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We invest in our social lives

By | March 6th 2011

By Matilda Nzioki

A group of women friends at the university decided to form a chama to keep their friendship afloat. Their main objective was to strengthen their marriages and family ties.

Tell us about your chama?

We are known as Women of Excellence as we strive to be excellent. We started as six ladies in 1995. Five of us were former campus mates and the other was a mutual friend. Three moved towns and we recruited others to replace them. We are now seven members.

What prompted you to start the chama?

We needed to keep our friendship close. We were fresh from college and young in marriage. We were still adjusting to the challenges of marriage and would encourage each other and, up to now, our marriages are still intact. We also wanted strengthen sisterhood, family ties, appreciation of marriage and motherhood.

Chama members. from left: Millicent Palo (treasurer), Bridget Mruttu, Getrude Osore, Nancy Milla, Ursula Bahati (secretary) and Caroline Kadenge (Chairlady). [Photo:Matilda Nzioki/Standard]

How much do you contribute?

We started with Sh600 a month and now we contribute Sh4,500. We meet every second Saturday of the month. Sh500 is for what we call ‘kitchen top-up’ for the host to buy anything they need for the kitchen. Sh2,000 is for the host to buy any other household item.

Sh1,000 goes to the account to fund our activities, while the other Sh1,000 is for shopping for items like sugar and flour for the hosting member.

What type of a chama are you?

Unlike many chamas, our core business is not investment but social growth. We only bought shares once, when we had excess cash. Our social activities include a children’s day, spouse day, family day and our own girls’ day. We also lend out money to each other and pay it back with an interest per month. We have also introduced rural home visits where we visit a member’s parents or in-laws. We have a constitution that guides our activities.

Tell us about the girls’ days.

It is meant for bonding; for us to unwind and open up to each other. Our husbands respect it as our ‘me time’. We talk about what we are going through and encourage each other. In the past we have visited Mombasa, Malindi and even Kampala. This November, we plan to go to South Africa.

At the beginning of each year, we buy each other personal gifts worth Sh2,000. We pick names through a ballot and one is not allowed to divulge the name of the person they have picked until the presentation day.

The children’s day?

It is a day out with the children for them to bond and enjoy themselves. We take them to movies, swimming or to have fun at a shopping mall.

What about the spouse day?

It is the day we take our husbands out; they leave their wallets at home. Our intention initially was for them to know each other, our friends and also appreciate the chama. They all know each other now. We buy them gifts and treat them to a candle-lit dinner. Each member shares something special about their spouse on this occasion. This strengthens our marriages as we learn from each other’s marriages.

And the family day?

We hold one at the end of the year when the children are on holiday. We also buy them gifts. Last December, we went to Lake Elementaita Lodge for a night and everyone got a mug with their name and the Women of Excellence logo engraved on it. One member’s spouse who passed on a few years ago also got one posthumously. We still feel that he is part of us.

What’s the best part of being in this chama?

Our meetings are therapeutic and are characterised with a lot of laughter. We talk and even cry together. It’s comforting to know that as long as we have each other, none of us can ever sleep hungry.

We are at peace at the thought that if, God forbid, anything should happen to us, our children will have mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, thanks to the chama.

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