Wildlife Works strongly values women in the community and their autonomy to assume influential roles and set their own course. Last week, several members of Wildlife Works attended a women’s economic empowerment speech within our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project area in Kenya. The meeting featured Rachel Chebet, the wife of Kenya’s Vice President William Ruto, and focused on ‘table banking’.
Table banking is a practice that Mrs. Chebet started four years ago in the Taita Taveta region (where our project is based) to strengthen womens’ groups and promote economic stability. Table banking is a practice through which women organize into registered groups where each member contributes to a ‘group bank account’ that is then loaned out to women in the form of unsecured loans. As these loans are paid back with a 10% interest rate, the overall pot of money grows over time, allowing these groups to grow in wealth.
The talk encouraged women to come together and register in groups of 15-35 people, as money that is given to communities by NGOs and the government is mostly funneled to registered and organized groups. Table banking is also highly important in regions like Taita Taveta because it allows women the ability to attain a loan outside of a microfinance organization, thus reducing the risks associated with missing deadlines on their loan repayments and higher interest rates.
The speech targeted over 2,000 women in Kasigau and Maurungu towns and was attended by nearly 600 women. Those who could not fit inside the community hall spilled out of the doors and watched from the windows. It was a lively affair. The event was strung together by the concept of women in power, with several influential women in attendance including the county Deputy Governor’s wife, prominent businesswomen, and a celebrity singer. From singing and dancing to praying and reflecting, the event had the attention of every last woman in the hall.
Wildlife Works has helped to facilitate large community meetings like this one through improving the community hall space, including providing nearly 550 chairs to be used at events like this one using money from carbon credits. We believe it is of utmost importance to give the community the tools they need to take charge of their futures and make unified, diplomatic decisions for themselves.
Through table banking, the women within our project area can finance their business endeavors and partake in economic growth that is profitable, meaningful, and sustainable. It is so great to witness events like these and see their success and impact. Watching many hundreds of women turn to each other and say “you need to fight” in unison was a spectacular example of how women are working with each other to promote economic stability within an area that is also protecting a valuable and beautiful ecosystem.