Stories of bold Ugandan women

March 2017

News

As we celebrate International Women’s day, this year’s theme, #BeBoldForChange, resonates strongly with SNV’s vision: supporting people in pursuing their own development.

We work in three sectors, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, Agriculture and Renewable Energy, that form the pillars upon which societies thrive. Everyone needs water, food and energy to survive. At SNV we believe in the power of women to trigger change not only in their homes but also within their communities. Across the three sectors we work in, women are getting empowered and driving their own development. Below is a collection of stories about women whose lives are being transformed through our work in Uganda.

Scovia, embracing her fears and seizing opportunities as they come

Unzia Scovia, a young embroidery entrepreneur/tailor, understands too well the fear of taking risks. Scovia’s average monthly income was UGX 80,000 (21 Euros) after settling her rent. For one year she operated her business - making floral designs with her sewing machine - from a veranda with very limited space to exhibit her products. She was comfortable being the only embroidery service provider in Moyo Town but she was often struggling to make ends meet.

In 2014, SNV and its partners launched the Youth employability through Enterprise and Skills development’ (YES) project funded by the EU. Scovia was one of the urban youth selected to participate in the project's business development training. “One of the things I learnt from the business planning training was to always make business decisions from an informed point of view, after thorough analysis. It was my wake-up call. I relocated my business to a cheap and more spacious veranda and notified my clients.” Scovia said.  

In 2015 Scovia participated in the YES business competition and won a business expansion kit worth UGX 310,000 (82 Euros). She invested most of the money in materials which she procured in bulk, thereby reducing the unit cost and increasing her profit margins. Since she relocated her business, Scovia’s sales have increased. Now she earns an average monthly income of UGX 200,000 (53 Euros). Scovia was determined to save money for an additional sewing machine that would enable her to expand her business. After five months of saving, she was able to buy two machines worth UGX 1,030,000 (272 Euros). “This is nothing short of a miracle for me! At the beginning of the project I wanted to buy one additional sewing machine, now I have been able to buy two,” Scovia said proudly. 

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Scovia displays one of her table cloth pieces

Another lesson that she learnt from her business planning training was the importance of diversifying her product and service range in order to grow her business. For a long time she had turned down all requests for embroidery training services from the young women in her community as she considered them a threat to her own business. But she learnt that diversification would boost her revenue streams. Now she offers training services for UGX 200,000 (53 Euros) per person per month. In 2016 Scovia had two trainees. Now she plans to rent an extra room so that she can increase her number of trainees and has also decided to employ at least one person to help her run her business.

"I thank the YES project for the continued business support that has enabled me to conquer my fears and made me understand that success in business comes to those who do not hesitate to seize opportunities around them at the right time.” 

It is never too late to start saving and dreaming

Rural farmers need affordable financing to start or run an enterprise. However, a majority of formal financial institutions consider lending to farmers risky. So how do you help these farmers build an income base? Encourage them to save. SNV has been raising awareness about the importance of saving collectively through Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) and has encouraged farmers to strenghten the VSLAs to operate as businesses that can facilitate saving and lending for their members.

Zephalan Nyarwasa is a 54 year old farmer and a member of a VSLA in Bigando Kasese district. She started saving with the cooperative in 2015 and by 2016, at their second savings sharing, she had saved 560,000 UGX (147 Euros) which she used to buy goats. Now she is saving for an acre of land.

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Zephalan with her four goats

"My children might have gotten stunted but I won’t let it happen to my grandchildren"

Bigirwa Yolesi sits down for her mid-day meal surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Their meal is as healthy as the vegetables in the garden around her homestead. This was not the case a few years ago, Yolesi explains. “I didn’t know the relationship between the foods I used to prepare. Sometimes I would buy rice or posho (maize meal) and that’s what we would eat day in, day out when I didn't have money."

Yolesi attended one of SNV's community sensitisation meetings on nutrition (part of the Sustainable Nutrition for All project funded by SDC) where she learnt about the importance of feeding children diverse diets from the five food groups (animal protein, plant protein, carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits) in order to prevent their stunting. 

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Yolesi (in pink blouse) having a nutritious meal with her family

“After this meeting, I realised that my children might have been stunted and I did not want that to happen to my grandchildren. I planted a variety of vegetables around my home. Now, even if I don’t have money, we are still able to eat a healthy meal because we have vegetables in our garden.” 

When you are open to learning, you start growing

Joy Katafire moves around her farm with an agility that belies her 50 years. Since she learnt about pasture management from the SNV-supported Rubyerwa Practical Dairy Training Farm, she has been on a mission to remove all the weeds from her farm. Three months after attending the training, Joy created four additional paddocks as a means to control grazing and improve pasture growth. 

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One of Joy’s farmhands gets rid of weeds on her farm

She now has a total of six paddocks and supplements her cows’ feed with concentrates. Joy also learnt not to limit the amount of water she gives her cows and now provides them with water at least six times a day, unlike before when she only did it twice. Her milk production has increased by 54%, from 250 litres per day to 384 litres daily.   

Despite her physical condition, Caroline keeps her pit latrine in perfect condition

Jumedi West is a fishing village along the Albert Nile River in Uganda. The Albert Nile River is the main source of cooking and drinking water for Jumedi West village. But unfortunately, the river is also a place for open defecation because of the limited sanitation facilities in the village.

In August 2015, as part of the Sustainable Sanitation & Hygiene for All project funded by DFID, SNV and Water School Uganda met with the local leaders to discuss the hygiene and sanitation challenges in the area.

Caroline Acen, a 35 year old woman with disabilities, and her husband, Alex Ukwonga, took part in the village sanitation campaigns. After the meetings, Caroline and her husband decided to improve their existing pit latrine. They plastered the latrine floor with mud to keep it clean and free of dust and constructed a hand washing facility next to it. 

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Caroline, proud of her clean latrine (photo by Water School)

Despite her physical condition, Caroline plasters her pit latrine with mud every month to keep it in good condition. Her husband is proud of her efforts to keep their latrine and home environment clean. Caroline expains:“If I can maintain a clean latrine without having functional legs, surely anyone with legs and arms can have a clean latrine.”

Learn more about our work in Uganda.


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