Ignorance leads women to the jaws of loan sharks in Bondo
Women are losing hundreds of thousands of shillings to shylocks in Bondo Sub-county. The women, who may have noble ideas about the businesses they would like to do, have no idea about where to get money without high interest rates or with proper information.
Opting for the softer options, the women’s shortcuts to getting money have now turned into a nightmare as the loan sharks or small micro-financial institutions and individuals who loan money capitalize on their ignorance to take away their properties.
With no knowledge of funding initiatives such as the Women Enterprise Fund and Uwezo Fund, nor institutions like Kenya Women Finance Trust, the women who are now living in fear of being driven to abject poverty say the loan sharks continue to harass them as well as seize their property without court orders.
Mary Akoth, a widow who had borrowed from a Microfinance institution claims to have been traced by a Busia-based loan shark to her home in Ragak Village in East Yimbo, Siaya County where they seized a cow belonging to her sister-in-law.
Akoth had borrowed KSh30,000 which she was to repay within nine months with an interest of KSh7,000.
“I had a balance of KSh17,000 but they brought me a letter demanding that I pay KSh34,000 or they would seize my property,” explains Akoth.
Even after paying KSh20,000, the institution has refused to give her back the cow, demanding that she pays another KSh35,000 as auctioneer’s charges.
Akoth who has not been peaceful for the last four months says the loan sharks are a great threat to women in the area, noting that their actions have led to family break ups.
According to Elizabeth Obiero, a resident of Nyamonye, auctioneers took 12 iron sheets and a water tank from her home when she defaulted in paying KSh27,088. She was also told to pay KSh13,250 as auctioneer’s charges.
“Even though I had pleaded with them to give me time to pay back the loan balance, they declined to hear my plea and instead seized some property that somebody had kept in my house,” Obiero told the Reject.
The script reads the same for Celline Anyango, whose five cows were seized for allegedly failing to pay KSh17, 000. Even though she managed to settle her dues, the loan sharks took her in circles in order to get back her property.
“I had deposited KSh5,100 and KSh7,500 with them as shares and deposit respectively but they still demanded that I pay back KSh32,000 within one week,” says Anyango. Shockingly, her property was seized two months before due date.
The women in Bondo are now calling on county leaders to intervene and save their homes arguing they are attracted to these lenders who though expensive place minimum requirements compared to banks.
“Bank loans are procedural and tedious. This is what has pushed most women to go for the alternative financial institutions,” says Akoth.
According to Rodgers Ochieng, a human rights activist in Bondo, the lenders have taken advantage of the women’s ignorance to fleece them of money.
“It is very important for the relevant authorities to ensure that such cases are addressed adequately to enable women live in peace,” says Ochieng.
Anastacia Augo, a Member of the Siaya County Assembly says women should embrace table-banking as a way of avoiding loan sharks.
“We are trying to advice women on alternative ways of getting money other than the micro-financial organizations and individuals who have been stealing from them instead of improving their living standards,” says Augo.
She advices women to join groups and form Saccos that will then help them establish revolving funds.