• A group of 150 women came together to save Sh100 a day for five years, an initiative started in Mombasa before spreading to six counties
• Now they have acquired land of their own and plan to start building houses in January
A retired teacher, an omena seller and a Sunday school teacher are among 150 women who could only dream of owning land and subsequently houses, until a plan to save as little as Sh100 a day brought that fantasy within reach.
Dominion Daughters, a group of 150 women, came together to prove to the society that women can also invest, and to also raise the voice of economic freedom among women.
Founder and CEO Rachael Masiga, a mother of two, said she was inspired to start the group by her mother, who worked as a civil servant in national government offices for years but died without any property in her name.
“My mother died in 2008 and when she left, we realised there was nothing in her name. Despite being a senior official in the government, she had no title deed and no property,” Masiga said.
In 2015, Masiga was given shares of her late mother. She used them to start up the group to enable women to own property and have documents that have their name, other than the identification card given by the government.
According to research she did, in some other 3rd world countries like India, 90 per cent of the farm workers are women and 1 per cent are land, home and title deed owners.
The situation is not much different in Kenya. The Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida), an advocacy group, stated that less than 5 per cent of all land title deeds in Kenya are held jointly by men and women, and 1 per cent are held by women alone.
Less than 2 per cent of title deeds issued in Kenya since 2013 went to women. Regionally, women in East Africa were allocated only 1.6 per cent of about 10 million ha that was registered between 2013 and 2017, according to Kenya Land Alliance.
The World Bank estimates that women run more than three quarter of Kenya’s farms, but culture often takes precedence over the law, with men owning and controlling most of the land.
In some situations, families have ended up fighting and taking each other to court, seeking justice in the ownership of their husband’s properties.
This is as result of customary laws and practices, which prohibit women from owning or inheriting land or other property.
But as times change, women are working hard to also own a piece of land, houses and cars in their names.
“Land and homes in the ownership of a woman reduces domestic violence, school fees goes up, malnourishment is a thing of the past and a lot of union is found in homes,” Masiga said.
If I die, what was mine will be given to my children. My husband might marry another wife who will take his wealth, leaving my children in povertyVeronica Mutuku
CHANGING THE NARRATIVE
Masiga’s husband Robert Ngatia, a senior pastor at Deliverance church in Mikindani, Mombasa county, said there are so many women who are gifted and have ideas on how to set things out, but due to the African setting, they feel degraded and need somebody who is higher than them.
“I was inspired to support Dominion Daughters because I realised women are capable of accomplishing great things given the opportunity, but they do not have somebody to empower them,” Ngatia said.
He said women should be accepted and supported by the society morally and most importantly by a male figure, for they are like authority and a stamp.
“Women might not do what men do but they can do their own things in a greater way with the moral support and encouragement,” the pastor said.
Retired teacher Veronica Mutuku, 66, a mother of five, said in the African set-up, what a mother owns belongs to her children but what a husband owns belongs to anybody else.
“If I die, what was mine will be given to my children. My husband might marry another wife who will take his wealth, leaving my children in poverty,” she said.
Mutuku, who believes one day she will own property in her name, said she was so happy when she heard of the Dominion Daughters group.
“There is a time I attended a court session, my child had been arrested and I was asked what do I own which has my name. I did not have anything in my name. I only had my pay slip, which helped me release my child, and that is why I am so much dedicated in participating in Dominion Daughters,” Mutuku said.
Mutuku, who encouraged women to join Dominion Daughters, said men do not allow women to own something because they believe they will look down on them.
Dominion Daughters started with 90 women in 2015. This reduced to 70 women in two years after 20 women left, but the number later increased to 150.
Five years down the line, they have acquired 43 acres in Kilifi county — 21 acres in Mavuweni and 22 acres in Malindi — complete with title deeds.
However, consistency has been a challenge to some group members. They had to take a break in paying their daily contributions due to a poor economy, and so they have not reached the Sh180,000 target.
Masiga said so far, 40 women have managed to hit the target, which was also season 1 of saving, and that they will be given first priority in owning their dream houses.
The parcel of land, which is worth Sh60 million, is expected to have 200 house units in the next two years, but the group is looking forward to starting construction of 40 house units in January for the 40 women who reached the target.
The women who had financial problems and have not reached the target were given a grace period to clear their pending contributions.
Businesswoman Victoria Anyango, 40, started saving with the group in 2017, but along the way, she had to take a break of two months for lack of income.
“I do door-to-door business of selling omena, which is my main source of income. Sometimes, it is hard to get that Sh100, although I always try to ensure I get something to save because owning a house has always been my dream,” she said.
Mercy Kiremi, a single mother of one, took a break after contributing for three years because she could not afford the Sh100 a day.
“I'm a Sunday school teacher at Deliverance church and a mother of one boy, who is currently in university. I joined the group in 2015 but took a break of three years and came back in 2018 because I could not save from the little I used to get and pay school fees for my son,” she said.
Kiremi, who is looking forward to reaching the target, said her son got a bursary and so far, she has cleared 50 per cent of her three-year debt.
“Usually we as women, when we receive finances or resources, we think of our children, how they will eat, go to school and meet their needs, which cannot be recorded or counted at the end of the day. Unlike men, who will have properties, title deeds and everything in their name,” Masiga said.
She said she wanted to stand with women for them to have something they can call their own.
Masiga said the group has been extended to six counties, namely: Bomet, Kisii, Mombasa, Nairobi, Naivasha and Nakuru, as well as three participants in the US. They are looking forward to expanding to the 47 counties and the whole of Africa.
SAVING DURING PANDEMIC
When Covid-19 hit, everything came to a standstill and people started asking for their money back due to the hard economy.
“The greatest challenge with Dominion Daughters is that you get to know someone’s personal life. When corona came, some of the women called and asked if they can get their money back, and at least seven ladies were given their money back,” Masiga said.
She said if a member decides to leave the group, 30 per cent of her savings is always deducted as part of the rules of the group.
Women are used to merry-go-round systems, where you give money every month and get the monthly collection after some time.
Dominion Daughters have plans of partnering with other women groups, called peer lending, where they will be lending money for the benefit of the group.
The group will also start table banking and partner with organisations to give the women opportunity to borrow money for them to start business and do development.
Our aim as a group is not to break homes or go against the African culture or the hierarchy of a man, but to return a woman back to her destiny so she can live life knowing there is something she has doneRachael Masiga
The group, which is targeting to enrol at least 6,000 women in the next five years around the 47 counties, is expected to help women learn the saving culture.
Masiga said the group will introduce educational capacity to empower, enlighten and broaden the worldview of women concerning business.
“Saving depends with the discipline of a woman. In our group we have different types of people with different professions, including housewives and Mama Mbogas, and we are targeting to create awareness and reach everyone,” she said.
She said women should introduce personal destiny and take responsibility, which is that Sh100, because life is not a straight line.
Masiga said being the vision bearer, she could see the end but no one could see how it could work. Questions and doubts were raised as the movement was going on, which resulted in the reduction of goodwill because people thought it was a scam.
“Our aim as a group is not to break homes or go against the African culture or the hierarchy of a man, but to return a woman back to her destiny so she can live life knowing there is something she has done,” Masiga said.
Edited by T Jalio