Credit Access to Women Key to Breaking Cycle of Poverty
Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
|Mary Mwihaki selling chips in Mathare, Nairobi|
IRIN – Besides education, health and good infrastructure, access to credit ranks high among the priorities of millions of Kenyans living in informal settlements in urban and rural areas.
Even small amounts can be enough to break out of the poverty trap.
“I started this business of selling chips [French fries] two years ago using money we raised as a group of 30 women,” Mary Mwihaki, 27, a resident of Mathare, one of Kenya’s large slum areas in the capital Nairobi, told IRIN.
Every day, each of the women in Mwihaki’s group contributes Sh20 (30 US cents) and the resulting Sh600 ($9) is given to a different member of the group on a rotating basis. Mwihaki had to wait three months to raise the $27 she needed.
Groups such as Mwihaki’s, mostly comprising women, have sprung up across the country in the past few years, with a wide range of daily contributions. Even those engaged in formal employment are forming such credit unions, paying up to Sh10,000 per month.
As the world marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October, Mwihaki and thousands of other Kenyans belonging to self-help groups continue their efforts to cross the poverty line, hoping to have more access to credit facilities.
“The profit I make from this chips business is not enough to cater for its expansion and at the same time meet my family’s daily needs of food, water and clothing,” Mwihaki said. “In fact, getting sick is something no one in our family can afford; if you are sick, you swallow painkillers bought from the kiosk and hope for the best; we simply cannot afford hospitalisation.”
Sylvia Mudasia-Mwichuli, the Africa Communications Coordinator for the UN Millennium Campaign, said 46 percent of Kenyans survive on less than a dollar a day, which could be reversed as the country was rich in natural resources.
“Kenya has no excuse to have poor people,” she said. “Kenya posted 6 percent growth last year; it has enough resources and the government has good development plans, which if properly implemented, would see a drastic drop in the number of poor people.”
Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
|Marking the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty in Nairobi|
However, she said, Kenya was generally on track to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with only two goals still a source of concern: maternal mortality and environmental sustainability.
At the UN headquarters in Nairobi, staff joined people around the world in a campaign dubbed Stand UP Against Poverty, Speak Out. This year’s campaign aimed to set a Guinness World Record in the number of people involved worldwide after 23.5 million people took part in 2006.