GWOCO (Ganako Women’s Community Organization) is a community based organization in Karatu. The women of GWOCO strive to improve their communities through small business loans.
NCN, GWOCO and Women’s Microfinance Initiative work together to provide trainings, which improve the womens’ business skills. Additionally, the women reinvest collected interest from the loans into projects that support local people and institutions.
GWOCO’s staff consists of women who have shown an aptitude for business and who have already been making an impact as natural leaders in their community.
Josephine Emmanuel Silio, GWOCO Chair
At her age, Josephine Emmanuel Silio could have easily retired. But the 68-year-old bibi, or grandmother, would rather continue to serve her community.
As chairperson and head administrator for GWOCO, Josephine leads and organizes meetings, counsels other women, and helps the program stay on track.
She leads the staff in writing budgets, selecting borrowers, and reconciling accounts, serving as signatory. She also directly oversees two loan groups, traveling to their villages on loan repayment days.
Josephine is a widow. Her late husband worked with forest management, planting trees for the government. Years ago, when Josephine could not rely on a stable income from the milk she sold, she applied to our loan program.
She became one of our original loan recipients. With the loan money she received, Josephine invested in several businesses. Going beyond buying, raising, and selling goats for meat, she now uses leather from the goats in her successful craft business. She applies Iraqw beadwork to the goat leather. As a traditional wedding craft, these artisan pieces are very appealing to tourists. Josephine trained two other women in the Iraqw beadwork technique and continues to run that business, in addition to her GWOCO role.
“I love the loan program,” Josephine says. Although she is very busy with many grandchildren underfoot, she is happy to invest a lot of time to its growth because of what it brings to the community.
Levina Emanuel, GWOCO Treasurer
Community involvement has spread to every facet of GWOCO Treasurer Levina Emanuel’s life. In addition to her work with the loan program, she runs several profitable businesses. Her dedication to those around her led to her appointment as a female representative to local government as a councilor.
For many years Levina has taken in orphans and actively pursues her dream to start an orphanage for children with disabilities. An investment in Levina’s work is clearly a good one!
As treasurer, Levina is responsible for dealings with the bank and for writing monthly expenses. Along with fellow staff, she keeps track of two loan groups. She attends and monitors collection and issuance days, keeps expense records, and ensures accuracy with program participants.
She says the concept and benefits of the loan program are quite simple—women receive loans, pay them off, gain savings, expand their businesses, and repeat the process. She appreciates the low 10 percent interest rate, providing incentive to women who would not be able to afford the 18 to 20 percent rates banks offer.
A three-time loan recipient, Levina provides an excellent example of the good these loans can do. With her loans, she was able to afford water and land, helping her to create lucrative fruit, vegetable, and coffee crops. She keeps and slaughters pigs; makes and sells bricks; and sows and sells seeds. In addition, she rents out rooms in a building she built near town, with a storefront that sells produce from her gardens.
Her impact is wide and her ventures sustainable, and she has created employment opportunities for others in the community. Additionally, she has been able to send her own children to school, with some continuing on to college. Through all of this, she continues to care for local children in need.
Eliminata Slaa Margwe, GWOCO Secretary
Eliminata Slaa Margwe recently joined GWOCO as secretary. With 20 years of experience as a butcher and entrepreneur, Eliminata has all the necessary skills and brings lots of enthusiasm to this new role. She announces and keeps minutes of meetings, organizes documents and forms, and writes to women with loan payment issues. She is also responsible for keeping track of two loan groups and their associated financial matters.
During a recent visit to Eliminata’s house on butchering day, it was clear to see how proud she is of her business and her new position with GWOCO. Having worked as a butcher since 1997, she deftly fills orders, providing samples from all parts of the animal to customers. These roles earn the respect of her fellow villagers.
With loans she received several years ago from the program, she was able to grow her business from pigs and goats to cows. She now buys one cow from the Maasai market twice each month, and sends some of her eight children door to door to take neighbors’ orders. She consistently makes a profit, allowing her to expand her business and improve her income level.
Eliminata renovated her home and built an addition. She also built a second house, offering room and board in exchange for labor.
As a staff member, Eliminata traveled to Uganda in January for further training and exposure to GWOCO’s sister program.