Kenya

Let's start a business, to end poverty

“Tuanze Biashara” is Swahili for “Let's Start a Business”, a poverty alleviation project integrating a community radio station, social media, training workshops and a savings and loan association. See how this innovative micro-enterprise project is lifting people in eastern Kenya’s Tana River County out of poverty.

"Even I Can Start a Business!"

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By Jon Hargreaves

I’d like to introduce you to Flora and Hadiya, two budding Kenyan entrepreneurs who really mean business. In the absence of finding jobs and struggling to make ends meet, these two delightful ladies never thought they’d be able to start a business. That was until HCR in collaboration with Aid For Trade launched the Tuanze Biashara (Let’s Start a Business) project, in an area of eastern Kenya’s Tana River County, where poverty is widespread.  Using the newly established radio station, Amani FM, the project involves an innovative mix of radio programmes, live ‘phone-in discussions, community interaction via WhatsApp and workshops, to encourage local people, irrespective of their education, to develop their business ideas and then put them into action. 

“I once tried setting up a juice business,” said Flora, “But I failed and lost all my money. Then I started attending the workshops run by Amani FM and the trainer, Mr Amara, equipped us with the tools to be successful. He taught us first to find out what people wanted and then see what we could do to meet that need. So I began selling porridge. At first I didn’t quite get the taste right, but after a few experiments, I quickly began selling out of porridge and having to make more batches. I now can’t keep up with the demand so am taking on a partner and borrowing money to buy a bigger stove and new pots. My new business puts food on my table, pays my rent and helps me buy clothes. One day I hope to have a chain of restaurants throughout Tana River County.”

Hadiya noticed that in one remote area of Tana Delta, the boda boda (motorbike taxi) drivers had to drive a long way to get fuel. So she started a small business selling petrol in discarded 2 litre plastic bottles. “I have been so successful,” says Hadiya, “That my mother is now selling the fuel full-time and I am launching a clothes line for ladies in the village. Having spoken to so many people I know exactly what they want and where i can get the fabric. The training has really showed me that even I CAN start a business.”

‘Table Banking’ has enabled community members to save and access capital

‘Table Banking’ has enabled community members to save and access capital

TABLE BANKING

At the end of the workshops a budding group of entrepreneurs were inspired to set up a community savings and loan association, known locally as Table Banking. “Every week this group meets to pool their savings, while one or two people are able to take a loan, which has to be paid back at 10%,” said Philip Amara, the YES project trainer. “As a result of this, we have seen new businesses launched as well as existing businesses able to make improvements.”

Philip says it is very difficult for most Kenyan citizens to access capital from banks, as the interest rates are very high and few people have any collateral. “It is for that reason that we have partnered with HCR to make larger sums available, offering much better interest rates than the bank,” said Philip. He added that the best business ideas with the best plans, will be rewarded, both with a loan and free advertising on the radio station, as Amani FM follows their progress. Philip believes that through the radio, the community will learn what ordinary people can do and begin to believe that they too can start a business. “We want to end this mindset of poverty and dependency,” he said.

Helping women and girls in Kenya

Day 13 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

Combatting gender-based violence can take courage, sensitivity and wisdom. I met Mary*, an ordained minister working in a rural area in Kenya, who showed all of these qualities in her work to help women and girls. 

In this particular area of Kenya, the challenges facing families include limited access to food and water, and high levels of illiteracy. Conflict within families and domestic violence is rife. It is common to see women with missing teeth as they have been so badly beaten. 

Women cannot own animals or land and are very dependent on men. Early marriage is common, with girls as young as eleven often married to men in their fifties and over, frequently as a second or third wife.  When a girl is prepared for marriage she will have to go through the painful ritual of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). 

Mary explains that she is ‘surrounded by this community - I could lose trust and [do more harm than good], so I interact with the families.’ Mary is notified if a marriage is likely to take place. Mary will try and talk with the family and if the wedding cannot be prevented in this way, then they will find a discreet way to get the young girl to safety and the care of the government. 

After a girl is brought to safety, the government will start working with the family. The family is not informed that Mary has helped to get the girl protected and she would be at risk if her involvement was discovered:

‘I see girls, I feel angry, so sympathetic, they are very young and innocent. They don’t even know the man she will marry’. 

Mary is not always able to prevent a child marriage, or stop girls being ‘cut’ before their wedding ceremonies, or women being harmed or murdered due to domestic violence. Mary helps girls to remain in their communities, providing support, fellowship and togetherness.  

All of HCR’s work with partners engages with and supports people and local communities and it is from within these communities that change can and does happen.

*Not her real name

Photo credit: Olivier Asselin - UNICEF

Photo credit: Olivier Asselin - UNICEF

Carpet talk

Day 8 of #16DaysofActivism

 By Jon Hargreaves

“Gender inequality exists throughout Kenya, but it’s particularly bad in this part of the country,” says Harriet Atyang, the manager of HCR partner station Amani FM in Tana River.   In many situations Harriet says women are subjected to abuse and violence, but it is rarely reported, as it seen as a cultural norm. 

Recounting a story where one young girl was given by her parents to an old man, Harriet said, “A woman is often seen as a man’s property.  Many men see the role of women is purely to give birth and look after the home, but they don’t have a voice and are left out of decision-making.” 

It is for that reason that Amani FM has many programmes to promote change like “Jamvi la mwanamke jasiri”, or ‘Carpet Talk’. The idea is that the carpet is a place where people can sit and feel comfortable and confident to share their concerns.  By airing women’s stories, Amani FM is starting a community conversation and they find that men are engaging positively with the issue too.   With the help of other Non-Government Organisations and counselling services, the station is helping women to find help and making the community aware of their rights. 

“Judging by the number of calls we are getting to the programmes, we are having an effect.  Many are calling in and really opening up with their personal stories,” says Harriet. “It is going to take time, but however long it takes, we are going to keeping working with communities and other stakeholders to bring about the change that is needed.”

Harriet and Esther from Amani FM interview community members.

Harriet and Esther from Amani FM interview community members.

'I am a resource for peace!'

Day 5 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

Radio Amani was launched in the conflict prone area of Tana Delta in the summer of 2017, ahead of the parliamentary elections in Kenya.  The purpose of the radio station is to promote peace and social development in Eastern Kenya’s conflict-affected Tana River (the northern region of Tana River County).

The station is serving a young lady called Busara* and the many women and men like her, survivors of violent conflict. Jon, the Director of HCR, met Busara during a focus group in a remote village. She kept staring at the floor, shy, almost embarrassed to be there. Many of the others in the group engaged in animated conversation, eager to share their experiences and opinions. But then her voice broke through... and the room was silenced. It was a bold, passionate voice, that was determined to speak out. "I am not a victim," she said, "I am a resource for peace!"

Busara shared how she had been a victim of violence during the time of "the massacre." She and her family had been through hell, but now here she sat in a group meeting, courageously willing to speak up. She shared how, with the support of family, community and trauma counselors, she had turned a corner and was now passionate to help others who had been through similar experiences.

In the setting up of this region's first radio station, the overwhelming message was, "this station is desperately needed and will be a vital part of helping the people of Tana Delta recover and rebuild." Dr Tecla, who runs trauma workshops among the communities of the Delta, told me that peacebuilding cannot really start until people have overcome the past, with forgiveness and grace’. Amani (peace) FM is amplifying the voices that need to be heard.

*Not her real name

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