Nairobi (Kenya) -- Businesses for village women

With the help of Kianda Foundation and the European Union, the Institut zur Cooperation Bei Entwicklungs-Projekten (ICEP) in 2003 started the project Trainer of Trainers. University women from Fanusi Study Centre, a corporate apostolate of Opus Dei, learned to instruct village women on how to start their own micro-businesses. In two years, 465 women from the villages of Ngong, Ngarariga and Riara have benefited from the program, in which 45 university women have taken part under the direction of Susan Kinyua.

The students first attend an intensive one-week training course, part of which includes a visit to the homes of the women who have been recommended for the program by the local office for community development.

Once the 60 or 70 women who are to benefit from the program in a village have been selected, the students begin the sessions with them. After a month, each woman is asked to present a plan for a business of her own, prepared with the help of the instructors. After agreeing on the amount of money needed to begin the business, the funds are provided by the European Union, the ICEP, and Kianda Foundation. The students, together with the person in charge of the project, visit the women each week for six months to follow up on their progress. With the money that they earn, the village women gradually repay the help they received.

An important part of the preparation given to the village women are the Life Skills sessions. These include talks on honesty, cheerfulness, a spirit of service, hygiene and good manners, qualities that are beneficial to their families and to society in general. “The project,” says Susan Kinyua, “has an impact on the whole person. The women learn to make better use of their possessions and to be orderly, and as a consequence their self-esteem grows.” One of them said that, after the project, her husband respected her more and they argued less because she was now contributing to the support of the household. Now this woman is encouraging her friends to begin a business. Another, a widow, had lost everything. She was forced to leave her children with her mother: if I m alone, she thought, I can find shelter some place and take care of myself. Thanks to the project, she began a small business, obtained a house and was able to bring her children there.

More than the money, what the women said they appreciated the most were the Life Skills sessions. “Will you continue giving us advice even when the project is over?” they asked the instructors, who promised to try to do so.

On their part, the university students also benefit from the program. They learn to appreciate the education they have received and some of them have already extended the project to their own home villages. On March 22, a graduation ceremony was held in Ngarariga during which diplomas were awarded to 80 women. The invited dignitary was Regina Gitau, director of adult education for the Kiambu district. Also attending was Titus Katembu as representative of the European Union.

Romana, No. 40, January-June 2005, p. 153-154.