Performance of Women in Informal Sector Enterprises: A Case of Enterprises Supported with Credit.
Maina, Lucy Wangui
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The informal sector in Kenya is seen as the solution to unemployment and associated ills. In recent years, the sector has gained widespread recognition. It is now proved that the sector is the second largest employer preceded only by agriculture. However, the sector's growth has been constrained by a number of factors or obstacles. Many studies have been done with respect to problems arising from capital constraints. More important to this study is that a number of women are seeking employment in this sector. The sector employs about 31 percent of the total women population. (UNIDO/GOK, 1991) studies on women in the informal sector show that women have had even greater constraints arising from their inability to acquire loans from commercial lending banks since they do not own property which could act as collateral in the event of loan seeking. Recent studies have highlighted the constraints to performance in informal enterprises particularly those of women in relation to capital and technical skills. Surprisingly, even after women have had access to finance in form of credit now made available by donor agencies, they have continued to perform poorly. Little attention has been given to constraints arising from the conflict between family roles and demands of competitive enterprise. The present study sought to focus on these factors while taking into consideration the role of socio-economic factors. Of importance was the prediction that multiple roles of women arising from domestic obligations bring about role conflicts, which lead to poor performance in business development. Specifically, this study was carried out with a sample of 70 women engaged in small-scale business with a view of identifying factors that influence their performance. The hypothesis examined the importance of socio-economic and family characteristics with respect to their impact on the performance of women in this sector. The study aimed at contributing to the insight understanding of the persistent constraints that women experience in entrepreneurial activities. It was guided by the following objectives: 1. To identify the family characteristics of the women in the informal sector enterprises and particularly those women who have been supported by a credit scheme; 2. To identify the socio-economic characteristics of women entrepreneurs in the informal sector and how they have influenced their performance; 3. To find out how economic responsibilities had influenced the performance of these women in their informal enterprises and 4. To identify the constraints that have been experienced by women involved in the informal enterprises. The sample of 70 women was drawn from women under a credit programme supported by K-REP who had been recipients of loan for a least one year. The data was collected by use of the survey method principally structured interview and questionnaire with supplementary data from documents and group discussion. The data were analyzed using both qualitative and quantitative methods, which allowed for the examination of the influence of socio-economic and family characteristics on indicators of performance through regression analysis and corresponding tests of significance. The findings of the study indicate that socio-economic characteristics, notably initial capital, credit level and education have substantial impact on the performance of women as compared to family characteristics which included marital status, duration of marriage, size of the family and domestic financial commitments. The study recommends that, constraints experienced by women are largely influenced by economic factors and that these factors need to be given considerable attention in order to improve performance of women in entrepreneurial activities. The study also recommends that further studies be carried out in this field particularly on the comparison between constraints experienced by women in urban areas and those in rural areas. The study also recommends that comparative studies be carried out on the performance of men and women in specific sectors. Such studies may lead to additional knowledge on the limitations of women in economic progress and ways in which these limitations can be alleviated.
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