Stakeholders want more funding to women enterprise programme

GENDER | Several women enterprises in western Uganda continue to show progress despite beind underfunded, giving stakeholders the impression that with more support from government, many women in rural areas can improve their self-sustenance.

Women groups from the western districts of Rukungiri, Ntungamo, Mbarara and Kamwenge that have been funded by Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (Uwep) have reported recovering a bigger percentage of their loans, but bemoaned the low funding extended to them.

Frank Mugabe, Uwep communication officer, said Shs5.2 billion had been recovered by the November 30 deadline out of Shs7.3 billion expected.

Sendo Cleaners

“This amount represents a recovery rate of 70.4% of the total amount due. This is an envious recovery rate even to the commercial banks, which take women to not to be creditworthy.” Mugabi said.

He said that while women form the largest share of participants in the informal sector, they face the biggest challenge in accessing credit.

“This is a profound mismatch in our economy because it means that women are financially excluded despite being a critical mass of players. UWEP is in place to fill that gap.” Mugabi said.

He noted that the promotion of women entrepreneurship is one of the avenues for wealth creation as there is great potential and benefit in investing in women enterprises in the country.

In Rukungiri, the district chairman, Andrewson Katebire, said that a huge deficit remains on the unfunded groups, and appealed to the MPs to allocate more funds to UWEP so that more women groups are reached.

“We are realizing value for money among the women projects but the fund allocations are still minimal. We are urging you parliamentarians to take advantage of the ongoing budgetary process for the 2018/2019 financial year to ensure that more funds are allocated to specifically UWEP,” Katebire said.

He revealed that district authorities have been forced to rationalize allocations to groups so as to equitably distribute the funds among the sub counties.

MPs tour projects

This week, women parliamentarians under their umbrella body, the Uganda Women Parliamentarians Association (Uwopa) embarked on a joint monitoring exercise of Uwep-funded projects in the western region.

The exercise is intended to present the legislators a first-hand experience of how UWEP has supported vulnerable women turn around their livelihoods.

Uwep is a government-funded programme initiated in the Financial Year 2015/16 to extend direct credit and entrepreneurship skills to women in groups. It’s implemented by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

To date, the programme has supported over 6,700 women groups through which over 85,000 women have been reached directly.

In Rukungiri, the MPs were pleased to learn that over 97% of the disbursed funds had been paid back by the women groups.

Among the groups that the MPs visited, Winnie Nakabira, the chairperson of Nyabugando Bakyara Kwebishaho women craft group in Nyakagyeme sub county in Rukungiri District, said they had requested for Shs12 million for their enterprise but they received only Shs7 million.

“The Shs12 million was based on the machinery and materials we needed to run our enterprise at optimal level. But we received Shs7 million and therefore couldn’t procure some of the critical items like an electric sewing machine. This affects our output.” Nakabira said.

She revealed that, nevertheless, they had made profits that enabled them payback the Shs7 million within one year. They also reserved some funds that have enabled them continue to run their enterprise.

“We are now appealing for a second round of funding to allow us procure the remaining machines,” Nakabira said.

Rukungiri Woman MP Betty Muzanira said women had exhibited the ability to rightly use the funds to improve their livelihoods.

“With what we have seen so far on the ground, a correct decision was made to channel these development funds through women,” she said, adding that she would raise the issue of inadequate funding in Parliament and lobby support from her colleagues.

Uwep’s Mugabe said the beneficiary women have now started buying individual assets like land, solar units and other household items, including paying school fees for their children out of group proceeds.

He noted that the programme was on the path to enhancing women’s contribution to national development if funding is increased.

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