Women Enterprise Fund targets to disburse Sh30 billion in five years

Delegates during the WEF stakeholders' validation workshop at Sarova Stanley on  November 5, 2023. [Samson Wire standard]

The Women Enterprise Fund (WEF), in the next five years, targets to disburse Sh30 billion to 5 million women across the country.

This was revealed when the Fund held a stakeholders' validation workshop on Tuesday for its upcoming fifth Strategic Plan (2023-2027) at Sarova Stanley in Nairobi.

“In this Strategic Plan 2023-2024, we have plans to enhance lives of brand new members up to the tune of Sh30 billion to 5 million new women and do market linkages of them to over 200,000  both locally and globally,’’ said Dr Josephine Obonyo, Secretary Gender at the State Department for Gender And Affirmative Action.

Ms Obonyo spoke on behalf of Anne Wango’mbe, Principal Secretary, the State Department for Gender And Affirmative Action.

Since its inception in 2007, over Sh27.8 billion has been disbursed to over 2 million women across the country and over 1.72 million women trained in entrepreneurship, financial literacy and value addition.

This is besides several initiatives to enable market access and linkages. In July 2023, WEF was re-modelled from manual to digital in line with President William Ruto’s promise on digitising government services.

Women in groups of 10 up to 30 members can now access loans by dialling *254# and Sh941 million has been disbursed to 18,955 groups by September since the migration to digital at the usual interest rate of six per cent.

Dr Obonyo underscored the Strategic Plan's emphasis on sustainability and resilience, crucial in today's dynamic economic landscape.

Dr Jane Lang’at, chairperson of the Women Enterprise Fund Advisory Board, emphasised key strategic focuses of the plan.

She said the new plan is focused on enhancing financial sustainability, improving loan accessibility for women entrepreneurs, fostering financial and entrepreneurial skills, enhancing market access and strengthening institutional capabilities.

“The Sh30 billion will be five times more than what we have been giving to uplift the lives of women and in the process empower them,” said Dr Langat.

She encouraged women to borrow the funds but ensure they repay the money since it’s a revolving fund to benefit others.

“We have been having big challenges of defaults with some women saying it's government money and our taxes and we can refuse to pay but I tell you that yes it's government money that needs to be repaid to help others. When you pay back, you increase your credit score to get more when you borrow next time and if you fail, they will not get loans,” said Dr Langat.

This is despite the repayment rate in the last strategic plan being good at 97 per cent.

The proposed plan, which should be launched before December 31, follows the 2019-2024 one that was ended prematurely before it elapsed next year in July for the new plan to align with the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda(BETA).

She said in the new model, the Fund will only cater for women group members unlike in the manual, where even men were allowed to be part of members.

The chairperson added they are looking at getting donors, who will support them with grants to help in insuring the loaned amount in case women experience losses caused by disruptions beyond them like pandemics and elections.

The WEF Acting CEO of Women Enterprise Fund, Raphael Kimolo assured stakeholders, who mostly included leaders of women groups that the issues they raised including increasing loan amount from Sh50,000, blending digital and manual registration and processing of loans among others will be considered in the finalisation of the draft plan.

“The Sh50,000 plan was just the starting amount for the new members and if you fail to pay back, you will not be able to pay the Sh750,000. However, for those who have been borrowing more than Sh50,000 and above, we will still loan up to Sh750,000 since we know your various groups' credit scores,” he said.

He added: “The payment period will also move from one month to 12 months to give you a good time to repay. On widows’ loans called Dhamini, we will also consider bringing them back."

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