Credit and Mortgage Restrictions Deny Shelter for Women in Kenya

By Hyder, Fatma | Women and Environments, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Credit and Mortgage Restrictions Deny Shelter for Women in Kenya


Hyder, Fatma, Women and Environments


Adequate shelter for all is a basic human right. Women, who comprise more than half of Kenya's population, have still to reach this goal. Women in Kenya have encountered many difficulties in accessing credit.

In most African countries, women account for more than 60 per cent of the agricultural labour force, but receive less than 10 per cent of the credit available to agriculture. Rural women find it hard to get large loans because they are not the official owners of the very land they work on - women in Kenya do not even have the right to own land. They are classified as minors, which means that a husband or male relative must guarantee their loans.

Many women in Kenya are poor, illiterate and underemployed with irregular incomes. More than half of their days are spent in unpaid household labour which, as everywhere, is not recognized in economic statistics. Many women with jobs or businesses work in the informal microenterprise sector. Even when women do receive loans, they often use them to pay children's school fees and to buy food instead of obtaining or improving their shelter. After paying for necessities, women are often left without enough to pay mortgage installments at frequently high interest rates. This adds to their problems in obtaining financing for shelter.

Eligibility criteria for housing loans require relatively high and regular incomes. The collateral or other securities required for mortgages are often expected to be in the form of land or other legal property. This automatically excludes poor people - the majority of whom are women - from access to mortgages. Most Kenyan women lack substantial savings which lenders require as down payment.

Many credit institutions have been reluctant to administer women's loans since the loans women require are often small. Banks feel such loans don't yield enough profits, and are costly to administer. The banking world is complicated and full of technical terms that mean little to a rural and semi-literate urban woman who needs a mortgage.

Automatically a gap is created. The staff in some credit institutions hold negative attitudes towards women. …

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