Dr Jill Biden, the First Lady of the United States of America, left on Sunday after three days in Kenya. The tour was highly hyped but seemingly left nothing for the host, Mama Racheal Ruto, with very little, if any, to write home about.
That’s why when First Lady Mama Rachel Ruto accompanied President Dr William Ruto to see off Dr Jill Biden, it was clear no major deal had been struck to uplift women in Kenya. This visit was aimed at enhancing collaboration between Kenya and America, to gain an understanding of the effects of climate change and the advancement of women’s economic empowerment. Whether this was achieved it is not even clear.
As part of her itinerary, Dr Biden made a personal visit to the Women for Peace Group in Kibera to experience table banking model, championed by Mama Rachel Ruto through the Mama Doing Good Organization. This stands out as the main take-away from her visit which brought out the challenges of accessing credit in Kenya.
Under the table banking model, women who often have limited access to credit from financial institutions borrow money they have pooled together. This enables them to start or expand their own businesses, invest in their children’s education, and meet other household expenses.
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“With every thriving business, with every scientific breakthrough, with every act of kindness — each of the amazing women I met today in Kenya is making their community and country stronger,” Dr Jill Biden said.
The table banking model, spearheaded by First Lady Rachel Ruto through the Mama Doing Good Organization is operational in 39 out of the country’s 47counties. The program has significantly impacted over 150,000 women who are organized into more than 11,000 groups and boasts a monthly revolving fund of Ksh2.5 billion.
Digitization of the table banking model is underway, to accelerate growth and attract young people.
Dr Jill Biden gave a moving speech reminiscing her visits to Kenya. “This is my third visit to Kenya, and I have so many incredible memories here,” she said. “In fact, I told my granddaughter Naomi that coming here changed my life—and that’s why she wanted to join me. So, it’s wonderful to be back, and I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome.”
She noted that while women have never been silent, they have been silenced. For many women around the world, simply raising their voice is a struggle, she added, noting, women have had to fight for a seat at the table.
“Maybe that’s true for many of you as well. Your stories are an inspiration. And that’s why I’m here today—to listen to you, hear about all that you’ve achieved, and take your stories back with me.”
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