On International Women’s Day, March 8th, the world unites behind a pledge to #BeBoldForChange to help forge a better and more gender inclusive working world. As part of a shared passion for addressing many of the economic and employment hurdles faced by women everywhere, Coca-Cola and Kenya’s Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) are together announcing significant progress in a program that has touched the lives of almost 200,000 women throughout Kenya.

The women’s empowerment initiative that began in 2014 as a pilot program with 140 women, has reached 199,120 Kenyan women in just three years. All have received access to expertise, advice and training developed to open new employment opportunities for women and accelerate regional economic growth. The successful program is now expanding to a new phase with a new curriculum for participants and an additional 1 million Kenyan Shillings Coca-Cola donation that will help meet the goal of reaching 500,000 women by 2019.

The public-private partnership aims to address and remove barriers women may experience by providing access to loans and grants to enable them to start their own business. Participants receive business and financial skills training, assets including coolers, and access to peer networks through a business club for mentoring and ideas sharing. With tremendous success to date, the initiative also represents the single largest global program in the Coca-Cola 5by20 initiative to economically empower 5 million women worldwide by 2020.

Kenya Women's Empowerment

Having participated in the program, Seline Achieng of Lurambi Hope Women Group was previously a small-scale trader, and started selling soft drinks to boost her retail shop's income. Currently, Ms. Achieng is planning to expand her business to Busia County by opening a distributor store.

“I have been able to increase my stock and pay school fees for the orphan relatives who are under my care," she said. "I am a dignified woman through the support I have received from WEF.”

Representatives from WEF were initially trained by the Coca-Cola team in the Shopkeeping Training and Resources (STAR) curriculum which is now delivered in WEF offices throughout Kenya. WEF also provided the capacity for financial loans to enable the women undergoing training to establish sustainable businesses. It is estimated that Kenyan women account for a significant percentage of spending on grocery and household goods, ensuring the program is helping create new economic opportunities for participants and for their local communities.

“Overcoming the stubborn and numerous barriers that exist for women in capturing economic opportunity can make a tremendous difference both to individual lives but also in supporting regional economic growth,” said Dr. Susan Mboya-Kidero, group director, women’s economic empowerment, The Coca-Cola Company. “We are truly inspired by the passion of our partners and the 200,000 women who have participated in this 5by20 program to date, and we are delighted to be expanding this program to help fulfil the dreams of even more remarkable Kenyan women over the next three years.”