Kenya Women Group
By Matilda Nzioki, Standard Media -
Dr Jennifer Riria, a distinguished micro-finance banker and gender specialist, is the chief executive officer of Kenya Women Group.
She lets us in on what the award winning and the country’s largest micro-financing institution Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT) has been up to. She has spent her adult life building and contributing to systems on women’s empowerment and development.
|Dr Riria: Photo: Courtesy|
KWFT recently changed the company name to Kenya Women Holding Limited.
EVE: What are the roles of the company?
RIRIA: We focus on the non-financial aspect of the women’s lives, as money is not everything. The institution is focused on empowering and advocating for women. We give financial literacy—like how to make your money work for you.
We also hope to give women a platform to speak in one voice regardless of where they come from. At KWFT, we focused on poverty alleviation, but now we are incorporating financial capacity building of women and empowering them to be better placed economically.
KWFT, which is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Kenya Women Holding Company Limited (KWH), will continue assuming the role of providing financial services. KWH owns KWFT a 100 per cent.
Kenya Women Group will continue serving poor families through women. All the activities run under my leadership as the CEO.
EVE: What are some of the company activities?
RIRIA: The organisation understands the life cycle needs of low-income women from the time they are young, through to their active years, up to old age. We are also linking women with the outside world, instead of having their lives focused on their villages.
Currently, we have a pilot programme in Kisumu, where we have led the women to own ponds to curb the ‘sex for fish’ menace among other ventures.
KWFT recently received its license from the Central Bank to start accepting customer deposits.
EVE: What are the advantages of banking with KWFT-DTM (Deposit Taking Microfinance) over other banks?
RIRIA: The bank is feminine. It is a woman’s institution, owned by the women. We have considered products that suit women first before looking at profitability.
In the banking halls, there are mother’s rooms, ladies’ rooms, and even an express lane for pregnant, old and disabled women.
So far we have banking halls in Eldoret, Kakamega, Mombasa, Nairobi and Nyeri, and we are looking at having 20 of them by April next year.
We are finalising plans with Kenswitch, so that our clients can access their money via the Kenswitch ATMs.
EVE: How does one join Kenya Women Group?
RIRIA: To enjoy our services, one has to be a member. It costs Sh200 to join and one renews with Sh100 every year. If one is a small income earner, they can join as a chama. We offer loans as low as Sh10,000.
EVE: Any challenges the organisation faces?
RIRIA: The culture of cashing in on everything has caught up with women. Some try to sue us when we use photos that they have authorised us to use.
There are others who refuse to pay their loans. They also use the media to say that the institution is making them poorer.
EVE: What are your plans?
RIRIA: This year, we intend to work with other partners on an empowerment intervention. We want to make a lasting impact on women. We also want to introduce a mentoring programme focused on the girl-child. Another thing that we are looking at is introducing other subsidiaries of KWFT. It is my dream to go regional and empower women from the larger East Africa Community.