New initiative to offer interest-free loans to women-led businesses




WomenWork, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, has announced the launch of Rebuild, a program for women entrepreneurs. The Rebuild Program includes an emergency interest-free short term working capital loan for businesses, expert-driven business training and support from an engaging peer community of other women entrepreneurs – all delivered online.

This is the first time that WomenWork is running such an initiative in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation in Kenya. The emergency loan facility is aimed at providing a soft landing against Covid-19 which has disproportionately affected women-owned businesses.

The access to the funding will act as a short-term working capital facility to enable entrepreneurs to stabilize their businesses, retain staff and adapt their businesses to better survive through the pandemic and beyond. In addition to the funding, program participants will not only receive a business needs assessment and be able to address any gaps with business experts but also join a network of diverse women entrepreneurs for peer support. Building off of the existing #WomenWorkKE Facebook group, all aspects of the program will be delivered online to meet the changing needs and preferences of women entrepreneurs.

Asha Mweru, the co-founder, WomenWork Network, said: “Through the Rebuild program, the opportunity to offer the much-needed support to our community of women entrepreneurs and beyond is an exciting and significant milestone in the history of our organization. We are aware that many businesses are facing significant challenges and have either closed or at the point of almost closing. We hope that our emergency funding will enable women to survive the devastating effects of COVID-19 on their businesses, and hopefully, protect against imminent job losses and stabilize their businesses through this period.”

Daniel Hailu, Regional Head Eastern and Southern Africa, Mastercard Foundation, said: “We know even in ordinary times, women-owned businesses face difficulties accessing lines of credit. Such challenges have been exacerbated during these extraordinary days and have served as the motivation for the Mastercard Foundation to support a program with strong intention.  We are aiming to safeguard work opportunities enabled by the participating businesses and to mitigate the pandemic’s tendency to exacerbate gender inequalities.”

The loan facility is open to businesses across all sectors that are operational in Kenya that have 51% or more women shareholding, 50 employees or less and generate revenues of up to 5 million Kenya Shillings per annum.

Successful applicants of the Rebuild Program by WomenWork in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation will receive the emergency funds directly to their mobile money accounts or to bank accounts.

Founded in Kenya with pan-African ambition, WomenWork is a technology-driven company focused on the advancement of African women entrepreneurs through digital peer-to-peer communities, knowledge enhancement and access to capital to improve their chances of success. WomenWork focuses on first time women entrepreneurs who are navigating a rapidly changing business environment. They are the missing middle contributing to Africa’s economies today and who will be tomorrow’s leaders.

Two female entrepreneurs, Isis Nyong’o and Asha Mweru, came together in 2017, and started WomenWork out of the stark realization that talented women in Africa are deliberately slowing down, starting micro-businesses or opting out entirely from the formal economy due to structural biases and unique challenges hindering their growth prospects. WomenWork has created a scalable approach through WomenWork to address these barriers. Starting with a closed WomenWorkKE Facebook group, the network  has organically grown to over 4,000 women entrepreneurs from diverse industries who are leveraging the peer-to-peer community to grow their business networks, gain support, increase their customer base and deepen their business knowledge. To date WomenWork has hosted over 30 learning sessions, well attended by over 1,800 members.

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