Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Last year, Eliminate Poverty NOW was introduced to the Joyful Women’s Organization. This non-profit supports income-generating projects for women through its table banking program, a system in which a group of women lends to its members. This creates a virtuous cycle with interest and loan repayments being continually recycled within the group.

At that time, JoyWO’s success had been phenomenal: in 4 years, they had grown to 400 groups, 10,000 members, and over $1 million in circulation. As the size of the projects grew from quite small (a woman selling bananas near the side of the road) to more ambitious (greenhouses, poultry operations, market vegetable farming), it became clear that they would require more training and technical support. EPN provided a grant of $12,000 to train and support 600 of the most enterprising women.

In the 16 months since EPN first visited, JoyWO has grown to 1,600 groups, 30,000 women, and over $3 million being loaned out. They’ve gone from a staff of 12 to 62, almost all of whom are field officers focused on business development and technical support.

Toloek group members and Joywo staff outside the Toloek greenhouse

A group of ladies from Toloek prepare to plant tomatoes

One JoyWO group, the 19-member Toloek women’s cooperative, decided to use their funds provided by Kenya's Ministry of Irrigation to build a greenhouse to grow tomatoes. Judy, John, and Helen met 5 members of the Toloek group at the greenhouse located near the home of Annabel, the mother of two young boys. The land was chosen for the site because of its access to electricity. Annabel hosted Judy, John, and Helen for lunch during their visit. When asked how he felt about having the greenhouse located on their land, Annabel's husband said, “As long as it is helping the women, I’m happy to give the land.” And with the greenhouse came piped water. Annabel said, “I never thought I would live in a house with piped water. And now look –  I have both electricity AND piped water!”

Annabel's home, complete with electricity and running water

Annabel and Toloek club members hosted lunch

Group members Judy Koech (who runs a hardware business) and her mother-in-law, Anna, have the rest of the family excited about the greenhouse as well. Both Judy and her husband expect much good to come from the project, and her father-in-law was so excited when Judy, John, and Helen arrived, he urged Anna to hurry and told her, "Your guests are in the greenhouse.” 

Seeing the men in the family be so supportive of their wives was truly a highlight of the visit. In Kenyan society, women have traditionally not had the same rights and opportunities as men, but all of the women Judy, John, and Helen met said that both they – and their husbands – are thrilled with the changes the greenhouse will bring to their lives.