UGANDA: HIGH SCHOOL ENTREPRENEURSHIP SKILLS EARNING WAR WIDOWS DAILY LIVELIHOODS; BAFFLE BANKS ON LOANS.

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Beneficiaries of Women entrepreneurship fund baking wedding cakes in Kirombe, Gulu City

“Women make up 53% percent of the labor force and hence an important target group for economic development in Uganda. It has been proved that it is a more efficient way to reach the vulnerable groups. Women are the majority in business sector but can’t access bank loans to start business. Government is about reaching majority”

“They don’t need to present collaterals like land titles since we don’t ask them as banks do. This has baffled bank managers because these transactions go through their systems. They see how these UWEP groups are repaying back the loans. They are becomingly envious of our success. Maybe they will change their approach to women entrepreneurs too”

Gulu-UGANDA: Thirteen-year-oldRwotomiya Sunday is a senior two student of St. Lawrence Academy in Kampala who has a passion for bakery. He is back at home for the third term holiday. He was one of the many people we, a group of media practitioners in northern Uganda, found at the bakery of Lubangatwero Widows Women Group undertaking Baking as an enterprise in Layibi division in Gulu Municipality.

 

Rwotomiya is learning the trade of baking bread and cakes at this makeshift Bakery located in Kirombe, a few minutes’ drive south of the city center.

 

“I want to study hard and become a professional chef after completing my studies. I am now able to bake my own cookies. I want to thank Ms. Evelyn Adong for coming up with this business in our neighborhood which has enabled some of us to learn to bake at a tender age”, says Rwotomiya.

 

The chairperson of Lubangatwero Widows Women Group is Ms. Evelyn Adong, a thirty-four year old mother of twins. In her own testimony, she learnt the art of bakery from her high school days when she offered “Food and Nutrition “as a subsidiary subject at Advance level of education in Uganda besides the core principle subjects of Biology, Chemistry and Geography.

 

She says the group started as a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) five years ago before hearing about the ongoing Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Program (UWEP). Her group did not hesitate to apply for the collateral free revolving credit when Ms. Adong shared how the funds can help them venture into a bakery business. Without much hope, they applied and received Seven million shillings (approximately US$ 1920).

 

UWEP is a 500 billion shillings (about US$ 140 million) rolling government of Uganda program under the Ministry of Labor, Gender and Social Development (MLGSD) targeting women, especially the poor and unemployed in all the districts of Uganda. It aims at increasing the incomes of women and their contributions to national development. At inception in 2015, government committed to disburse 100 billion shillings (about US$27 million) per year to capitalize the women entrepreneurship programme for them to engage in productive enterprises.

 

A Census of Business Establishments (COBE) conducted in 2010/11 revealed that the proportion of women owning businesses increased from 37% percent in 2001/2 to 44% percent in 2011/12 with majority of them selling their products in local markets without any proper access to credit facilities.

 

According to Mr. Frank Mugabi, the Communication Officer of the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social development, the aim of the program is to give affordable credits through UWEP to stimulate growth of high quality and competitive women enterprises in the micro, small and medium enterprises sub-sectors in which women are the key actors.

 

“Women make up 53% percent of the labor force and hence an important target group for economic development in Uganda. It has been proved that it is a more efficient way to reach the vulnerable groups. Women are the majority in business sector but can’t access bank loans to start business. Government is about reaching majority”, says Mr. Mugabi.

 

Since its inception in 2015/6 Financial year, a total of 6,788 women groups have benefitted to the tune of 37.9 billion shillings (about US$10.4 million) to date.

 

Although a total of 7.365 billion shillings (about US$2.1 million was supposed to be refunded in three years’ time, a total of 5.183 billion shillings (about US$ 1.42 million) was repaid, representing 70.4% percent of the total amount due.

 

“They don’t need to present collaterals like land titles since we don’t ask them as banks do. This has baffled bank managers because these transactions go through their systems. They see how these UWEP groups are repaying back the loans. They are becomingly envious of our success. Maybe they will change their approach to women entrepreneurs too”, says Mugabi.

 

According to Ms. Adong, her group got 7 million shillings (about US$ 1920) as initial capital to start up the bakery enterprise and has since repaid the loan in full within a year. They are now looking at recapitalization of the project to buy a diesel powered oven and an automated mixture to achieve uniform and quality products. So far, the demands for the products especially wedding cakes are high in the domestic markets.

 

Mr. Mugabi says the group is set to undergo business incubation development with Industrial Research Institute in order to improve its brandings and ascertain the necessary product certifications with Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) for the regional East African markets. 

 

 

 

 

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