The impact of micro-finance on women's socio-economic empowernment in Nairobi

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This study discusses the impact of micro- finance services on the economic and social welfare offemale micro-entrepreneurs in Nairobi, Kenya. The main questions addressed by the study were: (1) How has micro-finance contributed to the social status of women beneficiaries? And, (2) To what extent has micro-finance impacted on the economic status of the women beneficiaries? The principal objective of the study was to assess the impact of micro-finance on women's socio-economic empowerment in Nairobi. The study population consisted of all women accessing micro-finance from six micro-finance institutions and the unit of analysis was the individual woman micro-entrepreneur. The sample population consisted of one hundred and twenty women micro-entrepreneurs who had accessed micro-finance from the six micro-finance institutions. The study was guided by the theory of empowerment and data were collected using the survey, observation, narratives, focus group discussions, and secondary sources. The qualitative data were sorted out, described, interpreted and explained while the quantitative data were processed and analyzed using the statistical package for social sciences and the findings presented in tables of frequencies and percentages as well as pie charts. The main findings of the study are: One, following access to micro-finance, women microentrepreneurs were able to experience substantial expansion of their businesses. Two, savings for women increased due to the requirement by the micro-finance institutions that the beneficiaries should have a certain amount of money in deposits in order to qualify for a loan. Three, access to micro-finance had enhanced women's confidence and knowledge due to the training offered as well as a sense of security due to availability of emergency loans and health insurance offered by some micro-finance-institutions. Four, micro-finance did not contribute significantly towards change in decision-making in the family for the married women micro-entrepreneurs. Based on these findings, the study concluded that with increased access to micro-finance services, women micro-entrepreneurs are bound to experience substantial returns in terms of their micro-enterprises growth as well as improved social status. It is, therefore, recommended that the many challenges-facing women micro-entrepreneurs, a major one being poverty, need to be addressed by the government and other development partners. It is also recommended that the micro-finance policies available such as the Micro- Finance Regulations of 2008, be reviewed to attract more institutions so as to enhance accessibility to the crucial services.

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