit facilities to women in Gatundu after dropping out of college for lack of fees, Kahoro acquired some skills of running such a facility.
“Our aim was to upgrade from the normal gitatis by offering loans to women to start up small businesses and pay their children’s school fees and in the process make a small profit out of it,” Kahoro explains.
However, she saw the need of such facility in her home County having been faced with fees problems just like many other school-going children in her neighbourhood.
She says empowering women with the loans was the only way they could start-up small projects that would enable them to pay school fees and put food on the table.
“This gave me a go ahead and I resigned to start my own organisation given that I was familiar with what it took to open a credit facility. I talked to my three friends who also resigned from their jobs and joined the venture,” Kahoro says in an interview with Kenyan Woman.
Within a year after opening a branch in Nakuru, the credit facility had 27 groups each with 35 members.
“However, just like any other new venture, we were stuck by financial crisis the following year and for three years, we were almost crawling down on our knees partly due to financial mismanagement and Post-Election Violence,” says Kahoro. She adds: “Our membership dropped from 3,500 to a half and led to the closure of some branches we had opened in Eldoret.”
In late 2008, they were able to revamp the credit facility and this enabled it to regain its momentum which led to opening of more branches in Eldama Ravine.
“Our members also rose significantly to over 150 groups and 6,000in membership, a move that saw us rise our partnership through Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) as a financial intermediary to lending loan to women entrepreneurs,” says Joyce Ndirangu, Chief Executive Officer Jiweze Women Programme.
Currently, the facility has over 12,000 memberships and over 700 groups and branches in Naivasha, Eldoret and Eldama Ravine. The other town is Nakuru which serves as its headquarters with over 40 employees.
Besides offering loans for school fees, the institution also facilitates water tank projects, energy saving jikos (cooking stoves) and solar energy products.
The facility has also ventured into real estate in Nakuru town and is the first organisation to build gated communities in the area.
While appreciating her friends for the patience throughout the years, Kahoro says growth of the facility is attributed to endurance, hard work, proper planning and management.
“Having started small with only KSh960, and one employee, I see the venture as a transformation as compared to cumulative amount of over KSh1 billion we have loaned out so far,” Kahoro explains..