Table Banking Our Way to Economic Freedom

Phionah Musumba
Posted July 18, 2018 from Kenya
Malkia Girls Empowerment Program
Digula High School girls getting tips on their sexuality, life skills and entrepreneurship.
Malkia Foundation women working the land
Malkia Foundation women working the land: Selling agricultural produce is one of the many ways the women at Malkia Foundation make money. (1/2)

In 2012, I moved from the city to the village, to better take part in The Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, a community based organization that I had founded in 1999, in Vihiga County of Western Kenya. I wasn't sure that my babies, 8, 3 and 1 year olds would survive the move. They took to it like ducks to water, and I was glad. 

Almost immediately, after holding way forward meetings with my team, my house became an office and rescue place for women fleeing domestic violence.  Every week, I would shelter at least 4 different women and their children,  not to mention repeat ones. It was hard for us at first, because my place is a bit isolated, and was understandably scary at night without electricity and people banging on the door in the dead of night while crying out in fear, at the tops of their lungs. After the first week, my 8 year old Dylan would open the door automatically, even before the banging started. 

We live in a community where everyone knows everyone else's business so it was not hard for me to find out what happened in these women's houses. I asked them why they got beaten up and the answer was always the same. That they had asked their husbands for the basic necessities of their families. I made it my mission to do my personal research and it wasn't long before I uncovered the crux of the matter. These men didn't beat their wives because they wanted to, but because they couldn't shoulder all the responsibilities of their households, with only the one US dollar they earned from menial labor, when they got the jobs. This was the same money that their women expected to buy food, educate and clothe their children with too, and would most likely throw a tantrum when they were told that was all there was.

I noticed too that when most of these women came to draw water from the borehole in my compound that serves the better part of our Gamoi village,  they would idle and pass the time swapping gossips for most of the day. That's where I decided to start. I invited them into my house, and suggested a change of behavior. I told them that instead of wasting time discussing stuff that didn't add value to their lives, maybe they could still gossip while making something constructive with their hands. Seeing that they were intrigued, I bought different types of beads and hired someone to teach them how to make jewelry which they sold at the local markets on the market days. 

Although they only managed to make paltry sums in the beginning, they were so excited about making their own money, with which they helped around the house. With time, the frequency with which the women fled to my house started reducing and I realized that the little money they were making from selling their products locally was helping achieve this new normalcy in their lives.

I started thinking of what we could do to make them sustainable as they all yearned to make more money, but the local markets could only bring them so much. A year later, I got what I thought would be the solution, and which turned out to be the best decision I ever made as a grassroots leader. Problem was that we did not have the funding necessary to actualize this. This meant that I had to work twice as hard on my odd jobs, which paid off, and I was able to raise $ 500, which we started off with. I invited some financial management officers from a nearby bank who came and provided the 12 ladies we had chosen to pilot the project with real time training for a whole day, on how to run and sustain tiny businesses. 

The money was put on the table, for the ladies to borrow among themselves at a discussion 10% interest rate. Trick was that the principal had to be returned on the same day every month, which they chose the 12th. We also insisted that the tiny loan could only be used to invest in a simple tiny business. We agreed that too that if for some reason the ladies couldn't pay up the principal, then it was okay to just pay the interest until they managed to pay off the loans. 

These tiny loans were so phenomenal that the ladies were able to run tiny businesses and help around their homes in bigger more significant ways. Their table banking grew and gave birth to the second group, which continued to 37 groups in a span of 5 years. 

The loans have grown to the point that right now, the budget for our table banking is $ 2000 and growing. The tiny businesses they started are now small businesses that are doing so well that they are able to send their children, especially girls who were treated as second class citizens before, to secondary schools and beyond. 

The loan repayment rate is also really commendable, at 75%, which makes it easy to have the capital for new groups of women to repeat the cycle. Am happy that we no longer host scared, battered women, as domestic violence has significantly dropped, what with the women carrying the bigger financial loads in their families. With economic freedom, came self confidence. 

We graduated into the Malkia Foundation in 2014. Ours is a national non governmental organization that empowers girls with educational opportunities and women skills for enterprise development towards gainful and or self employment for sustainability. 

My Dylan is now in high school,  and the babies just started primary school, in grades 1 and 2. We have also grown exponentially, and aren't afraid of the dark anymore, because our house is not only secured with fencing, but also electrified. 

 

 

 

This story was submitted in response to #WealthofWomen.

Comments 14

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Jill Langhus
Jul 19, 2018
Jul 19, 2018

Hi Phionah,

Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, work and foundation. Do you have a website and/or social media page(s) to share?

You may want to apply for the following awards/prizes:
https://www.girlrising.com/challenge (ends August 15)
https://amplifychange.org/grant-model/network/ (ends July 31)

And, there is also an opportunity to apply for a free, six month mentoring on the "Resources" page, if you are interested: https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/bim/resources/86074.

Good luck with the prizes and your story submission.

Hope you have a great day!!!

Phionah Musumba
Jul 19, 2018
Jul 19, 2018

Thank you so so very much for the encouragement, Jill.
Thanks too for taking the time to read my story and for sharing the resources.

Juliet Acom
Jan 07
Jan 07

Wow!!!
You truly are a phenomenal woman, helping other women to rise up.
God bless the work of your hands.

Phionah Musumba
Feb 19
Feb 19

Amen, Sister, and thank you.
You are doing amazing work yourself.
GBU too.

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 10
Jan 10

Hello Phionah,
Thank you for sharing this amazing story of empowering women from zero to sheroes.
It is an example worth emulating.
All the best in the years ahead.

Phionah Musumba
Feb 19
Feb 19

Sister, Sister!
Thank you.
Your work is an inspiration to me too.

leila Kigha
Mar 21
Mar 21

Yesss Phionah!
You inspire me with your story.
I am motivated the more and the crisis in my region is not going to deter me.
Thank you and keep on keeping on!

Phionah Musumba
Jun 21
Jun 21

You are such an inspiration, Leila.
You will achieve it.
Thanks for the encouragement. P

What you are doing leaves me speechless, keep doing it...

Phionah Musumba
Jun 21
Jun 21

Nnenna, thank you.

Yusra Shaukat
May 24
May 24

Dear Phionah,

An amazing story and I am totally moved by it. You are an inspiration to thousands out there. Best of luck with your work.

Phionah Musumba
Jun 21
Jun 21

Thanks, Yusra.

Hellen Kimanzi
Jun 19
Jun 19

Hi Phionah,

This is so encouraging and am happy i came across your story on this amazing platform. Kindly reach out to me on hellenkimanzi3@gmail.com.

Phionah Musumba
Jun 21
Jun 21

Done. Thank you, Hellen.