By Sophie Oyugi
Komarock Estate in Nairobi is fairly new compared to other estates in the city. And so when it was completed and people moved in, a group of women living in the same court, Mkokoa Court, decided to come together and start a chama.
It is interesting that they actually formed the group courtesy of their children who used to play together and became friends.
They moved into the court between 1990 and 1992, but started the chama in 2002. The purpose of the chama was to help them know each other better and foster unity in their court. They called their chama Mkokoa Ladies’ Group and agreed to hold a meeting every first Sunday of the month in their respective houses.
Their meetings are not just about sitting, chatting and eating. The 12 women meet to discuss issues that can better their lives. So far, the group has been able to acquire two parcels of land in Ruai, which they intend to develop soon. They have also invested in shares at the Nairobi Securities Exchange and at Stima Sacco.
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“Each member contributes Sh2,300 per month. Sh1,000 is given to the host, Sh1,000 to our investment account and Sh300 is for our welfare activities. This is how we have managed to acquire what we have,” says the chairlady, Margaret Ong’wen.
The group saves all its investment capital at Stima Sacco where they intend to take a loan and develop their two plots. Despite the fact that most of the members are unemployed and rely on their spouses for their monthly contributions, the group is determined to ensure that each of them has a plot in the near future.
“Each one of us should eventually be able to have an income,” they add.
They have been able to empower each other from the loans the group offers at a ten per cent interest rate.
“We want each one of us to feel as equals whether we are employed or not. The loans are able to boost each woman’s esteem and they are able to be financially independent,” Margaret says.
Other than the income from their monthly contributions and interest on loans, they also charge fines for absenteeism (Sh100), lateness (Sh50), failure to remit monthly contribution (Sh500) and gossiping (Sh200) — what an interesting way to tame the members.
“We have never experienced any gossip in our group, but you never know. Sometimes women have issues, so we take precaution,” says Thamasis Njaramba, the member hosting the chama on this particular day.
The group is so tight that the loss of a founder member in 2006 was a big blow to them.
“We still involve her family in our activities and always want to ensure her children are well,” says another member.
Something unique about this group is what they refer to as ‘sweetie’. Each member has a sweetie in the group and whenever one’s sweetie is hosting, the sweetie has to bring them a gift. The hostess, Thamasis, says her sweetie, who unfortunately is the member who passed on, bought the microwave she has.
Other than the Nairobi meetings, the members have visited each of their rural homes. This in essence has forced each member to develop his or her homes.
“You must ensure you have a presentable home when members visit you. The home visits are memorable since we involve almost the entire village. We buy lesos for the women and shirts for the men,” says Margaret.
They also educate the villagers on investment matters and are informed whenever they have a harambee (fund-raising).
Apart from blessing their kinsmen, the group has also visited SOS Children’s Home in Buru Buru Nairobi where they donated food and clothing.
These neighbours, who say they never lack any basics courtesy of their friendship, have become like one large family and treat all their children equally.
For their fun time, they love treating themselves at the end of each year.
“That is the time to spoil ourselves silly. We sometimes invite our spouses and children,” concludes the chairlady.