St John’s Community centre through the support of Kindernothilfe, has been implementing the Self Help Affinity Group approach since 2006. The approach is designed for the empowerment of the poorest of the poor socially, economically and Politically. The approach was adopted from India. Over 1039 women from Pumwani and Eastleigh slums are benefiting from the program. Their lives are being transformed through savings and loans such that they are meeting their basic needs, creating employment and are being respected and taking up leadership positions to influence governance in their respective neighbourhoods.
• About 60% of the women are running small businesses such as selling of food, groceries, trading in second hand clothing’s and other merchandise, home laundry, making products such as mat and beads, and poultry among others. Most of the women were previously not engaged in productive work which means the SHG process has enabled creation of employment for the women. Further, some women after gaining self- esteem and confidence are now employed.
• The households engaged in small enterprises have increased their income level. Increased income has improved standards of living of the families. Some women indicated they were paying college and university fees for their children who would not have accessed higher education were it not for the mothers involvement in the SHG.
Priscilla (Not her real name) is a member of Nawiri Self -help group in Majengo area. Asked about how she joined Self-help group she responded that` `I had come to visit a friend here at Majengo who told me that there are some women groups that have been introduced by one of the staff from St. Johns Community Centre and whether I could be interested in joining. Without thinking much I told her that I was interested since I had just lost my job after the company where I was working closed down rendering me jobless.
According to Priscilla as a group they all started saving Ksh 20 every week and after a few months the group fund had build up and she managed to secure a loan of Ksh 5000 which she used to buy a sack of rice after winning a tender to supply in one of the Nursing home in Nairobi for a period of two years. She continued saving consistently and she managed to take another loan of Ksh 20,000 from the group and with an additional of Ksh 30,000 from her sister, she put up an Mpesa shop in Pangani which she managed for a period of 7 months but due to insecurity in the area she closed it down. With the business proceeds she was able to cater for the family`s needs such as food, clothing and cost share with the husband in paying school fees for their children. `` There is a day I took a loan of 10,000 from the group to top up for my son`s school fees when he was in campus” and now he has completed and has secured a job’’.
According to Priscilla, her confidence has also been built and she has realized that she has leadership skills which were evidenced when she was elected as a Vice-treasurer of Maendeleo ya Wanawake in Kamukunji constituency.
According to Priscilla, St. Johns has really empowered her in all aspects in that she has also gained various skills on product making such as liquid detergent, mat and basket making which are now her sources of income. The detergent she makes is supplied to hotels, friends and neighbours. She plans to open a beauty shop and she confessed that ``I have also trained some women on these skills and they are now using the same to earn a living’’.
Mariam (Not her real name) is a member of Tukumbatiane SHG and lives in Pumwani area. She joined the group in 2007. According to her, her life has transformed both socially and economically. She has managed to educate her children and cater for their needs by taking several loans from her Self -help group.
She also expanded her Saloon business by buying one drier and 1 blow-drier and opened a second business of selling chips. According to her, before joining the group, she could not speak in-front of people but now her confidence has been built and she was selected to be a CLA member as well as a Child protection team member. She also reported that by being in the group she has gained knowledge and skills on different issues such as mat and basket making from recycled materials and how to bring up her children.
She is currently making and selling handbags made of paper bags, fireless cooker and she adds value to already made bags among others to earn a living. She reported that she earns a profit of Ksh 300 per day which she uses to cater for school fees, buying food as well as paying rent. Out of the profits earned she sets aside some savings which she brings to the group. Currently her total savings are Ksh 20,000 .Her future plan is to expand her business by introducing the sale of clothes and beauty products in her saloon.
I am a graduate of Moi University with a degree in Public Administration. SJCC is a good organization that has provided me with a good and conducive environment to work and learn how to do community work. I was contracted as a community facilitator to establish self Help Groups and later I volunteered in order to learn how to work as a program officer. They provide coaching, personal development through teamwork and i got inspired to be community development worker by observing the dedication of the other staff. SJCC being a Christian organization has not only helped me grow professionally but also spiritually. The organization provides an opportunity to bring positive change in the community, and I have been part of it especially through implementing the Self-help group approach. I have been able to see the lives of the poor in the community transformed as a result of empowerment. This has been a great motivating factor and I would encourage others to volunteer at SJCC. The holistic development of the community targeting the poor household youths and children using different programs should be replicated in other regions of Kenya where poverty is high. (Felix Ingasia)
A big thank you to KNH for the many lives they have pulled out of poverty through supporting the capacity building, coordination and implementation of Self- help group concept.