EMPOWERMENT THROUGH GROUP SAVINGS & LOANS
When you meet Miriam Rotich, you encounter a woman who is full of life and energy. She wears an almost permanent smile on her face throughout the conversation.
Looking around her small farm, it is obvious she is a hardworking woman. Regardless of her HIV positive status, Miriam is living a healthy and productive life. The 48 year old widow is a full time farmer in Turbo sub-county, and a beneficiary of Gishe (Group Integrated Savings for Health and Empowerment).
The Gishe is a group at community level which enables members to make savings and borrow loans. Miriam is a member of a Gishe called Beshebor Kamangunet which she joined in 2012. Her encounter with AMPATH in 2010 would open new opportunities for her. The mother of one has achieved a lot with the loans that she has accessed from her Gishe membership. Her farm is bustling with activity with 4 cows, 10 sheep, 1 he- goat, 5 geese and a number of chicks; she had sold some of her chicken and now rears chicks. On top of that, she has a maize farm; evidence of what the Gishe can do for to uplift someone’s life.
She narrates how she borrowed an initial sh. 10 000 loan of which she bought poultry and chicken feeds. From her sales of chicken products, she bought sheep then with the savings and another loan, she bought a cow. She took a loan of sh. 40 000 thereafter to buy a feed chopper for cutting Napier grass and other feeds for her animals, reducing the cost of labour. She gathered her savings and took another loan which she bought a piece of land where she has planted bananas.
She sells her maize locally together with her milk, bananas and eggs. They generate her income from her farm and livestock produce. Furthermore, she makes more income from rent from a salon she opened in 2016. Earlier this year, she opened a kiosk with mobile money services (Mpesa). She cultivated her business acumen courtesy of business training through Ampath. She has also received training on the best farm input such as fertilizers, she is seeking more training on how to use organic waste on her shamba.
“I am now self dependent, I can take care of my needs,” she jovially says. Then she adds something more powerful, “Since, I started being self-sufficient, hakuna stigma (no more stigma), “
Beshebor Kamangunet features both HIV positive and negative members with their economic fortunes on the up, nobody has time to discriminate. “We have everybody there,” Miriam remarks about her Gishe whose membership of 24 women and 6 men meet in her house for meetings and share outs.
She has high hopes for her daughter who aspires to be a doctor. Her diligent, enterprising and confident mother makes an ideal role model. Her future plans are to build a store, a permanent house on her recently acquired land, and she is thinking about having a couple of rentals. She says she has always been a businessperson at heart.
“I said I must accomplish my dreams despite my status,” she stresses. And by the looks of things, she is not far off. Her involvement in Gishe was the gift AMPATH gave her and she is making the most of it. Notably, she is adhering to care. She reveals that her viral load has been suppressed.
Miriam Rotich has an unbroken spirit and a will to live a long and fulfilling life. She is not feeling sorry for herself with the value that Gishe has added to her life and the potential for things to get even better.
by Sharon Chemtai, AMPATH PR Coordinator