Moreen and Jackline , our Street Business coaches
How do you break the chains of poverty and start your own business if you live on less than $1 a day? How do you start a business without capital, without a business education, or any education at all? Can an illiterate woman become an entrepreneur?
That’s what the team at Kyaninga Child Development Centre are trying to do for the families they work with. We don’t believe in giving people handouts of the essential items that they need (the old philosophy of International Aid), without giving them something more sustainable as well – it comes back to the old saying ‘Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for life’.
Many of the 920 families that KCDC work with live in extreme poverty in rural western Uganda. They survive on the food that they grow in their gardens and hope to have a little left over to sell in the market, which will allow them to pay for their children’s education, healthcare and other essentials. Many children with disabilities live in single parent families, being cared for by their mother or grandmother, and often have been abandoned by their fathers. Many of these mothers are illiterate, attending only 1 or 2 years of primary school before being withdrawn to help at home with their younger siblings and the household chores or to marry young and take responsibility of their own home and young children.
In Uganda, only 63% of children complete primary school education, and only 24% enrol into secondary school education. This makes it almost impossible for a young mother to go out and find work and earn money to support herself and her family. If a child has a disability, this becomes even harder due to additional childcare needs and healthcare costs.
To try and tackle this, and support these incredible women, we have introduced the Street Business School, created by Bead for Life. In this 6-month project, women are trained in practical-simplified business concepts, business plan development, capital procurement and bookkeeping and with this new skill set they can create opportunities for themselves. This may be in the form of a small shop to sell fruits and vegetables or making chapatis. They could buy chickens to sell eggs, as well as improving their own families diet, or use an existing skill such as basket weaving or bead making but they learn how to market themselves and save their money. The key aspect of the programme is that the women are not given an initial capital, but are taught how to generate and build it themselves
The model has proved so successful that we decided to have two mothers of children that we work with, trained through an intensive, immersion workshop and then employ them to train other parents. Not only do these training sessions allow for business skills transfer and entrepreneurship, enabling mothers to make their own income and lift themselves out of poverty, but they also provide a perfect opportunity to help mothers understand their rights as parents and advocate for them accordingly. We hope that by coupling this model with our inclusive education program, we will free-up time for the parents and also give them skills to use this time to create different revenue generating schemes.
Moreen has a diploma in Tourism and Hospitality Management but had to leave her job in a local hotel when her son Joffrey was born. After a difficult labour and delivery, Joffrey has developed Cerebral Palsy, with frequent epileptic seizures and a delay in his development. He struggled to feed well as a baby and was slow to put on weight. This meant that it was difficult for Moreen to leave him in anyone else’s care when she wanted to return to work. Now that Joffrey is 2 years old, he is much stronger, and through KCDC education and intervention, his family are happier to care for him, allowing Moreen to become one of our Street Business School coaches.
Along with one other coach, Jackline, they are running classes weekly with 20 women, in 6 local communities to bring the opportunities of entrepreneurship and business skills to those that never believed they had a chance.
One of these women, who is now excited for her future, is Julliet, a single mother to 4 children, including 5-year-old Joseph who has Downs Syndrome. This is a genetic disorder, causing learning difficulties and delays in development, but his condition was blamed on witchcraft by her husband, and the reason he gave for leaving. Julliet has struggled to provide enough food for her family, and spends many days working in her garden, preparing maize, beans and matooke, a type of plantain banana and a staple food of Uganda, hoping that there is enough to take to market for extra money to pay for school fees.
She would also like to send Joseph to school, but the local school in the village refuses to take him because of the extra support he requires, and she cannot afford the costs of sending him to a school further away, so at the moment, he is at home with her all day, and it is difficult for her to go out and find work.
She joined the Street Business School because she wants to have a better future for her children, especially Joseph, and to give him the support and opportunities he deserves. She would really like to set up a small shop in her village, close to her home, where she can sell local fruits and vegetables, charcoal and firewood and other local essentials. She hopes that one day Joseph will also be able to work alongside her in the shop, to show others that people with disabilities are capable of more than many people expect.
To generate her start-up capital, Julliet will be selling her surplus vegetables at harvest in the market and saving the money, which she can then invest in her shop. She will also look around her home for items she no longer uses to sell and add to her savings. She will learn about savings and investments, book-keeping and business development through the Street Business School programme and she has the support of 19 other women in her class, the KCDC team and Bead for Life behind her, which should ensure her success.
Joseph, carried by his mum, coming for therapy
One of the Street Business School classes at KCDC