Empowering rural women to improve their livelihoods

According to the UN-Women, empowering rural women and girls requires education and training. In some villages in rural Uganda, there are still women and girls that are still left behind. This has led some to be financially dependent on their husbands or other family members for their day to day survival. Equipping these women with informal skills such as tailoring among others, is proving to be a fruitful empowerment method more so in helping them stand on their feet financially.

Fridah Mutesi, 36, is from Malindi village. Her husband has been the family’s breadwinner since she can remember. But the unexpected happened, her husband lost his job leaving her no choice but to roll up her sleeves and see what she could do to support their family. Meeting needs of her own family and at the same time taking care of her three siblings, something had to give.

Bujagali Energy Ltd (BEL) believes economic empowerment for women creates financial independence to improve their livelihoods. In 2012, BEL started an empowerment project-Community Based Training Initiative for women in rural Uganda to equip them with skills that would help them earn an income and support their livelihoods. A pilot of the project was undertaken in five villages- Kikubamutwe, Malindi, Buloba, Naminya Kiira and Naminya Resettlement that saw 23 women trained in tailoring.

“The tailoring skills came just at the right time when I had no idea of what I would do after my husband lost his job”, Fridah recalls.

In addition to funding the tailoring course for the women, BEL further donated sewing machines to the women to help them in their business startup.

“Acquiring tailoring skills has really restored my hope. I can sew just about anything ranging from dresses, skirts, blouses, shirts, trousers, school uniforms, “gomesi” (Baganda cultural dress) among others. I also get school orders to make school uniforms. During school days my workshop gets really busy due to many orders from schools around”, Fridah says.

Josephine Nakafero, 38, is also a mother and a wife just like Fridah, she is equally thankful for having been enrolled in the Community Based Training Initiative by BEL that has seen her grow.

“When BEL gave me a sewing machine, I knew my problems were solved because I did not have to look for money to buy a sewing machine. I was so happy. I started mending clothes and would get small money here and there. My sewing business picked up after five years and I have been able to expand on my business”, Josphine recalls the first time she received the sewing machine.

BEL did the first donation of the sewing machines in 2012 after the women completed their training course. In a follow up assessment with the women early this year 2020, BEL donated a second round of sewing machines to the women.

“I am grateful to BEL for yet another opportunity of adding me a brand-new sewing machine which I received in February, 2020. I thought what BEL did for me and others in 2012 was enough but BEL is still thinking of us,” Fridah says.

“I am so thankful to BEL for giving me another new sewing machine. To be honest, I do not remember when I last asked for money from my husband. I am financially stable and I am a happy woman. This is all because of what BEL has done for me and others”, Josephine says.

Both Fridah and Josephine are using their skills and machines to train other women and young adult girls. Fridah has so far trained 12 while Josephine has trained 10. They both charge a fee to train their recruits which has earned them an extra income to keep building their businesses.

Josephine has since bought two more sewing machines upon securing a loan. She has also expanded her business by opening up two additional tailoring shops and has employed two other women, one at each shop to help run her business. Josephine is happy that she can comfortably pay her loan while still meeting her day to day needs and keep growing her business.

Fridah on the other hand is making plans to start her own training school to support more women in her community. During this pandemic time, Fridah is earning more income by making face masks that have been on demand in this season. Her greatest joy has been seeing her students succeed just like she did.