The Diocese of Meru caritas has recognized the role played by microfinance in its broadest sense in improving the livelihoods of thousands of women from abject poverty and its contribution to the realization of the Kenya Vision 2030. This has held up the diocese of Meru commitment to make a contribution towards improving the lives of men,women and youths in the diocese, and the country at large.the diocese has several microfinance initiatives in its name.
The Catholic Social Development office of Tharaka Nithi deanery saw the predicament of women and came up with policies aimed at promoting unified integrated microfinance and development activities in the region. In 1999, Trocaire was pleased by the noble idea of the women of Tharaka Nithi Deanery which has 0ver 9,000 members, from 14 parishes of Tharaka Nithi deanery and agreed to boost them by meeting their administration costs for six years. The women in this area have been able to up lift their livelihoods through Mwichuiri self help group which is now operating as a savings and credit unit, where the members can save and get loans.
According the project coordinator, Mrs Marycent Mugambi, the Mwichuiri self help group started as a group to educate and develop leadership in women. Marycent among other members acknowledge that Mwichuiri which currently has a total savings of over Sh. 100 million is one of the successful initiatives whose main aim is to improve the livelihoods of the vulnerable women in the deanery and are optimistic it will preferably spread to the entire diocese.
The mixed gender group was started in 2002 and operates in Nithi & Tharaka deanery and its formation was inspired by the success story of Mwichuiri group and it received a boost from an Irish charitable organization, Trocaire which gave them a grant to start issuing loans. Currently, the project has over 750 members within Tharaka Nithi County, most of who engage in small business operations like bicycle repairs, cereals, grocery shops, basketry, livestock trading among others.. The project has empowered small business operators to the tune of 75million, cumulative loans, given every month.
The main goal of the group is to uplift catholic men to be self reliance through training men on life skills,create self awareness and develop mechanisms to cope with life challenges hence effectively promote catholic faith through evangelization. Members contributes a minimum of 100 shillings, after six months a member can borrow loan amounting to 3 times his savings and pay at 1%interest monthly for eighteen months.Since its establishment more than 20 members have borrowed loans mostly to pay school fees, business establishment and expansion, improve infrastructure among others.
The coordinator Mrs Marycent Mugambi says the program hopes to spread across the entire Meru diocese and register over 3000 members in five years, translating to improved livelihood standards and more empowered men.
Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) is made of self selected members, who form a group and raise contributions in which are in form of saving minimum amounts which they pull together to create a loan capital. The capital is then utilized by the group members to lend as loans and paid back with some interest.
This system of assets creation and financial stability works modest in rural areas since the purpose of SILC is to provide savings in a community that does not have access to financial services provision.
In 2010, Caritas Meru partnered with Caritas Kenya to initiate the project in Tharaka South, Tharaka North and Igembe North districts .Caritas Meru staff trained on the same trained willing groups in the three districts. Since the inception more people especially women engaging in table baking activities christened SILC are able to own household asset and run small business. In addition beneficiaries are able to respond to immediated needs such as school fees ,food and medical attention. over the years the socio economic model has been championed in 6 sub counties namely: Buuri, Tigania East & West, Igembe Central and Igembe South.
Currently, there are over 500 groups in the aforementioned sub counties, women taking the largest portion of active members. Mr Morris Kirimi - Director Caritas Meru notes that the programme has empowered over 2000 households since its inception. Silc members are comfortably walking towards prosperity.