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    So here’s the hardest thing about living in Nairobi.

    And I know I said it was the dating, in my last story. But I think we all know what is actually the hardest thing about living in Nairobi. It is, living in Nairobi. Living in Kenya, in itself, is pretty hard, but Nairobi seems like a whole different beast. Do you know what I mean? Living in Nairobi is harder. Meaner.

    And everyone who doesn’t live in Nairobi thinks it is so easy! It’s like the way people look at people who work in America. Because you live in Nairobi, you must have lots of money to be able to give people when you go to shags, of course. Of course, the Christmas goat is coming from your wallet. You don’t have presents for the kids? You don’t have the contribution for fundraising for the local church? How? But you live in Nairobi! Kwani what are you doing in the big city if not minting cash?

    Living in Nairobi is supposed to mean rolling in the dough. And more often than not, it really doesn’t. We’re all trying to survive the quagmire of economic burdening. In simpler terms – everything costs so much more in the city, and so much more this year. For example – parking has gone up. Ok, it went up to 400, then it went down again to 300, then 200, then 400 again, because it wasn’t ratified in court, or something. They can’t decide how much to give the governor, I guess. Then, there are other things, like if you’re walking in town and stopped for loitering, but you were walking to the stage, but since you don’t want to spend time in jail, you brown his nose with your last brown and escape sitting in a cell for the crime of breathing and existing in a city. There’s how fuel, and milk, and unga, is constantly going up. There’s the cost of transportation that runs concurrently to these other things fluctuating – as soon as bread goes up, something else is going to go up too.

    We’re paying for debts, and so we end up going into more debt. We take loans to impress people we don’t care about, to put things on Instagram so that these same people see that we went to the Coast (and then your cousin whose home is up the hill from yours upcountry will call you because surely if you’re over there in Lamu you can afford to send a little bit here, no?).

    I wonder if we need to start borrowing smarter. Not that borrowing money for a holiday isn’t important. I suppose it is. It would make more sense to perhaps source for cheaper methods of leisure. Because leisure is essential, you know what I mean? If you don’t have a way to let loose, then everything tends to combust. Even in the midst of trials and tribulations, you have to rest sometimes. You can’t work 24/7. Your body and spirit cannot allow it.

    But yes. What if borrowing money made…more sense, perhaps? If the interest rates were not so high, and there was a bit more time to pay it back, and, you know, you could borrow the money to do something life-changing?

    That was the reasoning behind the Women’s Enterprise Fund, which is a government-led initiative under the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, that promotes the 1st and 5th Sustainable Development Goals on Poverty Eradication and Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. That’s basically summarized in their slogan – when you empower a woman, you empower a family, and a whole nation.

    Sure, there’s been a lot of talk about the SDGs and women empowerment and all that in the last couple of years. It can get loud and tiring, but the facts still remain – economically empowering women only does good things for the government, for the economy, for the family, for the people. Which is probably why the government is backing this cause. It makes sense to give money to women – more specifically, under this fund, any economically active women from 18 years old and above who wants to start or expand her business. If you have an ID and an idea, you can apply for this loan.

    You know who else is backing it? Coca-Cola. This year, Coca-Cola will be giving $125,000 to the cause of women, to build capacity for the women and women’s groups who take this loan. So not only do they give you access to the loan, they build the capacity of the women who take these loans through teaching financial literacy and technical skills. Then they give you a market for your business. Then they link you to other women doing the same thing.

    Did I mention there is no interest rate? A commission of 1% of the guarantee amount is charged, but…that’s it.

    While you’re on Instagram, looking at other things you like to window shop for, check out the @wefsoko Instagram page. It’s like a little representation of the impact that WEF has had. There are varied snapshots of businesses, selling their wares, products created with money they got from the fund. Clothes, shoes, and one of my favourites, considering the season – chicken.

    Spending money doesn’t have to be evil. Borrowing it doesn’t have to be either – especially when you’re just trying to make life here, in Kenya, for you and your kin, easier.

    Merry Christmas.

    Abi pursues freedom, happiness and sleep in that order.

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