Kenya Empowering Women through Gender-Sensitive Public Procurement


Emmy Choge
Emmy Choge displays her merchandise at the Masaai Market stall at Yaya Centre in Nairobi.   Photo: UN Women/Banu Khan

Emmy Choge is a wife, a mother of four and an entrepreneur for the past five years. Emmy is the perfect epitome of a “super woman”. She owns a stall at the Maasai market alongside a curio shop in Nairobi city market which she manages. But that is not all, she also supplies computer accessories, stationary and supplies tents for outdoor events and functions.

On getting married, Emmy was determined not to be a stay at home wife.  With such great ambition, she quickly set up a small grocery shop in her village in Uasin-Gishu County in Kenya.  The shop business was a success, but Emmy wanted to do greater things. She had always wanted to work for a government institution but since her dreams were not forthcoming, Emmy decided to take up an offer to manage her aunt’s curio and crafts business in Nairobi.

The aunt’s offer was a blessing in disguise; it was a good starting ground for her to learn about the curio and crafts business. By 2011, she had gained enough experience to venture on her own.  She registered a business as a sole proprietor and opened a shop selling curios, beads and African fabric at the Nairobi city market. Just like any typical startup, starting off was not easy and her biggest challenge was finding capital to launch her business.  Getting a loan from the banks was hard as she did not meet the lending criteria. As most entrepreneurs, she was left with the option of using her personal savings and additional support from her husband.

In early 2014, Emmy was introduced to the Joyful Women’s Organization (JOYWO), an organization that empowers women through knowledge sharing and encourages them to save and borrow against their savings for income generating projects.  Emmy’s encounter with JOYWO was another blessing. She decided to join the organization and is currently a member of Noble Sisters Group, serving as the group secretary.

Emmy was very excited in June 2014 when she was invited to attend a two-day training on how to access government procurement opportunities (popularly known as AGPO), organized by JOYWO with support from UN Women, Kenya Office. 

“This training was my turning point in life” says Emmy, I learnt for the first time that women could do business with government with 30 percent of all government tenders set aside for women youth and persons living with disabilities.  I also learnt that one can approach government offices freely to ask for business and that anyone can do business with the government provided you meet the requirements.  I was keen to work with government as an employee but this was an opportunity to do business with my government. Therefore, immediately after the workshop, I set out to work and started to organize all the necessary papers that I needed for me to take advantage of the 30 percent”, she said.

It is true to say that when a woman is empowered, everyone benefits. Emmy went ahead to share the knowledge gained with her own son and his university friends.  She encouraged them to register businesses and apply for tenders under the youth category.

In 2015, Emmy won her first government tender worth KES 226,000 (US$2260) for the supply and delivery of stationary and computer accessories to the Ministry of Trade.  Soon after this, she won a second tender worth KES 30,000 (US$300), this time, from the Ministry of Agriculture for tent hire services. 

Emmy encourages other women to wake up, get out of the boxes and do business with the Government. She says that AGPO is real and it is doable.  “The two tenders I won changed my life, I am now confident to walk into a government office and make propositions. I am also able to pay fees for my daughter who is studying a business degree at a University in Nairobi”, she said.

UN Women through the Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) programme is implementing a project on empowering women through public procurement.  The initiative targets women-owned businesses to participate and benefit for the government supply chain.  Through the project, UN Women strengthens the capacity of women-owned businesses to submit successful tenders for government contracts.  To date, in collaboration with key partners and with financial support from the government of Finland and Sweden, UN Women has supported practical trainings for over 1500 women vendors in Nairobi, Uasin-Gishu and Turkana Counties and plans to extend the trainings to other Counties in the Country.