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News and Resources

The Kuyasa Fund helps women improve homes in South Africa

News and Resources

By Brianna Mersey

Women-headed households have always been a priority for the Kuyasa Fund and for good reason. Over 40% of South African household are headed by women - and they are much more likely to be poor. Gender disparities in terms of rights, education opportunities and earning power have all contributed to the inequality between male and female-headed households.
Rooftops Canada’s partner, the Kuyasa Fund, is one of very few lenders in South Africa consistently reaching very poor women-headed households that would otherwise be excluded from the housing finance market. It has provided over 11,000 loans for home improvements and extensions and 76% of its clients are women. Repayment rates are very high reflecting their clients’ concerns to provide decent and secure housing.
Ntombonina Dyavu is a resilient grandmother of 12 who has struggled all her life to provide for her family. “I was widowed at a young age and left with six children to raise. Over the course of the last two decades my one-bedroom house has also welcomed grandchild after grandchild,” said Ntombonina.
With only one of her family members currently able to work, the family income is meager and life has been challenging. Receiving a loan from Kuyasa has brought new hope for Ntombonina. Her family is excited to be expanding their home and have already finished building one of two new bedrooms. The smiles on their faces speak louder than words.
Many other women and their families have also benefited from Kuyasa loans, including Xoliswa Mila, a single mother. She lives with her four children and her mother in a small house in Khayelitsha, an informal township on the outskirts of Cape Town. Khayelitsha means “new home” in Xhosa and true to its meaning it has become the fastest growing township in South Africa. Most of its residents are low-incomes families. High unemployment has also meant that theft and armed robberies are not uncommon.
“Safety is a big concern for us. We have always felt vulnerable without a proper fence and gate for our property, particularly as a female-headed household,” said Xoliswa. After obtaining a loan from Kuyasa, the family has been able to build a cement fence and a gate.
Rooftops Canada has been working with the Kuyasa Fund since 2004. Eight young professional interns have helped develop and expand Kuyasa’s services, and a senior technical advisor has provided guidance on Kuyasa’s growth strategy.
As a Rooftops Canada intern with Kuyasa, I am thrilled to be helping develop internal staff capacity through knowledge exchange, training and support.