Keeping Kenya’s Women-Led Businesses Afloat During COVID-19 Lockdown

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Irene Auma had just returned home in Ugunja, western Kenya, from Uganda when Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the country would go into lockdown.

“I had just bought goods worth USD 500 from Uganda for sale in my stall at the market, ”said Irene. “All my belongings perished, there was nothing to sell. Also, there were police everywhere, so traders couldn’t try to sell. “

According to a UN Women study in Kenya, COVID-19 disrupted sources of income for many, especially for low-income households. It is estimated that the number of women who have lost all income due to the pandemic is 1.6 times that of their male counterparts.

To mitigate the impact of the pandemic on women, girls and their communities, UN Women has partnered with the Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT) to provide affordable credit and business management training supported by the Government of Japan. So far, the regime has dispersed over USD 60,000. KWFT has developed a unique and affordable loan product aimed at helping affected women entrepreneurs replenish their stock and cover other related business expenses while ensuring the continuity of their business.

High interest rates, short repayment terms and the need for collateral from banks make access to credit difficult for small and medium-sized businesses run by women. “I don’t have a title deed, I don’t have a car logbook, I only have this vegetable stand, so accessing loans from the bank is very difficult for me,” Irene explained. . The revolving fund has helped businesswomen avoid prolonged losses and business bankruptcies through an urgent pandemic response. A first grant from USD 50,000 were distributed to 314 women across the country who also received mentorship and business development training.

According to Elizabeth Obanda, UN Women’s Economic Empowerment Specialist in Kenya, the loan was intended to benefit micro, small and medium-sized enterprises headed by women. “Women entrepreneurs were able to restart their businesses, improve their income, meet their financial obligations and support their families. It improved their sustainable livelihoods, their dignity and boosted their self-esteem, ”she said.

“With the flexible loan, I received [USD 200], and I was able to relaunch my business. I was able to feed myself and pay my children’s school fees. If women are empowered, we become strong to support our families. In less than 3 months, Irene paid off the original loan and borrowed again to pay for her daughter’s school fees. “With this flexible loan, I will also be able to send my children to school,” she added.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Women.

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Irene cuts cabbage for customers at her stall in Ugunja. Photo: UN Women / Ben Brewster
UN Women

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