Self-help groups aim at promoting socio-economic development among the poor especially women, yet they are often faced with challenges that affect the groups’ leadership which ends up affecting the groups’ performance. In Bahati Ward, for example, 7 out of 95 women groups and 2 out of 33 mixed self-help groups had gone dormant by the end of 2013. The purpose of this study was to investigate economic, political and socio-cultural challenges affecting women leaders of self-help groups in Bahati ward. The study was guided by Maslow’s theory of Hierarchy of need and the theory of situational leadership by Kouzes and Posner (2007). The study was carried out using a survey research design on a population of 321 respondents. Stratified sampling purposive and simple random sampling techniques were used to select 97 respondents. Data was collected using Questionnaires and an interview schedules which were validated using expert opinion from lecturers at Egerton University, Department of Applied Community Development Studies. The Questionnaire was pilot tested in two self-help groups in the neighboring Kiamaina ward, and was used after achieving a Cronbach alpha coefficient of 0.78. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics of percentages and frequencies. Qualitative data collected from interviews was coded and organized into emerging themes and sub-themes. The study found out that women leaders in Bahati ward were able to complete group’s tasks in time and manage groups’ conflicts. However, they were unable to meet groups’ financial obligations due to low levels of income among group members. The economic challenges facing women leaders of Self Help Groups in Bahati were low level of income, irregular contributions, inability to repay loans, scarce natural and economic resources. The political challenges were Lengthy government procedures in acquiring relevant services , poor planning process, poor monitoring and evaluation process, local politics and group elections while socio-cultural challenges were lack of common goals in a group, illiteracy among members, little respect for female leaders, and low social class integration. The county and national government should organize training for women leaders on business management, monitoring and evaluation, and report writing. Likewise, they should review their policies on lengthy procedures followed by the group members to register their groups and to acquire government funding.

Background to the Problem
Global statistical trends show that more than half of the employees in organizations are female, yet as you move up the technical and managerial levels in these organizations, their number steadily reduce (United Nations, 2006). According to Caliper (2014), the global profile of women leaders indicate that women at the Chief Executive Officer’s level are only 3% to 4%. At the senior executive level, women account for 14%, vice presidents are 26%, managers are 30%, supervisors are 37%, and new hires are 53%. This represents a low participation of women in leadership, when one considers the overall success of women when placed in higher leadership positions. It is even more curious when one analyzes their success in areas that have traditionally been dominated by males. This success has been attributed to their rising competency of practicing self-development. Women leaders have a habit of asking for feedback on their performance and taking action to improve as compared to men whose competence continue to decline since they assume that they are doing fine (Women Direct, 2006).

In Africa, Khanka (2007) says that women leaders have been found to be more assertive and persuasive. They have a stronger drive to get things done and willing to take risks than male leaders. Women leaders are also more empathic and flexible than male leaders. They have stronger interpersonal skills than their male counterparts. From these qualities they provide a leadership style that is inclusive, open, have consensus building, collaborative and collegial. Despite these strong points, for them to be strong in leadership, they must first be able to pull together a group of people who may not have anything in common, and then get them committed to the vision for the group.

One of the Millennium Development Goals is to build women as agents of development to reduce poverty (United Nations, 2006). Investing in women has a multiple effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth. When women are economically empowered, a country is able to build a sound economic base. Increasing women's access to education, jobs, land and other resources will result into inclusive growth, sustainable development, and long-term prosperity. Empowering women therefore increases the national income, which in turn leads to increased productivity, (United Nations, 2006).

Sustainable Developing Goals that build upon the MDGs, likewise seek to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental domains (United Nations, 2015). The assumption that women leaders have to imitate men’s leadership behavior to succeed discourages women leaders from reaching their full leadership potential (Vanderbroek, 2010). Therefore, investing in women leaders as women, has a multiple effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth.

Despite this expected progress women's economic empowerment is growing at a low pace across different regions and countries. This is due to different challenges facing women leaders at both family and community levels. Women are rarely accorded the opportunities that will allow them to fulfill their potential. For instance, they have limited access to land, property, housing, credit, technology, markets and extension services. According to Women Direct (2006), if the country narrows the existing world gender gap in employment, it can increase per capita income by 10% – 14%, by 2020. When women are healthy, educated, employed, and empowered, they are able to break the vicious cycle of poverty in their families, communities and countries.

Self-help groups (SHGs) are one of the interventions in developing countries to empower women. However, not all groups have a designated leader, and their leadership tasks and roles are shared amongst a group of leaders elected by, and from members of that group. For the purpose of this study, women leaders are leaders of female gender who are in charge of self-help groups (chairladies, treasurers and secretaries of self-help groups). In India, many SHG's are micro- credits where members make regular savings through monthly contributions to raise enough capital for the group to begin lending (Judge, Bono, Ilies & Gerhardt, 2002) which funds may then be lent back to the members or to others in the village with an interest which is later shared among the group members. Leaders to these groups are affected by challenges ranging from household poverty to lack of access to financial resources required by their groups.

In Kenya, SHGs are registered under the Department of Social Development. Kenyans form self- help groups for different socio-economic purposes including; tree nurseries, horticultural farming, bee keeping, poultry keeping, cereals farming, goats keeping, dairy farming, commercial plots, fish farming, bricks making, and cereals shops and stores (Republic of Kenya, 2010). Women leaders of these groups have been challenged by lack of collaterals for their groups to access loans. Others have little financial management skills due to inadequate training experiences, (Republic of Kenya, 2010).

In Nakuru County, there were 15,321 registered self help groups by 2013. To enhance success of the important role they play in socio-economic development of the local communities, these groups are managed at Ward levels under Community Development Assistant (CDA). Data from Bahati Ward social development office records reveals that there were 151 registered self-help groups engaged in different income generating activities in 2013 in Bahati Ward. Among them, 62% were women groups, while 13% were mixed self-help groups. Despite their existence, some of the women leaders in self-help groups face different challenges that may prevent them from realizing their dreams. The study examined economic, social-cultural and political challenges facing women leaders in self-help groups in Bahati ward.

Statement of the Problem
One of the areas where women dominate in leadership is in self-help groups. In Kenya, why women find self-help groups more appealing to them than to men is because the groups address micro-financial and socio-economic issues. But many of these self-help groups perform poorly and at times fail due to challenges facing their leadership. In Bahati Ward, there were 151 registered self-help groups in 2013 (95 women groups and 33 mixed self-help groups and 23 men groups). However, 7 women groups and 2 mixed self-help groups had gone dormant by the end of 2013. This number of failed self-help groups among women is big at a time when Kenyans are being faced by rising socio-economic hardships. Moreover, Records in the office of the department of social development, Bahati Ward, reveals a noticeable and general slow growth in Self-help groups. Cases of fluctuation have also been reported where self- help groups do well periodically (Women Group Register, 2014). Despite this knowledge, there is scant information on the challenges facing women leaders of self-help groups in Bahati Ward. This forms the gap that the study sought to fill.

Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study was to investigate economic, political and socio-cultural challenges facing women leaders of self-help groups in Bahati ward of Nakuru County.

Objectives of the study
The objectives of the study were:

i. To find out economic challenges facing women leadership of self-help groups in Bahati Ward of Nakuru County.

ii. To investigate the political challenges facing women leadership of self-help groups in Bahati Ward of Nakuru County.

iii. To establish the socio-cultural challenges facing women leadership of self-help groups in Bahati Ward of Nakuru County.

Research Questions
The following were the Research questions for the study:

i. What are the economic challenges facing women leadership of self-help groups in Bahati Ward of Nakuru County?

ii. What are the political challenges facing women leadership of self-help groups in Bahati Ward of Nakuru County?

iii. What are the socio-cultural challenges facing women leadership of self-help groups in Bahati Ward of Nakuru County?

Significance of the Study
The study findings shall be useful to the local self-help groups to identify the challenges facing women leaders of self-help groups in the area so as to prepare the women leaders for their leadership tasks. It may also assist the local leaders to know the social, economic and political challenges facing women leadership of self-help groups in their area so as to attend to the needs of groups in their area, as well as formulating policies that will create an enabling environment for self-help groups to grow. It may also help the community development workers in the area in that they can assist the women leaders in self-help groups to overcome some of the challenges facing them.

Scope of the Study
The study was limited to challenges facing women leadership of self-help groups. Specifically, the study focused on economic, political and socio-cultural challenges facing women leaders of self-help groups in Bahati ward. Economic challenges that were investigated include level of members’ income, members’ contributions, donor funds, local resources endowment and loan repayment. Political challenges that were investigated were government procedures, planning process, monitoring and evaluation, group elections and local politics. Socio-cultural challenges that were tested include common goals in a group, divergent personal interests, illiteracy, gender issues and social classes among members.

Assumptions of the Study
The study was carried out with the assumptions that the respondents would be willing to respond to the questionnaire and that they would provide honest information.

Limitations of the study
The study was faced by the following limitations:

The study was carried out in Bahati Ward which is a cosmopolitan area. Consequently, findings from the study should be generalized with caution to other cosmopolitan areas in the county. This is because the respondents in the study have diverse cultures and lifestyles that may not be similar to such other areas. Moreover, different languages of communication posed a communication barrier which was overcome by the researcher translating the language in the questionnaire to the affected respondents.

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Item Type: Kenyan Topic  |  Size: 59 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.


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