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Business Women Support Program

Kianda Foundation has been running the ‘Business Women Support Program’ (BWSP) since 2003 targeting rural and peri-urban women. The aim of the project is to empower women through basic business training with the help of university students. The university students and other volunteers are trained in business and life skills to become instructors for the women economic empowerment course. Once they complete this training, they go to the respective villages to train the beneficiaries with the supervision of the project coordinators. Due to the life-skills component of the course and in order to encourage the women to speak freely, the recruited trainers are female.
The training module includes topics such as: saving and investment, starting a business, keeping basic business records, marketing, budgeting, and business plan writing. Training is done mainly in Kiswahili which is widely understood within the participating communities. The women select a training venue and time which is convenient for them. Each student takes charge of helping a small group of women to plan their own businesses. To date over 3000 women, have gone through this program. Most of the enterprises started by the women flourish with over 80% of them having more than doubled their monthly income 6 months after the training program.

The students, under the supervision of the project coordinator, monitor the women for six months to help them solve any problems that may arise, study initiatives, and evaluate possibilities for future expansion.

One of the major challenges experienced by the women who have gone through the BWSP is the lack of capital. Kianda Foundation has partnered with a Microfinance bank to lend to those who require capital for their businesses. The Foundation has a Guarantee Fund with the Micro-finance bank. The bank conducts their usual due diligence. After the one-month training, follow-up is conducted once a week over a six-month period. During follow-up further training is conducted to impart practical skills.

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The women who attend the BWSP program value it highly, because they learn how to run their businesses professionally, and in the process improve their standard of living. They also appreciate the life skills that are taught as part of the course; such as nutrition and cookery, inter-personal relationships, self- esteem, health, good upbringing of children, among others. All these have had a positive effect on the whole family. Most of the university students find that participating in the BWSP program helps them to work with a professional mentality. They have learnt to make better use of their time, to work diligently and constantly, and to be responsible about the things they have undertaken. They comment that they would like to give a social dimension to their jobs, for example by introducing specific community development initiatives in the organizations they will work in after graduating.
Going forward, BWSP aims to expand its reach and sustainability by forming village committees of women leaders who are past beneficiaries of the program. The committees will receive training from the Foundation