It all started six years ago as a local merry-go round among 15 women members who used to visit each other in turns two times in every month.
At such meetings, they could discuss social and economic issues affecting the community and as a norm their deliberations were done over a cup of tea.
But, unlike the normal women gossips at such joints as salons, Saruni Sikawa women group situated at Keyian division in Trans Mara West Sub County was doing it differently.
The group defied the rigid Maasai culture which restricts women from owning properties and launched an ambitious programme aimed at alleviating poverty among the community members.
During every meeting, each member contributes Sh500 where Sh300 goes to the host member while the remaining Sh200 is deposited at the group’s bank account.
Since then, the group has grown in leaps and bounds to become a formidable organization recognized both locally and internationally with its assets currently valued at more than sh.10 million.
The group traces its wealth take off to 2010 when it obtained Sh40, 000 loan from Kilgoris Constituency Youth Enterprise Development Fund, an amount its members say became a springboard to the current success.
According to the group’s chair-lady, Elizabeth Kilanga, the money which appeared little could soon turn into a huge blessing.
Kilanga says,they used the loan to purchase four heifers of Sh10,000 each and gave them to some of the members to look after them.
“The money appeared little but shortly after, we realized how much we were able to do with it. We bought four heifers which soon sired and we started distributing the heifers amongst the members and to some of the poor households,” said Kilanga.
According to Kilgoris Youth Enterprise Development Fund officer, Julius Lekakeny Mataiya, the group managed to repay the loan and was given another Sh100,000.
“The women group is currently the role model being envied not only in Trans Mara but in the entire Narok County due to its prowess in finance management and community development,” says Mataiya.
He says the group has towered high above other big Non-Governmental Organizations and that with further support they can do more.
At the moment, the group boasts of a number of assets ranging from land parcels, rental houses, cattle and sugarcane farming among others.
The group has also constructed a Sh.1.5 million modern office in a two-acre piece of land fully furnished with training facilities such as DVD players, Television sets among other training equipment.
As part of its community development activities, the organization has come up with an education scholarship programme where it educates the poor school going children in the area.
Currently, it is supporting 404 needy children in various schools by paying them school fees and offering them other learning materials.
According to the organization’s treasurer, Juliet Sikawa, the identified children especially orphans are at the start of every year during school opening days bought uniforms and full shopping.
“We have a vote in our annual budget dedicated to back-to-school programme where every pupil under our sponsorship is given full shopping and pocket money,” says Sikawa.
Fredrick Momposhi, a form three student at Olalui secondary school in Kilgoris is one of the beneficiaries who says the organization went to his rescue when he was in the verge of dropping out of school due to fees problem.
The organization also engages in health issues where it has been recognized for its exemplary role in the war against HIV&AIDS.
The organization in its annual budget always sets aside funds to help in transportation cost of the infected persons to access treatment in the nearby health facilities alongside provision of proper nutrition.
Due to its outstanding performance in the fight against HIV,the group in 2010 caught the attention of African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) through the National Aids Control Council (NACC) and was engaged in the Total War against Aids (TOWA) Programme, which it has been implementing for three years now.
As a way of creating an Income Generating Activity (IGA) AMREF donated five grade cows to the organization which have since multiplied up to 10 hence boosting the group’s economic base.
They earn more than Sh20, 000 every month from the sale of milk which is sold both locally and to the nearby Ogwedhi and Awendo towns in Rongo district.
The group’s networking did not end there and in 2012, it got recognition with the United States President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (PEPFAR) where it received Sh100,000 towards the anti-HIV&AIDS campaign.
Lepanian Ole Nkere, a youth officer says the organization has totally changed the perception and knowledge local people had on HIV.
“Initially, the use of condoms in this area was regarded as a way of promoting prostitution but since the group started sensitizing the locals, the picture now is that of women holding and demonstrating in public how to put on a condom,” said Nkere.
Kilanga, the group’s chair-lady still recalls how they were branded names and scolded for their ‘defiance’ by engaging in what was perceived as alien.
Sikawa location borders with Rongo district in Nyanza region where HIV prevalence rate is high at between 35 per cent-40 per cent( Happen Report -2010).
Under their outreach programmes, they teach on behaviour change in the community among sex workers, people living with HIV, Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) and sugarcane cutters.
The group in conjunction with the ministry of health has also established several Voluntary and Counseling Testing Centres(VCTs) and also making referrals for other health issues.
“We realized that there were a lot of sugarcane cutters who were Cris-crossing the region and seemed to have no idea of the spread of the disease hence our decision to include them in our outreach meetings,” says Dalmas Kasai, the organization’s secretary and the only male official.