Uganda’s State minister for Gender, Labor and Social Development, Ms. Peace Mutuuzo addressing the media in Gulu, Tuesday, September 27, 2016.
“You have big chunks of flat fertile land which is fit for mechanized agriculture, which you should look at as gold. Mechanized farming is very possible in northern Uganda. Why don’t you encourage your people to grow cereals which have high market demands with our neighbors? Count your blessings a million times. Why do you limit the use of your land? You only encourage others to come and utilize (grab) your land”- Minister of State for Gender Labor and Social development, Peace Mutuuzo says.
GULU-UGANDA: The ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development has launched a five-year $65 million fund to support women entrepreneurs involved in informal business sector.
government will disburse $13 million each year for the next five years beginning 2016/17 financial year to all the districts and municipalities in the country.
This was unveiled by Uganda’s State minister in the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, Ms. Peace Mutuuzo on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 during a regional orientation workshop for all the district officials from the greater Northern Uganda.
The Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Program (UWEP), is an initiative of Uganda government that is aimed at “improving access to financial services by women and equipping them with skills for enterprise growth, value addition and marketing their products and services”.
It is designed to address the challenges women face in undertaking economically viable enterprises including the limited access to affordable credit, limited technical knowledge and skills for business development, limited access to markets as well as information regarding business opportunities.
“The program is envisaged to increase participation of women in business development, increase their income, livelihood security and overall quality of life”, says the program document in parts.
Minister Ms. Mutuuzo says although women form 53% (percent) of the total population, they are kept backward in the informal sector of the economy selling in markets and housekeeping without access to land and loans from banks since they have no collaterals.
“President Yoweri Museveni has identified women to champion his cause of driving this country to a middle income economy by 2020. Women form 53% of the population but they are kept in the backyard. Women are loyal people when it comes to paying small loans. They manage their Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) better than men”, says Minister Mutuuzo.
The minister appealed to leaders in northern Uganda to encourage their people to invest in mechanized agriculture to produce cereal crops for sale to neighboring East African markets including South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.
“You have big chunks of flat fertile land which is fit for mechanized agriculture, which you should look at as gold. Mechanized farming is very possible in northern Uganda. Why don’t you encourage your people to grow cereals which have high market demands in our neighboring countries? Count your blessings a million times. Why do you limit the use of your land? You only encourage others to come and utilize (grab) your land”, she said.
The beneficiary women group, which should be organized in small groups of 10 -15 members only, will be identified and selected through a community participatory process that involves local leaders at village level and Women Council leaders as trusted members of the community.
All the funds disbursed to each of the targeted 2,200 women groups in Uganda, will be treated as Revolving Fund to be repaid within one year without interests charged. However, it will attract 5% interest if the group fails to repay it within the one year.
Gulu district chairman, Mr. Ojara Martin Mapenduzi observed that women in Gulu district are beginning to venture in income generating activities but have limited access to credit facilities. He revealed that Gulu women organized themselves into Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) and mobilized savings of up to Uganda shillings 2 billion in 2015 alone. He cited Gulu market vendors who saved up to 400 million shillings last year.
“The problem right now is no longer poverty. Women are beginning to venture in income generating activities but they have limited access to credit facilities”, explained Mapenduzi.
According to Mapenduzi, two credit institutions in the district he named as Allied Micro Finance Co-operative Society and Urib Wunu Mon for Micro Finance Organization (UMFO) have however defrauded their clients and disappeared with more than one billion shilling in savings of members.
He told Minister Mutuuzo that he is confident the Women Entrepreneurship fund will perform well in Northern Uganda. “It is very painful when such vultures disappear with members’ hard earned savings. But, Northern Uganda is unique in many ways and I urge you to pay close attention to the north”, he says.
Uganda government also have similar program for youths: the Youth Livelihood Program (YLP) which was launched about two years ago. Billions of shillings have been injected into the program. This year, some districts reported difficulties in recovering the low interest loans from some youth groups.
It is understood that many of the youth groups that have benefitted from the funds have taken the project as a political incentives for votes they cast in favour of ruling National Resistance Movement party candidates in the February 2016 General elections and previous elections.
According to a report, Uganda’s poverty vulnerability stands at 67 percent and women, the bread winners of most families are the worst affected. Among the youth, unemployment rate has been put at more than 80 percent by various studies.