BOMA is among 19 winners, chosen from over 1,700 applicants worldwide, selected for prestigious grant from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Nanyuki, Northern Kenya — The BOMA Project, a U.S. nonprofit and Kenyan NGO that implements an innovative poverty-graduation program in the drylands of Africa, is among 19 winners of a global Grand Challenge grant award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. BOMA will use the funding to enroll 750 ultra-poor women in its two-year program, and to study the changes in household financial decision-making that result from the women’s economic empowerment.

The Gates Foundation received more than 1,700 applications for the “Grand Challenge: Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development.” The goal was to identify innovative solutions that promote gender equity, empower the most vulnerable women and girls, and achieve positive health, development and economic outcomes for them, their families and communities.

“In addition to lifting 750 women and more than 3,700 children out of extreme poverty, we’ll explore the link between the economic empowerment of women and positive gender-influenced outcomes in their households,” says BOMA founder and CEO Kathleen Colson. “This includes increased financial decision-making and authority by women, increased food security for their families, and increased access to education for their daughters. It’s an exciting opportunity to document how women in developing countries use income and savings to improve the lives of their families—and to invest in the future of their children.”

BOMA works in the drylands of Africa, a region that represents 40% of the continent and the “last mile” of extreme poverty and economic isolation. BOMA’s poverty graduation program, the Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP), targets and enrolls ultra-poor women in a two-year, holistic sequence of interventions, including a cash grant (seed capital to launch a business); sustained training in savings, business and life skills; hands-on mentoring by trained, local BOMA Village Mentors; and establishment of BOMA savings groups. By developing a diversified income through their BOMA business, women can support their families, survive drought, cope with emergencies and save for the future.

Upon exiting the two-year program, participants report increased household spending on food (90% increase), education (132% increase) and medical care (195%). Also at exit: 93% of women have graduated from extreme poverty according to BOMA’s strict criteria; 98% of businesses are still in operation; and 98% of women have savings, compared to only 34% at enrollment.

Beyond the numbers, BOMA’s success in transforming the lives of ultra-poor women is illustrated in the stories of women like Gumato Umuro, who lives in a remote nomadic village in Northern Kenya. Before Gumato enrolled in BOMA’s program, she begged for credit from shopkeepers or waited for her husband to send money when she needed to buy food for her children. They often went to sleep hungry, with nowhere to turn for help. Two years later, Gumato is a successful BOMA business owner and community leader. She’s the family breadwinner and determined to build better lives for her children. “I will educate my children,” says Gumato, “and, if there is an end to education, I will take them all there. I especially have big plans for my daughter.” (Watch Gumato’s story here)

Gumato is one of more than 9,400 women reached by BOMA’s REAP program since 2009. These women support 47,000 children through income and savings generated by 2,968 REAP businesses and 534 savings associations across Northern Kenya. BOMA’s goal is to lift 100,000 women and children out of extreme poverty by 2018.  

For more information on the Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development Grand Challenge and winners, click here.

For more information on The BOMA Project visit:

Press Contact: Jaya Tiwari, Director of Strategic Partnerships
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