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Chamas: It’s no longer a women-only affair

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By - Sophia Oyugi | July 7th 2013
Comrades Investment Group [PHOTOS: JONAH ONYANGO/ STANDARD]

By Sophia Oyugi

Gone are the days when chamas were a women’s preserve. Chamas have been around from the time when our mothers used them to buy utensils, to now when women are investing big time, in real estate, among other things.

Today, there are many men in chamas, and they are doing great things.

Interestingly, some of these chamas are formed over a drink in a local pub. A group of friends who frequent a joint get acquainted to each other, then decide to form a group. Many have started this way and now have great investments. Other groups, like Comrades Self-help Group in Nairobi, have 80 per cent membership of men. They grew up in the same estate and when they were all adults, decided to start a chama. Others start as colleagues — many mechanics, matatu drivers and touts, have started self-help groups. The fact that they work together makes it easier to come together.

So is there a difference between men and women chamas?

Yes, most chamas formed by men are purely savings and investment. Unlike women who will want to meet up in their homes over a meal, a cup of tea and a great bonding session, men will make their meetings very formal. They will get a private meeting place, out of their homes, get down to serious business, before handing out their money to the treasurer then disperse.

Galo Chunje Self-help Group is a chama of mechanics in Kisumu. They hire space at Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground where they hold their meetings.

Unlike women who have to worry about children and the day to day running of their homes, men have the advantage of time and financial muscle. This, therefore, allows them to comfortably get into big projects. Some luxurious gated communities, restaurants and pubs are courtesy of investment groups started by men.

It is said that women can multi-task but men handle one thing at a time; they thus, adopt different strategies and steps, for the best results. They are also risk takers and go for any investment they deem fit. Women would never go for riskier investments and would rather spread their money over less risky investments.

So, while women will set up savings accounts where they can keep their accumulated money, men will take the risk in this type of trading, as they love to take risks with their money.

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