KAMPALA —The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) has secured over UGX 950 billion from the World Bank to help accelerate women’s economic empowerment in Uganda.
The project, dubbed, generating growth and productivity opportunities for women enterprises in Uganda seeks to support women-led enterprises and businesses.
Dr. Angella Nakafeero, the Commissioner Gender and Women Affairs at the Ministry of Gender said the project is designed to directly address the needs around provision of enterprise development services including training (technical, life-skills, digital), business advisory services, and women’s networks that facilitate market linkages, value chain and transforming negative social norms that prevent women from engaging in business activities.
The Growth Opportunities and Productivity for Women Enterprises (GROW) Project is a 5 ½ years US$250 million project; a World Bank funded project.
It also includes women’s access to finance for women entrepreneurs to transition from micro enterprises to small and medium enterprises and enabling inclusive infrastructure through common users’ facilities and childcare among others, Dr. Nakafeero explained.
She also revealed that the Government with support from development partners has numerous programmes geared towards women economic empowerment and the growth of women enterprises.
Key among others, she listed Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP), Parish Development Model (PDM) and Uganda Youth Livelihood Programme (UYLP) alongside a whole host of programmes by both government and CSOs.
Speaking at the closure of a two year Women Economic Empowerment programme, Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) chairperson Sarah Opendi that when women are economically empowered, it gives them the ability to participate meaningfully in decision making.
She also called for a shift in the mindset change of public servants—reasoning that that’s where the bottleneck is.
“In this government and unless that is dealt with, we shall continue in this cycle. At the end of the day, even the Parish Development Model money that we all yearn for will not do anything because it is supposed to be paid back and if part of it is already paid as a bribe, even the people will know that this is money for eating because I paid somebody to get it,” Ms. Opendi said.
She thanked ActionAid for supporting the women enterprises through economic empowerment.
“Women today unfortunately, have taken on the role of the head of the households a role that was meant for men before that you find that men have left this to the women and women have to suffer alone. So when you hear some of us coming up with different legislations, here and there, please do not ask why we are bringing all these pieces of legislation. We are trying to organize the community, because without the law in place, you have nothing to use as your defense.”
Citing different forms of gender-based discrimination, Ms. Opendi said women are not present in certain sectors deemed as “men’s work” and experience wage inequalities.
Mr. Xavier Ejoyi, the Country Director of ActionAid Uganda said holistic capacity building for women entrepreneurs and collectives is key in addressing limited financial, bookkeeping, knowledge and innovation skill gaps.
Mr. Ejoyi also suggested that such capacity building programme need to incorporate strong element of confidence building and enhancement of other non-confidential skills with an appreciation that infrastructure, and capacity are not enough to guarantee the success of an enterprise especially for women.
He also urged government ensure that policies supporting inclusion of vulnerable communities like women, persons with disabilities, rural and unbanked communities are reflective of the intersectional inequalities including addressing gender blind financial regulations, and product design and prohibiting biases towards women in access to credit.
“These reforms should extend to review the stringent requirements for collateral for women and reviewing policies that provide credit to women as collectives rather than individuals which forces many to take on collective responsibility if other women in the collectives’ default,” Mr. Enjoyi said.
He also asked Parliament to revisit the labour laws and the MSME policy which have all been assessed and found to be gender neutral and address the stereotypes around “women and men’s work” including wage inequality.
“Reforms in the MSME policy should be cognizant of women’s unique challenges and incorporate specific measures to foster women’s empowerment,” he said, also rasing issues around taxes on digital tools among others.
Women groups shared successful stories from the project.
In 2020, ActionAid started the implementation of the East Africa WEE Evidence Advocacy and Communications Hub a two-year project supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The project sought to serve as a central hub to drive evidence on women’s economic empowerment, inclusive of women’s empowerment collectives into policy action in East Africa focusing on the three countries.
It has helped to elevate WEE as a national priority by ensuring evidence which emerges on women’s economic empowerment, is translated and packaged into clear policy asks, mobilized through local advocacy organizations, and ultimately driven into policy change to advance women’s economic empowerment in the respec tive countries.
The project prioritizes increased advocacy for WEE and WEC at national and local levels through development and execution of an overarching advocacy and communication strategy for Uganda.