For several women in Njabini, Kenya, clothes, jewelry and yoga mat bags are the key to financial empowerment. The Boston Globe reports on a steadily growing company called Njabini Apparel which is working to employ landless and physically disabled women and provide financial stability to the area.
“One of my desires is to see as many women empowered as possible because being here so long, I can tell you there are so many women that need to be empowered,” Mike Behan, one of the co-founders of Njabini Apparel said to the Boston Globe. Behan is a 21-year-old rising senior at Northeastern University. “Many men are not responsible in their families and that means that all the responsibilities are left to the women — feeding the children, clothing the children, paying the school fee.”
Behan first visited Njabini as a volunteer with the non-profit Flying Kites. With help from the non-profit, he and two other volunteers—Tom Mwangi and Erin O’Malley— started the apparel company in 2010. Since then, they have been able to employ eight women in the local community. To qualify as an employee the women must have at least one child under the age of 12, be physically disabled or landless, and live within 10 miles of Njabini. The company’s eight employees each make four times the average national income which is about $780. In addition, Njabini Apparel buys as much fabric and materials from the local area as possible and also provides employees with seminars and programs to encourage monthly budgeting, saving and business development.
Over the past two years the company has also been able to secure three project-specific grants to create outreach and educational programs. In December 2011 they started a pilot credit program for non-consumption-based assets loans. Njabini employees as well as other members of the community are able to receive $2,000-30,000 for small business projects.
“…to the women, they’re definitely not microloans,” Behan said. “They’re really flexible. It’s tailored to what each woman wants to accomplish.”
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