Communal banking brings opportunity to African women

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Kenyan women are changing traditional taboos
By María V. R.
Not long ago Mary Auma and her three children were living in a one-room house and struggling to survive in rural Kenya. But their lives changed for the better when she was able to raise the €1,300 required to purchase 4,000 square metres of land and two cows. She now has financial security with a sustainable income, and has moved with her family to a nicer neighborhood. This is all because two years ago Ahero joined one of the groups known as ‘table banking’. This is a system backed by NGOs which brings women together to ‘put their finances on the table’. By pooling their assets they are able to borrow the money to buy land and start businesses.

This cooperative system of informal banking works extremely well. It is rare for members to default on loans because they are mainly neighbors who come together in good faith. One of the most prominent table banking organizations in Kenya is the Joyful Women Table Banking movement that has 200,000 members, and a revolving fund estimated at 24 million euros. While women can freely own and buy land in Kenya, less than 7% of them have title deeds. The concept of table banking is transforming women’s lives in a country where land is the prime asset for obtaining loans, and men have by tradition and custom dominated land ownership and inheritance.

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