The BOMA Project Enrolls 984 Women in Innovative Poverty Graduation Program in Northern Kenya

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 16:59 GMT

Alice Learoma lives in Gatab, a Samburu village in the cedar forests of Mount Kulal. She is the sole provider for five children, four of whom are in school. Her business group, the Baraka Women’s Group, has set up shop in a small building attached to her house. They sell metal cowbells and tire sandals, padlocks for houses and shops, and inexpensive mobile phones. Being involved in the BOMA business has encouraged her to attend adult literacy classes so she can record financial transactions.

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Marsabit District, Kenya — The BOMA Project, a U.S. nonprofit and Kenyan NGO that runs a high-impact business program for ultra-poor women in Northern Kenya, is enrolling 984 women—who support more than 5,000 children—in its innovative poverty-graduation program, the Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP).

From September 16–28, BOMA’s field staff will travel to 24 rural villages in the greater Marsabit and Samburu Districts, holding business-skills training sessions and distributing seed-capital grants. It’s the most ambitious business launch—enrolling almost 1,000 women in less than two weeks, across a remote region the size of Ireland—since BOMA founded REAP in January 2009. The training sessions are a critical step in the two-year REAP program, which includes two cash grants (to launch and grow the business), hands-on mentoring by a local BOMA Village Mentor, and sustained training in business skills and savings.

“I’m excited about this upcoming enrollment, because BOMA’s goal is to reach not just a few women, but thousands of women,” says BOMA CEO and founder Kathleen Colson. “It demonstrates our ability to scale our solution. REAP addresses the fundamental need of women living in extreme poverty in the arid lands of Africa. They need to earn an income and build up savings, so they can feed their families, pay for school fees and medical care, and survive drought in the face of a changing climate.”

The kickoff begins with BOMA field officers and mentors greeting the excited women, many of whom have walked 20–30 kilometers to reach the training hall. After learning about basic business skills, such as pricing and record-keeping, one representative from each three-woman business group steps forward to receive the start-up grant, which they use to buy inventory for their new enterprise. The training session also includes a shared meal and traditional call-and-response singing. Most BOMA businesses are small kiosks that sell food staples and basic household supplies, like maize flour, cooking oil, sugar, and tea.

“Most of my life, I have had nothing,” REAP participant Alice Learoma says. “Now I have a little for myself and my children. My children do not go to bed hungry, and I can pay the secondary school fees for my oldest child. For the first time in my life, I am OK.”

Since 2009, BOMA has impacted more than 7,400 women who support more than 44,000 children through the establishment of 2,301 businesses and 315 savings associations across Northern Kenya.

For more information, please contact: Kathleen James, Director of Communications and Foundations The BOMA Project 802.231.2542 / communications@bomaproject.org

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