Empowering 240 self-help groups in Gulu

by Karin Community Initiatives Uganda
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Empowering 240 self-help groups in Gulu
Empowering 240 self-help groups in Gulu
Empowering 240 self-help groups in Gulu
Empowering 240 self-help groups in Gulu
Empowering 240 self-help groups in Gulu
Ayak women group engaged in pottery
Ayak women group engaged in pottery

Ayac is a small village located in Bungatira sub county – Gulu district. The locals are engaged mainly in subsistence agriculture; growing maize, millet or simsim for their own consumption and selling the surplus to market traders to earn an income and take their children to school. However, with the ever changing climatic conditions especially the prolonged dry season has left so many crops destroyed and thus plunging more families into abject poverty. Worse still, high unemployment and lack of skills in rural Ayac village is another major challenge that has resulted to extreme poverty among the youth. Many youth had resorted to crime and prostitution furthering the spread of the deadly HIV/AIDS virus in the community.

With failing crops coupled with high unemployment rates in the region and the desire to break the poverty chain, the Ayac villagers organized and established themselves into a local dance troupe to enable themselves create a continuous flow of income. The women have also egaged in pottery which has substantially improved their income, making the Ayac village group a positive influence in the community for the younger generation.

By supporting the Ayac Village to acquire land, the required dancing material especially uniforms and shoes has provided them with a competitive edge to perform at various paid events which has increased their income and thus improved their livelihoods.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported the work of Ayak Village group over the years. We have valued your financial support and interest. Know that your contribution has assisted hundreds of households being able to move themselves out of poverty.

Ayak women group engaged in pottery
Ayak women group engaged in pottery
Ayak Village dance group
Ayak Village dance group
Ayak Village dance group
Ayak Village dance group

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Women engaged in pottery
Women engaged in pottery

As you have likely seen, Uganda continues to face a devastating surge in COVID-19 cases. Poor women living in extreme poverty in Uganda and especially Gulu have been hit especially hard by the disease. However, what Covid-19 has taught us is to be resilient and carry on the best way we can! Uganda may officially end the second countrywide lockdown at the end of this year, some countries have opened their borders and everyone is trying to carry on with their lives as "normally" as possible!

What does all this mean for our Self Help Groups in Gulu? Well they can meet again, particularly if it is outside with strict following of Standard operating procedures (SOPs) and they must really try to start/carry on with their Income Generating Businesses if at all possible as this is the best way to improve their standards of living.


The exciting news this coming year - 2022 is that we plan to reach out and involve more women in the community. The Covid-19 pandemic has left many women in the community jobless and as such, many have faced gender based violence. Empowering these women will help them navigate through such unintended consequences and make extreme poverty a thing of the past.


This is our final report for this year. Please stay safe, be kind and if you can, make a donation to our project!

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Women Group meeting in Gulu
Women Group meeting in Gulu

Women bear an unequal share of the burden of poverty globally, due to societal and structural inequality. Women experience unequal access to healthcare starting from birth and throughout their reproductive years and are conspicuous by their absence from all levels of government – local, regional and national. Women also have limited economic freedom. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 16–18 per cent of loans issued to small and medium-sized businesses are to women business owners.

Grassroots women’s groups like the ones we initiated in Gulu have tried to address these inequalities and achieve women’s empowerment through women’s economic self-help group programmes. The basic assumptions underpinning these income-generating programmes are that giving women access to working capital and technical support, such as training, can increase their ability to ‘generate choices and exercise bargaining power as well as develop a sense of self-worth, a belief in one’s ability to secure desired changes, and the right to control one’s life’. Women’s groups could facilitate these goals and improve women’s empowerment through the development of social capital and the mobilisation of women.

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Rural Women attending a self help group meeting
Rural Women attending a self help group meeting

Rural poverty in Uganda is extremely bad. 85.0% of Uganda’s population lives in rural areas; 27.2% of them are below the national poverty line. Poor rural women, who often do not have enough savings, often need loans to deal with emergencies, invest in income-generating opportunities that arise, and meet life-cycle needs, including births, deaths, education, and home-making. However, the rural poor, especially the rural women, have little access to traditional financial credit. Rural areas may not be serviced by traditional financial industries because they are seen as unprofitable because of low population density in rural areas and the smaller amounts of money borrowed and invested.

Even Microfinance institutions (MFIs) and Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations (SACCOs), which often target the low-income populations in rural areas, have difficulties reaching the poorest of the poor, also called the “non-active” poor. The poorest rural people are not attractive clients for banks, MFIs, and SACCOs because they save and borrow very small amounts.

Therefore, women are overrepresented among the poor in Uganda. Data from 2005/2006 from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics estimates that 23% of Ugandan households are headed by a female. Out of these female-headed households, 33.7% are below the national poverty line.

Providing a place for the poor rural women to save is important for poverty reduction because it gives the rural women funds to fall back on in emergencies, allows them to invest in profitable opportunities that arise, and allows them to spend on expenses relating to deaths, births, education, and home-building without having to take out loans. This limits the potential of falling into harmful debt.

Informal self-help savings and loan groups are an alternative way for the poor rural women to access credit and save money. Groups like at Karin Community Initiatives Uganda in Gulu District, have assisted in developing the community, not just economically, but also in-material and non-material development as group members become interested in certain social issues and mobilize the group to try to do something about them. Many reports have found them to be very successful in poverty alleviation and contribution to other aspects of development, especially in rural areas among the poorest of the poor and especially among women.

Rural Women attending a self help group meeting
Rural Women attending a self help group meeting
Rural Women attending a self help group meeting
Rural Women attending a self help group meeting
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sacco group
sacco group

We had agreed to meet at 7am with Stella, the programs administrator, to visit one of the active groups in the community. This is a group with nearly 80 members. They are comprised of young men and women, who are determined to transform their lives. The group membership also includes widowers who are working hard to pay the school fees of their children.  Many of the members are stone cutters, farmers, small scale businesses.  

This group is very active and very strict with attendance. "Members who do not attend get fined" Stella explained to me. 

So when I arrived in the meeting, I was really excited to see how they carry out and manage their savings. I watched as their team leader, read out the names of all members. 

Everyone sat down under a large mango tree, and with the warmth of the morning sun, the grass around dried off from the morning dew. All were excited about the day. It is also the day that they get to meet each other, it's their support group. They share stories, many times they share their challenges too.  

The team leader meticulously counted the cash as each member handed in their savings for the period. Another team leader recorded all in the big blue counter book. Once all monies were collected, it was counted out and read out loud for all to hear. This is transparency.

The next exercise is to inquire if there are members present who would want to borrow from the pool.

At the end of the exercise, they also save for a member who has lost a close relative. This to me is solidarity. They stand for one another. This group has now become their family. They gave me an opportunity to speak, and I was honoured to do this. I shared with them about community health insurance which I believe, that in addition to saving for their businesses, they will save for their health too. They listened attentively and asked a lot of critical questions. 

The learning here is the solution this group has found for themselves to drive out poverty.  I hope to go back there another day.

I hope that you will also consider supporting them to grow. To increase their savings. Join me in my next visit and training with other groups. There are over 250 savings groups in the community. They need more direction and training.   They need more guidance and support to grow their groups better. Be part of this team and grow with them.

Thank you for your support and hope to hear from you how you would like to support these groups

sacco2
sacco2
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sacco3
sacco1
sacco1
sacco5
sacco5

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Organization Information

Karin Community Initiatives Uganda

Location: Gulu - Uganda
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Hope Okeny
Gulu, Gulu Uganda
$20 raised of $29,200 goal
 
2 donations
$29,180 to go
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