Impact of small and medium enterprises on the livelihoods of women: a case study of women-owned meat and hardware businesses in Kibera slum, Nairobi-Kenya
This project paper documents the findings of a case study of women entrepreneurs operating small and medium enterprises in meat and hardware in the Kibera slums of Nairobi. The Small and Medium Enterprises discussed here (i.e. meat and hardware) have been dominated by men for many years. Socio-cultural beliefs in some communities made it 'taboo' for women to operate businesses such as meat shops. Such businesses are now open to women as new sources of livelihood. The study analyses the factors, which make women, venture into such businesses, what typeslkinds of women these are, the management strategies they put in place to grow their businesses, and the contributions of such businesses to their livelihoods/welfare and those of their households and relatives. The study's main hypothesis was that women's livelihoods are improved by their venture into the traditionally men-dominated activities. Women have generally been confined to conventional businesses, which conformed to their traditional roles in the family such as groceries, food kiosks, hawking sweets, etc). More recently, women in Kibera, as women elsewhere, have ventured into 'unconventional' or previously male-dominated businesses such as meat and hardware and this is giving them more fmancial empowerment and greater latitude of freedom to make decisions on the control of family incomes. The study found out that despite the constraints faced by women who venture into maledominated businesses, they have unveiled hitherto untapped entrepreneurial aptitudes, ideas, and knowledge that rival those of men. For rapid socio-economic growth and development, these qualities need to be supported and nurtured. The study has also found out that women's entry into male-dominated businesses is having positive effects on family incomes and household welfare in general. Men, on the other hand, though initially envious and hesitant to recognize women's business prowess, are slowly beginning to appreciate the positive social and fmancial benefits accruing from women who choose to go into business. The study corroborates other studies on the fact that women's entry into business has a positive contribution to the household economy and poverty reduction at the macro level.