Women Enterprise Fund is a Semi-Autonomous Government Agency under the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs that promotes the realization of 1st and 5th Sustainable Development Goals on poverty reduction, gender equality and women empowerment respectively. In 2014, WEF partnered with Coca Cola, this partnership is rooted in their shared interest in creating a fair and equitable environment to help women overcome barriers and build sustainable businesses. From Coca-Cola’s perspective, women form a central pillar of its sustainability agenda which is linked to their global effort to economically empower five million women by 2020.
FIVE DABLEWS is a group from Embakasi and they have been beneficiaries of this fund since 2014. We sat down with their chair lady and we talked about WEF’s impacted to their group and how the loans have pushed them towards financial growth.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and about the group
My name is Beth Wanjiru and I am the chairperson for the FIVE DABLEWS. It is a financial group in Embakasi East Constituency Nairobi county. It is an all-women group between ages 35-55 and we currently have ten members.
Where did the name FIVE DABLEWS come from and what is its significance to the group?
In the year 2009 when we officially registered the group, there was just five of us and all our names started with the letter “W” so that’s where we derived the name 5 DABLEWS from. Later on, as our membership grew to ten, we stuck with the name because it was how we were officially identified as. Since then we have continued to grow collectively as a group.
What was the initial purpose of the group when you launched it in 2009?
The intended purpose of the group was to create a Chama where we as women, could help each other grow financially through savings and table banking which became our group’s greatest success. Through table banking we were able to launch different projects that have enabled us to make significant financial steps over the years.
We basically started with each member contributing Ksh. 20,000 which amounted to Ksh. 100,000 initial capital. This is the amount we started table banking with. Every month we would loan the 100k to a member who was expected to return the amount plus a monthly 10% interest which is Ksh. 10,000. After collecting the interest for a couple of months, we topped up Ksh. 20,000 to the table banking amount. We would later realize that the demand for borrowing was quite high, so we ended up topping Ksh. 100,000 which now totalled the full amount to Ksh. 220,000. Two years after forming the group we called collected over Ksh. 500,000 just from table banking.
Did you have a financial advisor at this point?
Fortunately, one of our members who is also our current treasurer, was a trained financial controller so she really guided us on how to go about saving, borrowing and ensuring the success and continuity of the group. With her vast experience in the field, we did not see any reason to involve anyone else.
What challenges did you experience before joining the Women Enterprise Fund?
The challenges included some of our members borrowing and failing to return the money at the allocated time or even not returning at all. At some point we had to part ways with some of the members because we realized that not all the members were capable of sustaining the longevity of the group. We dropped some and recruited new members. Upon getting to ten members, we realized that we could register for the Women Enterprise Fund.
How did you come to know of the WEF and Coca Cola partnership and how would you describe the application process?
Our treasurer who I mentioned earlier, was always also an active member in other groups and she was the one that introduced WEF to us. She took us through all the requirements for registering which included drafting the bylaws and all the other necessary documentation that was required. Fortunately, our request went through and we have since grown tremendously under WEF, all the loans we have received, we have paid back on time. We wouldn’t be where we are if it was not for WEF. We had bought three plots of land in Juja farm and the loans have helped us commence the construction of twenty units of hostels to house students from a nearby university. With the first floor complete, the project is almost done now.
As much as we are involved in WEF and our project, we are still moving on with table banking and giving out loans to our members which has helped us service and repay the WEF loan. The good thing about the loan is that it does not incur any interest and you are accorded plenty of time to pay it back. For our latest loan which was Ksh. 500,000 we were given 18months to repay but fortunately, we repaid the amount before the allocated time.
How long after registering to WEF did it take for you to receive your first loan?
The first loan to a bit longer to get to us because the process of presenting all the necessary documentation took us a considerable amount of time. In total, I would say it took us three months to receive the first loan. Since then, the other loans have not taken more than 45 days to get to us.
In total, how many loans have you received from WEF and their partnership with Coca Cola?
Between 2014 and 2018 we have received four loans in total. In Feb 2014, we received Ksh. 100,000 which we used to boost our table banking. Two years later in 2016, we took Ksh. 200,000 to start a chicken project. The following year we took Ksh. 350,000 to commence construction of the rental houses in Juja. In 2018, we took our latest loan of Ksh. 500,000 which we also injected into the construction of the houses. We are currently in our 5th cycle and applying for Ksh. 750,000.
Besides funding, what other opportunities have you gotten as a group in WEF?
We have really benefitted from their training. WEF sends us officers to trains us on different aspects of a group such as growing financially, staying together as a group, investing. We have attended every training opportunity as a group and even during our monthly meetings, if we feel a need to consult, our officer Kevin Muchasi has been ready and willing to show us the way.
It is impossible to state just how important training has been to our group because since we received training, we haven’t lost a member. It is compulsory for every member to attend training and our officer has been very strict about the consequences of not paying back the loan. This has prompted us to be very focused and disciplined in the way we repay the loan.
Being that you just have 10 members in the group, is that an advantage or disadvantage?
To some extent, a small number is an advantage especially when it comes to management. It is easier to manage a smaller number when it comes to calling them or relaying messages about training and other information. That being said, a bigger number would also help us to grow faster as a group especially with table banking. But as the chairperson, I would say the fewer the better.
Besides the joint projects you have as a group, are there individual projects that have come as a result of WEF?
All ten members have individual businesses that have been made possible by the training and funding we have received from WEF. These businesses range from Mpesa shops, transport business, selling shoes, mitumba and so on. Every member also receives a good amount in the form of dividends every year.
What is the plan for FIVE DABLEWS going forward?
Going forward we want to complete the rental houses. The better our credit is with WEF, the more our future loans will be. With proper funds, it is my hope that ultimately, every member will have her own plot.
Finally, is WEF something you would recommend to other women groups?
I would highly recommend WEF to other women out there looking for the opportunity to grow themselves financially. I would say that without the first loan of Ksh. 100,000, we wouldn’t be even near to where we are right now. The good thing about this loan is that it generates no interest and that makes repaying it easier as compared to other loans. There is something about knowing you have a loan to pay that makes you work even harder. Every year we have applied for the loan we have always received it so I would very much recommend it.
Brian Muchiri is a passionate writer who draws his inspiration from the experiences in his own life and of those around him. He is candid and he seeks to inspire society to be more pro active and vocal about the social issues that affect us. Brian is also actively involved in pushing for awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities through his foundation; Strong Spine.