My Ph.D. research involved micro-credit loan projects among Aymara Indian groups in Bolivia. These experiences strongly confirmed the value of extending micro-credit loans to women within indigenous groups as a way to improve not only their lives, but also the general welfare of their families and their tribes.

Micro-credit loans for Samburu women, and the education required to acquire a loan, have been the key factor in the empowerment of these women and the improvement in the lives of their families. Throughout history, the Samburu have been totally male-dominated, but as women gained literacy, accounting skills, and micro-credit loans, the men have developed respect and admiration for them. Women have gradually been included in decision-making within the family and the tribe, and this has proved invaluable to overall tribal advancement.

In 1996, Tribal Advancement funded the construction of a 4-room Community Building for the Samburu in the trading town of Wamba, which is about a 2-hour walk from the tribal huts. The women gather here to implement their small businesses and also receive ongoing education from Sarah Lenaimado.

Samburu Community Building in Wamba.

As women complete classes in literacy and math skills, they can qualify for revolving micro-credit loans to develop small businesses and to purchase goats or cattle to improve family income. The women who have received micro-credit loans meet together once a month at the Community Building with Sarah Lenaimado, and they pay back the monthly portion of the loan that has been defined in a signed agreement when the woman received the loan. In order to qualify for a loan the woman’s family must have some goats or cattle and, if she does not make her monthly payment, she must sell an animal to repay the funds. Careful records are maintained by Sarah, she places the monthly repayments in the local bank account, and funds are accumulated for others wanting loans. There are always many more women seeking loans than there are funds available, and each year we aim to expand the pool of funds for micro-credit loans with Tribal Advancement donations.
Micro-credit loan recipiant.

The women’s businesses located in their Community Building include:

Butcher services and small Restaurant
The small businesses created by women in their Community Building include a goat meat-cutting business. A goat carcass is delivered each day and the women cut and sell the meat to the people in Wamba. The women also created a kitchen where they roast the meat over coals, prepare soups, make bread rolls and serve the foods to the locals in a room attractively presented with tables, chairs and colorful cloths.

Making tea in the restaurant.
Sewing services
Tribal Advancement purchased treadle sewing machines 4 years ago (there is no electricity in the trading town of Wamba). With these sewing machines women sew fine quality shirts, blouses, dresses and shorts using the attractive Samburu cloths and sell this clothing to eager buyers in the trading town. The Samburu women also make and sell school uniforms which are manditory under Kenyan law.
The Bead Room
Women gather in the “Bead Room” and create beautiful traditional beadwork which they sell with great pride.