Vijabiz is stepping up young women’s economic empowerment through new agribusiness knowledge and skills…

…Vijabiz shines the brightest light on some of the women in rural areas and whose empowerment in agribusiness is bringing the farthest left behind to the forefront of being the prime beneficiaries and drivers of sustainable businesses in the sector. Meet three women youth groups who are empowering women to venture into the sector. The women beneficiaries tell their own stories of how the project gave them a voice, improved their choices and most importantly, what difference it made to their lives, families and communities…

“We thank Vijabiz for teaching young women about different business aspects. Our new entrepreneurship skills have enabled us to direct our drive to improve our lives into our businesses. We urge others to support women in engaging in agribusiness, despite low levels of education, that they can achieve more in life-“-Sylvia Madenje Saidia Young Mothers Self-Help Group 

Blessing Hand Youth Group in Kapkures ward in Nakuru county, Saidia Young Mothers Self-Help Group in Mwarakara ward in Kilifi county and Mayungu High Vision Women Group in Watamu ward, also in Kilifi county acquired knowledge that helped improve their activities such as buying and selling of fish and cereals as well as improving their marketing skills and access to funds.

Their products are now sold to schools, hotels, supermarkets and their communities. Their level of organisation and sharing one vision helped in the writing of business plans. They now employ women in the businesses, supplying them with a regular income. Since these women are truly invested in succeeding, they are goal-oriented and serious about proper implementation.

“Through the Vijabiz project we have learnt that both men and women can and should be given the same opportunities. This is why we are making efforts to continue empowering more women to venture into agribusiness activities to support them in earning a living,

as representatives of these groups, we attended the various Vijabiz trainings. In these trainings, we learnt about marketing, ICT and building a business. Thirty-six women were present of which 12 continued to train other women through the women’s groups in their areas,

we acquired knowledge which enabled us to improve our activities in agribusiness, such as buying and selling of fish and cereals as well as improving our marketing skills and access to funds.

the trainers from the company Demand Link Business Solutions made the training interactive and we are proud to have gained these useful skills. After the training we returned to our respective groups and shared what we had learnt with other women,” representatives of the three women groups.

These trainings empowered them to engage further in agribusiness, including the production, buying, packaging and selling of cereal products and fish. Today, the products are sold to schools, hotels, supermarkets and the community at large.

Sylvia Madenje, is a good example of how being part of the youth group can transform the lives of women. At 22 years old now, she has turned her life around.

As part of a family of seven children, Sylvia dropped out of school towards the end of primary school. Her family situation required her to serve as parent to her siblings by providing for them.

“Then I got married early, believing that by becoming somebody’s wife all problems would be gone. I did not realise that more problems were running after me. After giving birth, my husband left me. I decided to fight for my life and that of my child,

i realised that I was surely not the only one, so I decided to look for other women with similar problems, and we formed a group of 15 ladies with an objective of changing everyone’s life.

most of the women in the group, aged between 18-24 years old, had dropped out of school,

thanks to Vijabiz, we are committed to fight for women’s empowerment because had our mothers not dropped out of school, we would have been better off. In out area, girls are considered house assets but that is changing now and we are the agents of this change in our communities through agribusiness,” says Sylvia

Saidia Young Mothers group members started using a system of ‘table banking’, where all members contribute to a common fund which can be used by individual members when needed.

Sylvia asked for a loan from the group which helped her start a small business. After seeing positive changes in her life, she urged other women to join their group.

A training course by the Red Cross Kenya and the trainings by Vijabiz supported Sylvia, exposing her to knowledge on how to market her own and her group’s activities.

“Even though it is not completely stable, it is better than the way it was. I do believe in myself and in the quote that change starts with me. I started alone and during the journey I was joined by others.” Access to finances and markets The group savings and loans system implemented in all three groups allows all of our members to borrow money with an interest rate of 10%,

not only do we have direct access to fund in our own groups, but our demonstrated capacity to run activities like this table banking has allowed us to have active bank accounts and has linked us to other (larger) financial institutions.

What’s more, our level of organisation and having a common vision has enabled us to write business plans, with the help of the financial management trainings by Vijabiz. In addition, we have assets such as fridges, tailoring machines, and branding and packaging machines, giving financial institutions the confidence to support the groups as we expand our businesses.

 All 36 women are actively marketing their businesses within and beyond our communities. We use posters and social media, and by improving our packaging have made our products more attractive to customers.

we take risks while having faith in our entrepreneurial skills. Of course, it helps that there is a ready market for our produce and a reliable supply of the products that we package and sell.

due to the availability of social media like WhatsApp and Facebook, we have been able to use these platforms to reach our customers. Yet illiteracy within the community is a persistent challenge we still face. One way we use social media is by posting photos of our products,

another positive result is that we are starting to employ women from our group in our businesses and supplying them with a regular income. In Mwarakara for example, the Saidia Group has employed two members in the cereal shop. It helps that some of the women volunteer to work regularly, even if paid employment is not completely possible yet, still, the lack of experience can pose a bit of a challenge for official employment of members, as well as a lack of documents that can prove that the women are qualified for the position” says Sylvia.

The project’s powerful impact is indeed proof that Agriculture can be an important engine of growth and poverty reduction among the youth, and most importantly, for young women, who have proven to be a crucial resource in agriculture and the rural economy.