THE SALVATION ARMY WORLD SERVICE OFFICE (SAWSO): Women of WORTH
Thousands of Kenyan women lift themselves – and each other – out of poverty
A donation will support a WORTH participant, providing:
• Business, literacy and numeracy training
• Access to financial loans
• Training and ability to launch their own small business
• Ability to be a shareholder in a micro bank
• Capacity to manage a micro bank
• A safe place to save and invest earned funds
• Access to insurance for emergencies
• Increased awareness of how to deal with community issues such as human trafficking, malaria, HIV & AIDS, etc.
• Social networking and support with 25 women from the participant’s community
In Kenya, as of 2017:
• 910 WORTH groups have been registered, consisting of
• over 20,000 women.
• More than 70,000 women in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have participated in WORTH programs.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.” – 1 Peter 4:10
Women in rural Kenya face a variety of challenges. Lack of educational opportunities places them at high risk of becoming victims of human trafficking and illness, and their children are vulnerable to early childhood marriage.
In the African nation’s male-dominated culture, a woman’s husband is often her sole source of support. If she loses her husband – or he loses his ability to provide – the entire family can spiral hopelessly into poverty.
That’s what the Salvation Army’s WORTH program – a microfinance banking and skills training program aimed at rural women – seeks to address. Women not only gain access to a system of savings and loans that empower them to become entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities, but also learn the skills they need to take advantage of those resources and succeed.
In groups of about 25, WORTH’s women make small deposits each week into a shared fund, kept in a strongbox with three different locks and keys, each held by one of three leaders elected by the group itself. When the fund grows large enough, group participants can take out loans to purchase livestock, supplies and materials to start their own small businesses and pursue financial independence.
WORTH also provides a curriculum for participants to teach each other basic literacy and mathematics, and bookkeeping. The women meet regularly to make their deposits, learn valuable new skills, and support each other emotionally and spiritually.
Inside the Corps Community Center for the monthly meeting, these women talk about their journeys, sometimes accompanied by tears and other times with shouting. They speak of escaping instability, poverty, homelessness, sickness, abuse, and neglect, with their voices growing louder as they announce newfound strength and independence they have achieved from their involvement with their WORTH group.
Many use their newfound skills to become business leaders and employers in their communities, providing opportunities for their friends and neighbors and strengthening their own local economies. Some even form partnerships and start new ventures together.
And success breeds more success – members are asked to commit a portion of their income earnings to the group savings account, which in turn offers loans to other participants to start their own businesses. The interest earned is then given back to the women in the group.
Phanice, a woman in her early 50s, once shared a tiny grass house with her 15 children. She bought her first pigs with a WORTH loan, which she now raises and sells for a profit. Her success as led to a larger, more comfortable home for herself and her children, who now regularly eat three healthy meals every day. She plans start additional businesses, and hopes for her children to receive university educations.
“WORTH has transformed my life,” Phanice said. “WORTH is a light – it brought light into my home.”
Building upon this success, The Salvation Army World Service Office will continue to bring hope to women’s lives by expanding WORTH’s proven approach throughout Kenya, and beyond.