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By Alison Kabaara Kiriinya

The Chama fad has well and truly infected the women of Thika town. Why? A Chama gives women the opportunity to form groups, get to know one another, and more importantly to save money together.
The question is, however, can the idea of the Chama be taken to the next level? Can women move beyond the catch-up sessions and become serious businesspeople? The answer is yes. Below are some pointers to help you style up your Chama.

1. Be choosy about the members

When you start a Chama, make sure you include people who are like-minded and share your values and business goals. For example, you do not form a Chama for buying foodstuffs every month with people who are trying to save up to start a business. Your values will clash at some point. You should also not invite members who have a problem honoring financial obligations or who lack integrity.

2. Have clear objectives for your group

The objectives of the group need to be set out clearly at the beginning. Every member needs to know the reason for joining the Chama, and what they will get out of it. At this point, any member who feels that they are not in agreement with the group objectives should opt out.

3. Have a clear plan of action

This should be agreed on by all members. For example, a group could decide to operate a merry-go-round for the first six months to build trust among members. They could then move on to lending money within the group at an agreed rate of interest. A long-term plan could be investing in land, starting a business or investing in the money market.

4. Have clear rules within your group

Your Chama should have rules for everything. These can include rules about defaulting on monthly payments, rules about lateness when attending meetings, and other rules the members deem necessary to regulate the operations of the group. The rules will help every member to be serious and more committed.

5. Do your research

There is a lot to be read online about successful investment groups, and how they came into being. Did you know your Chama could also be an investment group? Research on the Internet and find out how successful Chamas operate and how they have grown their investments. You could also get information from friends and colleagues on how their Chamas operate.

6. Be innovative

Your Chama does not have to be the same as the Chama next door, the reason being the members are not the same. Identify the strengths of members and use them to improve your Chama. You could choose to start a mentorship program for young girls. You could support a children’s home. Come up with ideas that will make your Chama stand out from the rest.

It is common knowledge that when women put their heads together, they do much more than they would as individuals. As you form your Chama, have this in mind. Do not just start a Chama to get rich and make your life better, think about how you can influence the community around you. That way your Chama will certainly make sense.

Our Guest Author is a part-time teacher working in Ruiru and Nairobi, though she lives in Thika.

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