Officials from the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) and women parliamentarians under their umbrella body, the Uganda Women Parliamentarians Association (UWOPA) have embarked on a joint monitoring exercise of UWEP-funded projects in the Western region.
The exercise covering the districts of Kanungu, Rukungiri, Ntungamo, Mbarara and Kamwenge is intended to present the legislators a first-hand experience of how UWEP has supported vulnerable women turn around their livelihoods.
UWEP is a Government of Uganda funded programme initiated in the financial year 2015/2016 to extend direct credit and entrepreneurship skills to women in groups. It’s implemented by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
To date, the programme has supported over 6,700 women groups through which over 85,000 women have been reached directly.
In Rukungiri district, the MPs were pleased to learn that over 97% of the disbursed funds had been paid back by the women groups, and that the enterprises were still going concerns.
However, the district chairman, Andrewson Katebire, noted that a huge deficit remains on the unfunded groups, and appealed to the MPs to allocate more funds to UWEP so that more women groups are reached.
“We are realizing value for money among the women projects but the fund allocations are still minimal. We are urging you parliamentarians to take advantage of the ongoing budgetary process for the 2018/2019 financial year to ensure that more funds are allocated to specifically UWEP,” Katebire said.
He revealed that district authorities have been forced to rationalize allocations to groups so as to equitably distribute the funds among the sub counties.
Among the groups that the MPs visited, Nakabira Winnie, the chairperson Nyabugando Bakyara Kwebishaho women craft group in Nyakagyeme Sub County in Rukungiri District, revealed that they had requested for twelve million for their enterprise although they received seven million only.
“The twelve million was based on the machinery and materials we needed to run our enterprise at optimal level. But we received seven million and therefore couldn’t procure some of the critical items like an electric sewing machine. This affects our output,” Nakabira said.
She revealed that nevertheless, they had made profits that enabled them payback the seven million within one year. They also reserved some funds that have enabled them continue to run their enterprise.
“We are now appealing for a second round of funding to allow us procure the remaining machines,” Nakabira said.
The Woman MP, Rukungiri district, Betty Muzanira, observed that women had exhibited the ability to rightly use the funds to improve their livelihoods.
“With what we have seen so far on the ground, a correct decision was made to channel these development funds through women,” She noted, adding that she would raise the issue of inadequate funding on the floor of parliament and lobby support of her colleagues.
Frank Mugabi, the UWEP Communications Officer, explained that while women form the largest share of participants in the informal sector, they face the biggest challenge in accessing credit.
“This is a profound mismatch in our economy because it means that women are financially excluded despite being a critical mass of players. UWEP is in place to fill that gap.” Mugabi said.
He noted that the promotion of women entrepreneurship is one of the avenues for wealth creation as there is great potential and benefit in investing in women enterprises in the Country.
He revealed that nationally, out of Shs.7.3 billion expected to have been recovered by 30th November, 2018, Shs5.2 billion had been recovered. This amount represents a recovery rate of 70.4% of the total amount due.
“This is an envious recovery rate even to the commercial banks, which take women to be not creditworthy.” Mugabi asserted.
He revealed that beneficiary women have now started buying individual assets like land, solar units and other household items including paying school fees for their children out of group proceeds.
He noted that the programme was on the path to enhancing women’s contribution to national development if funding is increased.