Fairfield resident works to empower women in Kenya

For decades, Rosemary Williams of Fairfield has been supporting indigenous women in Third World countries. Drawing upon her extensive background in financial planning, Williams has traveled to Africa to teach women how to build their own businesses and provide economic stability for their families.

Rosemary Williams

Rosemary Williams

Plans will soon be finalized for a three-year Economic Empowerment Training Program in Nairobi, Kenya. In collaboration with the YWCA of Kenya, Women’s Perspective, a non-profit organization founded by Williams in 1984, will teach 30 women financial concepts to help them develop their own businesses.

The upcoming program, which is slated for 2014, marks Williams’s fourth journey to Africa to teach financial literacy.

“The idea is that these 30 women will take the information we provide and bring it back to women who live in small villages near the Kenya YWCA’s seven branches,” Williams explained.

During the five-day training in Nairobi, participants will learn how to develop budgets, manage money, perform basic bookkeeping, manage inventory and cash flow, and implement a savings plan.

“Women everywhere need to be educated about money,” Williams said.

A former banker and personal finance adviser, Williams is the author of A Woman’s Book of Money and Spiritual Vision: Putting Your Spiritual Values into Financial Practice.

More than 700 Kenyan women will be taught financial literacy tools during the first stage of the faith-based, financial empowerment program, said Williams.

“The goal is to educate 5,000 women in the next three years,” she added.

Along with Women’s Perspective’s board of directors, an advisory team helped Williams put together the workshop. The advisers are Prill Boyle, a motivational speaker and author, Goldye Meyer, a psychologist, and Erika Steffen, a career consultant.

Steffen said she firmly believes that women need to learn how to support themselves.

“Money is a powerful tool and when women are educated about money, they will find the means to make money and provide appropriately for their families and their communities,” Steffen said.

Over the years, Steffen has taken part in some of the projects Williams has helped to spearhead in Africa. For example, Williams helped to kick-start one woman’s business by collecting several wedding gowns from her American friends. The aspiring entrepreneur rented out the dresses to brides in her village.

“When the dresses were unpacked, they were hung on a clothesline at the conference for all the women to see,” Williams explained. “Subsequently, a shop was opened with the dresses we brought, including Erika’s.”

Women’s Perspective is seeking financial support. Volunteers are also needed to write grants.

“It cost about $300 for each Kenyan woman to be trained,” Williams noted.

She also hopes to recruit female mentors in the United States who could work with African women as they begin their business journeys.

Williams first approached the Kenya YWCA in 2008 about hosting a similar workshop. This year, Women’s Economic Empowerment rose to the top of the priorities at the African Union Conference and the YWCA decided to implement the project.

Williams was contacted by Irene Kizito, general secretary of the Kenya YWCA, during spring. Kizito told Williams she was traveling to New York City for the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women Conference and wanted to get together to plan the program.

Women’s Perspective is a Fairfield-based 501(c)(3) organization incorporated in 2001.

Information about the Economic Empowerment Training program and Women’s Perspective may be found at womensperspective.org.

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