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Sh800m available for women traders

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 9 – The government on Wednesday urged women to take advantage of the Women Enterprise Fund, a flagship project under the social pillar in Vision 2030, and empower themselves economically.

The Minister for Gender, Children and Social Development, Naomi Shaban said the Fund had more than Sh800 million to disburse to interested women in all the constituencies countrywide, before the end of the current financial year.

She pointed out that over Sh1.2 billion had already been disbursed from the kitty with more than 200,000 individuals benefiting from it, since it was established three years ago.

"And don\’t forget that some of those who had already taken money from the Fund have started paying back; so we have the money. The only thing that\’s remaining is its disbursement," she said.

The kitty has two distribution channels – the constituency women enterprise scheme through which groups of women access interest free loans and the financial intermediaries\’ scheme- where individual entrepreneurs access loans at an eight percent interest rate.

She explained that interested parties only needed to make their applications with the assistance of gender officers in their respective constituencies. The gender officers then take them through the procedures and also analyse their business ideas.

"Since the money is not a lot, they can only zero in on 20 groups. The applications are then re-checked to make sure that all the basic requirements have been met before they put up a list for recommendation to the board," she said.

"Once you\’ve done the application the terms are not as stringent as the ones for normal commercial loans," she explained.

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Ms Shaban, who was speaking during the inauguration ceremony for the Fund\’s board, however added that misconceptions surrounding the kitty held back many women. She proposed education and awareness creation for the women arguing that it would correct any false notions.

"I have to get in all my colleagues so that we give out the right information; that this money is a revolving fund aimed at helping you. In fact the money given at the constituency level is interest fee. It\’s just money they get and bring back," she explained.

She singled out Turkana south, Karachuonyo and Rarieda constituencies as some of those that were most active in utilizing the fund. Ms Shaban also noted that there were 55 constituencies that were least active.

When the Fund was set up, each constituency would get Sh1 million; the amount was then revised upward to Sh2 million and currently stands at Sh3 million. There are also plans to increase the allocation to Sh5 million per constituency.

Ms Shaban also lauded women who had so far accessed monies from the kitty saying they had been effective in paying back.

The newly appointed board comprises 12 members from the ministries of Trade, Finance, Agriculture, Gender and National development and Vision 2030.

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