MBARARA – Women from Mbarara under their various groups have commended the government’s initiative of Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) that has provided them with capital to boast their enterprises.
UWEP is a women initiative under the ministry of gender, labor and social development that was approved by cabinet in 2016 as a landmark in the implementation of government transformation agenda aiming at improving women’s access to financial services and equipping women with skills for enterprise growth, value addition and marketing of products and services.
Abigil Mwesigwa the chairperson Rwentobo fruit driers appreciated the efforts being put by the government to empower women financially. However, she noted that more funding should be extended to help them expand their projects.
She revealed that they had applied for shs25m but they only got shs12m which supported them though not enough. She called upon the government to revise the guidelines and increase on the funding.
“we started this fruit drying project in 2000 but on a small scale because we had only 2 driers and each member was contributing shs10, 000, we kept struggling with capital and of course market, we would sell our products to Fruits of the Nile in Jinja because there is no market here, until in 2016 when we had about UWEP and applied for funds.” Mwesigwa said.
She said that the project has enabled them to look after their families by taking their children to school and diversifying some income for other projects like fish farming, floriculture, and horticulture and juice production.
“I challenge fellow women to join groups so that they can be able to benefit from these funds, we have not only benefitted as group members only but all people Rugando sub-county, because they provide us with raw materials “Mwesigwa said.
She, however, expressed her fear about the limited market for their products. “the only potential market we have for our products is in Jinja, and some supermarkets here in Mbarara though they don’t take much but we ask the government if possible to get us market for our products so that it gives us a chance of higher prices for our products.
Hajala Kyomuhendo who heads Lower Cell women poultry group in Nyamityobora ward in Mbarara Municipality also said that they would have loved if the government increases on the money they give to women groups.
“Ever since we got the money in March 2018 which was amounting to shs12m, it has increased on our project, we had a small brooder but now we built another bigger one, in our project we had never gotten income more than shs10m but now we have hit over shs110m and we have managed to repay the loan and in April we shall be completing our loan” she hopes that in few years to come they want to buy a bigger land where they can be able to enlarge their project. “so far we have managed to share shs8m and we expect to do this every after six months, we pray that if the government can increase on the loan to about shs20m, this can help us to boast of project”
Frank Mugabi the head of communications in responding to the women’s prayer, he noted that so far the maximum money they give out is shs12m because the groups are overwhelming and the resource envelop is still small. He, therefore, encouraged women to start small as the government also plays its responsibility to ensure all groups are given money.
Mugabi further noted that unlike in youth funds where problems of recovery have manifested, they have not had any challenge with recovery of these monies with women groups in western Uganda.
He noted that the project targets 100,000 members every year and over 500,000 in the next five years and that western Uganda has received more funding as compared to other regions. That so far they have 8,247 projects being funded and that they have disbursed over Shs46.977, 750,583bn with total Institutional support of Shs28.9bn and a gross release of shs75.9bn.
On the recovery, since this is a revolving fund, in western Uganda out of Shs8,030,992,282bn they disbursed they have managed to recover Shs5,425,626 which makes it a 67% recovery.
Mugabi further noted that the funding targets women who are vulnerable among who include the widow, poor, those with disabilities and must be between 10 to 15 in a group since women contribute 53% of the labor force in the country.