Women's involvement in Micro and Small-scale Enterprises (MSEs): The Case of Garissa Town
Abdi, Sheikh M
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Ever since the 1972 ILO report on 'Employment, Incomes and Equality in Kenya', MSEs' importance was highlighted and has remained popular among majority of Kenyans who cannot engage in formal employment. MSEs are important means of livelihoods for many Kenyan families. On the basis of the importance of this sector, this study looked into the involvement of women in MSEs in Garissa town, with the objective of establishing the socio-economic characteristics of women entrepreneurs and nature of their businesses. The study utilized both primary and secondary data. Primary data was obtained from individual women entrepreneurs operating MSEs in the Garissa main market, through an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Proportionate stratified random sampling was used and a total of 100 questionnaires were administered to 100 women entrepreneurs. The information gathered, which helped in fulfilling the set objectives, followed the methodology outlined and was within the theoretical basis of Empowerment approach in bringing to the fore issues particular to Garissa women entrepreneurs. The results of the study showed convincing consistencies with other studies in Kenya. First and foremost Garissa women entrepreneurs engaged in MSEs to meet family obligations in so far as provisions of basic needs are concerned. Further the results showed that majority of the Garissa women entrepreneurs were unmarried (64%), middle-aged (52%), majority had no formal education (89%) or training (95%) and most had no business experience prior to start of their businesses (91%). In addition the study established that 93% of these women had at least one dependent to feed, clothe, educate and provide health care. Study findings further showed that these women engaged in the sell clothe, miraa, milk, charcoal, cereals, ghee, traditional handicrafts, vegetable vending, tailoring and operating small hotels. Most of these women entrepreneurs were thus in trade and services sector, majority being in the trade sector. Over 50% of these businesses were started between 1998 and 2002. The study found out that Garissa women entrepreneurs operated self-run micro businesses, as regards the number of employees since only 12 women said they had between 1 and 5 employees. The study established that majority of Garissa women entrepreneurs started their businesses with low initial capital and received low monthly returns: However those who were not able to raise the initial capital received both financial and non-financial support from family and friends. Finally the study noted that women operating MSEs in Garissa faced a number of constraints, some of which were unique to the area notably banditry, general insecurity and poor road networks that inhibit expansion of businesses to other places in the district. There were no permanent market places and the women experienced occasional eviction. Financial constraints were also sighted. Seeking family financial help, building permanent market place, combating banditry by government forces and making road networks to link different settlements in the district were deemed the most appropriate solutions to the sighted constraints. Even with these constraints, 88% of these entrepreneurs had intentions to expand their businesses. The findings of this study have policy, empirical and future research implications. Policy is needed to address gender imbalances in the area with regard to increasing education and training especially of the women. Policy is also required to establish road networks in the entire province to help develop MSEs. Any agency interested in MSEs 'promotion in the area may need to sensitize the entrepreneurs on better ways of meeting financial needs to break away from family dependencies. Future research may need to explore reasons why majority of the married women in MSEs were in polygamous marriages.