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EMPOWERING KENYANS TO BRIDGE THE POVERTY GAP

By MUKAMI MUNGAI
Women hold up half the sky. this is a Chinese saying that best describes the strength of a
woman in relation to creating, nurturing and transforming the world. It also portrays the gifts
women have of logic, decisiveness and strength. These and much more best suits Ms
Pauline Ngari, the Chief Executive Officer Hand in Hand Eastern Africa (HiH EA), an NGO
that scouts for economic empowerment and poverty eradication in the rural and urban areas.
HiH as it is popularly known was birthed in India through a concept of eradicating child labor
in an effort to empower mothers of children working in cottage industries to form groups to
curb poverty and allow their children go to school. The idea has since spread to different
continents and continues to reap fruits of success as many lives are been transformed.
Ms Ngaris story is an epitome of sacrifice, determination and passion. Born and bred in
Kirinyaga District, she attended Mumbuini Primary school, thereafter joined Kabare
Secondary school and later did her A levels in Mukumu Girls High School. Having come from
a background of lack and struggle, Ngari was determined to fight the ugly face of poverty.
She enrolled at the Cooperative University of Kenya to study cooperative development and
later got a job as a cooperative officer in charge of three divisions in Kiambu District. In 1984,
she joined the Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT) as a credit officer and rose up to
become the general manager. She credits herself as having established operations of KWFT
Rift Valley region. Under her helm she helped set up over fifteen branches covering Kisumu,
Bomet, Nakuru, Nandi, Keiyo and Turkana with a staff of 100 and a portfolio of 25,000
borrowers. In 2006 she was promoted as the general manager to head KWFT credit
program. my role was to establish an efficient and effective credit program with a 100%
support of clients using consistent operatives and a highly motivated staff, she says. She
helped implement the credit plus products including solar energy products and water tanks
and the Kenya Women Afya Card meant to facilitate the well-being of clients in partnership
with CIC insurance and the NHIF.
She later joined CIC insurance as the general manger in charge of marketing and
cooperative development to spearhead marketing of CIC products and the brand name. All
these managerial positions are what shaped her for her current overall job position as the
CEO of HiH Eastern Africa.A position that she has embraced with equal strength and much
gusto. having been born in a family of 11 and poverty hovering over us, I experienced it
firsthand I am thus driven by the desire to transform lives through alleviation of poverty to
create better lives, she says.
The Egerton and JKUAT University graduate in marketing and entrepreneurship respectively,
despite interacting with the who is who in both government and entrepreneurship circles,
portrays a down to earth demeanour even in our conversation. Our interview is interrupted by
visitors who drop in to greet and appreciate her work. Under her stewardship, HiH has
established 16 branches in 11 counties. HiH officers also called teachers are equipped with
requisite skills on training and empowering the rural populations on how to start micro
businesses and generate jobs. Though they target all genders, women form a large part of
their clients.i asks her why. You see, women are more organized in self help groups
compared to men. Hence it is easier to reach out to them, she answers. One of their
projects dubbed young mothers project was set up in 2012.it is meant to reach out to young

vulnerable mothers who have undergone difficult circumstances in their lives. For instance
broken marriages. We train them on entrepreneurship skills and encouraging them to save
using the tin model concept. She plays me a video of one of the success stories they have
done of a woman in Nakuru County who saved Sh 7000 and started a poultry business.
She also serves me tea from the Hibiscus plant. This was got from one of our clients, Ann
Nzisa in Machakos. After been trained by our officers on how to turn her small venture into
money making one, her life has changed. We taught her about packaging and market
linkages and she now has many clients. Another program they are implementing is known as
the adult literacy and integrated entrepreneurship in Emali, Loitoktok and Makueni.it is aimed
at enhancing educational skills on writing and reading.11, 000 people are expected to benefit
from the project. In 2013, they expanded to Rwanda in collaboration with CARE in a project
aimed at creating 80,000 jobs.
Currently, HiH EA is implementing the village uplift program aimed at attracting individuals
and small corporates who have an interest in training villagers on economic empowerment
and poverty eradication. Unlike the other projects, this one targets about 240 families.
Already it is been piloted in Gilgil, Kikopey, Matuu and Yatta. On April, they will roll out
another project in partnership with Johnson and Johnson Citizenship Trust (J&J) in areas of
hygiene with a focus on clean drinking water.
HiH EA intends to create 75,700 micro businesses which will generate 98,400 jobs by the
year 2015 in Kenya. Ngari calls on the government to partner with organizations like HiH EA
so as to give the youth entrepreneurship education, mentorship programs, market linkages
and business incubators.
The mother of three spends her leisure time mentoring the youth and reading motivational
books and derives her passion in bringing change in whatever way.