“The target beneficiaries of government funds (Uwezo, WEF, YEDF) are denied crucial information to keep them from participating in the funds”. These are the words of the Gender Sensitive Initiatives (GSI) Executive Director, Mrs. Nancy Gachoka.

Speaking during the release of the preliminary findings of a study conducted by the organization, Mrs. Gachoka highlighted the barriers to access the funds meant to empower target beneficiaries. The study has identified the barriers to include the structural issues in the administration of the funds, deliberately restricted access to crucial information and limited capacity of the target beneficiaries to uptake the funds. GSI has conducted the study in Murang’a and Kiambu Counties to explore the perceptions, attitudes and knowledge of the public on the various government funds meant for target groups.

As an example, data available on the Women Enterprise Funds website regarding the Women Enterprise Scheme loans status since inception to 31st august, 2019 indicate that Gatundu North Constituency leads in Kiambu County with 945 groups benefiting, followed by Ruiru Constituency with 767. Kiambaa Constituency comes last with 269 beneficiary groups with Juja following closely with 307. In Murang’a County, Gatanga Constituency takes the lead with 877 groups followed by Maragua with 635. Kigumo Constituency has 359 beneficiary groups and Kangema has 451 according to the data.

Gender Sensitive Initiatives, an NGO working in the Central Kenya Region sought to understand the reasons behind the discrepancies in disbursement of these funds. The study employed a participatory approach and involved participants from 17 constituencies. The report shows that most funds available at the constituency level are still under the control of the area Member of Parliament. The funds are therefore used as a political tool and dished to their political supporters. Groups that are seen to comprise of members or are based in regions that do not seem to support the politicians are usually sidelined. Nepotism – where the politicians appoint relatives to administrative committees – is widely captured as an impediment to access to the funds as well.

Information about timelines on when to submit applications is also released sparingly and to select groups making it inaccessible to ‘outsiders’. There is also opaqueness in the vetting and awarding process. Groups which do not qualify are not given feedback on the reasons for their failure and therefore they do not get any chance to improve their application in subsequent cycles.

The communities also lack requisite capacity to develop technical proposals and also run sustainable enterprises. Funds disbursed are therefore usually not put to enterprise development or any other economic activity but spent to finance other non-economic activities like household goods. To this end, the report recommends increased capacity development of beneficiary communities before funds disbursement.

“The administrators of each fund have a responsibility to build the capacity of the communities to participate in the funds if they are to be effective”, Mrs. Gachoka said.

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