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Women in business have received Sh7.5 billion from State, says CS Sicily Kariuki

NEWS
By Lee Mwiti | March 21st 2016
CS for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Sicily Kariuki speaking on the importance of the fulfillment of promises on gender equality and women empowerment by global leaders during a side event at the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. [Photo: Courtesy]

The Government has made available credit worth Sh7.51 billion to women businesses in the country, the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs has announced.

Sicily Kariuki said a total of 59,824 self-help women groups have since the inception of Women Enterprise Fund (WEF), accessed the funds, benefitting 1,158,328 individual women across the country.

The women, she added, had demonstrated their potential by recording an average loan repayment rate to the fund of 87 per cent nationally. The fund is a semi-autonomous Government agency under her ministry, which provides accessible and affordable credit to support women to start or expand business for wealth and employment creation.

In her statement delivered to the 60th Session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, Ms Kariuki said economic empowerment of women in Kenya through the established affirmative funds for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, is creating a culture of saving and investment among women.

Further, a preferential public procurement policy has been formulated, which has set aside at least 30 per cent of Government procurement for enterprises owned by women, youth and persons with disabilities.

The CS said the 30 per cent business opportunities for vulnerable groups translates to about Sh2.5 billion ($250 million) in business volumes annually.

Kariuki said the untapped potential of women and girls is now gaining much greater attention in Kenya, adding the country’s current Constitution has provided a powerful framework for addressing gender equality.

“It marks a new beginning for women’s rights in Kenya, seeking to remedy the traditional exclusion of women and promote their full involvement in every aspect of growth and development,” she said.

Similarly, she added, the Government is now playing a leading role and has formulated policies and created a number of institutions that seek to empower women and provide them with the necessary facilities and funding for entrepreneurship.

The CS said the WEF’s commitment to the empowerment of women in Kenya was actualised in 2011, when the fund emerged the winner of the Millennium Development Goals Award for Outstanding Achievement in Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.

Kariuki argued that resources in women’s hands have a range of positive outcomes for human capital and capabilities within a household and that there is a strong instrumental rationale for ensuring women’s participation in processes of growth.

“That access to economic resources by women often improves distributional dynamics within the household,” she said.

“Kenyan women now appreciate that Vision 2030 must be personalised and owned by each one of them by becoming active participants and consumers of services to positively transform their lives.”

She told the meeting that the recognition of the link between empowerment of women and sustainable development has informed Kenya’s policy and legislative initiatives.

“No development plan that excludes half of the stakeholders can hope to succeed,” she said.

It was out of this recognition, she said, that Kenya has a renewed institutional mechanism for the advancement of women as a strategic position in Government.

Kariuki said the free primary school and subsidised secondary education initiative has led to an 89.5 per cent primary completion rate for girls as well as higher transition rates to secondary school.

“Gender parity in education is an important enabler for the empowerment of women”, she said as Kenya co-chaired the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality at the Empowerment of Women’s 70th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

The CS, who later co-hosted a side event with China, Denmark, Mexico and UN Women, said the commitments arrived at international forums should be translated into action.

“Any hope of delivering on this promise of the agenda’s ambitious goals and targets will require translation of rhetoric into action”, she said.

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