Emmy Choge is a wife, a mother of four and an entrepreneur for the past 5 years. She runs a curio shop in city market, Nairobi, owns a stall at the Maasai market, supplies computer accessories, stationary and hires outs tents for events/functions.
After getting married, Emmy was determined not to stay idle at home and just be a stay home wife. She started a small grocery shop in her village in Uasin-Gishu County in Kenya. The shop was doing well but Emmy wanted to do something bigger. She had always wanted to work for a government institution which was not forthcoming. She decided to take up an offer to manage her aunt’s curio and crafts business in Nairobi.
The aunt’s offer was a blessing in disguise as it was a good starting platform for her to learn about the curio and crafts business. By 2011, she had gained enough experience to venture on her own. She registered a business as a sole proprietor and opened a shop selling Curios, beads and Kikois at the city market in Nairobi.
Just like any typical startup, starting off was not easy and her biggest challenge was finding capital to launch her business. Getting a loan from the banks was hard as she did not meet the lending criteria. She was left with the option of using her personal savings and additional support from her husband.
In early 2014, Emmy was introduced to the Joyful Women’s Organization (JOYWO), an organization that empowers women through knowledge sharing and encourages them to save and borrow against their savings for income generating projects. Emmy’s encounter with JOYWO was another blessing. She decided to join the organization and is currently a member of Noble Sisters Group, serving as the group secretary.
In June 2014, she was invited to attend a two-day training on how to access government procurement opportunities (popularly known as AGPO), organized by JOYWO with support from UN Women, Kenya Office.
“This training was my turning point in life” says Emmy. During the training, I learnt for the first time about the 30 percent quota on government tenders that was reserved for women, youth and persons living with disability. I also learnt that one can approach government offices freely to ask for business and that anyone can do business with the government provided you meet the requirements. I was keen to work with government as an employee but this was an opportunity to do business so immediately after the workshop, I set out to work and started to organize all the necessary papers that I needed.” she said.
She went ahead to share the knowledge gained with her own son and his university friends and encouraged them to register businesses and apply for tenders under the youth category.
In 2015, Emmy won her first government tender worth KES 226,000 (US$2260) for the supply and delivery of stationary and computer accessories to the Ministry of Trade. Soon after this, she won a second tender worth KES 30,000 (US$300), this time, from the Ministry of Agriculture for tent hire services.
Emmy’s message to other women is; Women should wake up, get out of the box and do business with the Government, AGPO is real and it is doable. “The two tenders I won changed my life, I am now confident to walk into a government office and I am also able to pay fees for my daughter who is studying a business degree at a University in Nairobi”.
Empowering women through public procurement
UN Women under its Women’s Economic Empowerment programme supports Access to Public Procurement Opportunities (AGPO). The initiative targets – on one hand, women-owned businesses to submit successful tenders for government contracts and, – on the other hand government supply chain managers to apply the AGPO legislation. To date, in collaboration with key partners, UN Women has supported practical trainings for over 1500 women vendors in Nairobi, Uasin-Gishu and Turkana Counties and plans to extend the trainings to other Counties in the Country. Find out more about UN Women’s initiative from the video below
UN Women is funded by: Government of Finland, Government of Sweden, Government of Japan