Vocational skills and savings groups for women and young people in Uganda

Oct 8, 2018

Alongside our in-country partner we have been working in the Amuria District, Uganda, to increase the vocational and business skills of 1,200 women and young people in order to increase their incomes and improve the quality of their lives.

Scovia, one of the women who gained tailoring skills through the project, helping her to earn more income for her family

Blog by Hannah Walters, Programme Manager at Feed the Minds

The population of Amuria District, Uganda, lived a transitory life for over 60 years due to repeated conflict and insecurity, which forced them to flee their ancestral homes into government protected camps.

Following the cessation of hostilities in 2008, a fragile peace allowed people to resettle in their villages, but they returned to an unfamiliar and overgrown land with few possessions, a limited education and a lack of skills with which to re-establish their lives and communities.

Alongside our in-country partner, Voluntary Action for Development (VAD), and with support from the Big Lottery Fund, we have been working in three Parish areas in the Amuria District* to increase the vocational and business skills of 1,200 women and young people in order to increase their incomes and improve the quality of their lives.

We have also helped communities to set up savings groups and access micro-finance and increased awareness about rights and responsibilities so that men, women and youth have a greater say in decisions affecting their lives.

By the end of the project, we saw a reduction in household poverty levels, with 74% of all project participants having been able to gain practical skills across a variety of trades including tailoring, building, carpentry, catering, agriculture and hairdressing.

The women and young people are now using these skills to set up small-scale businesses, establish cooperatives or gain employment. Average household income has increased by 65% and 903 households have reported increased expenditure on nutritional foods for their families, access to health services and an ability to buy essential household items.

With support from our project, this lady was able to set up her own restaurant at Oditel Market after taking part in a catering skills training course, increasing her income and helping her to combat poverty.

In addition to practical, vocational skills we established 51 Self-Help and Enterprise Groups to participate in savings and loans schemes and to learn about business, marketing and finance. On average each group has given out 18 loans per year to members and these are used to support members’ business endeavours as well as their families.

The business skills training in the Self-Help and Enterprise Groups has enabled over 730 women and young people to sustain small scale enterprises for at least four months. The wider community have also benefitted; as group members have shared their new knowledge with 1,454 friends and family members. As a result, 15 additional, independent Self-Help and Enterprise Groups have been set up using the advice and guidance of those involved in the project.

Take Josephine as an example, who was living in severe poverty before participating in the project. She said: “As a family, we did not have any means for generating an income at all.”

After joining one of the Self-Help and Enterprise Groups, where Josephine was elected to become a Community Business and Finance Coordinator, her confidence has improved and she’s received training in business planning and management skills. She’s also been able to take a small loan from the savings group to start her own business, which is now thriving. Josephine and her husband can now afford to buy basics for their household, including nutritious food and healthcare.

Access to microfinance was virtually impossible in these parishes prior to this project; now a culture of saving has been established, which gives households more financial security for the future.

Pictured: Josephine, who participated in our project and became a a Community Business and Finance Coordinator for one of the Self-Help and Enterprise Groups

Alongside skills training, a key component of the project was to raise awareness of rights, responsibilities and gender equality in order for women and young people to fully participate in household and community life. We trained 51 Male Champions who were tasked with undertaking outreach work in their communities.

In total, the Male Champions reached almost 7,000 community members through group meetings, campaigns and on a one-to-one basis. As a result, 385 individuals have taken on leadership roles in their communities, meaning they can contribute to decision-making and their voices will be heard.

Project monitoring also indicates that gender discrimination has decreased over the three years and that men are more supportive of women’s participation in economic activities. The Male Champions also worked closely with local leaders and police to address and resolve community-level conflicts, which has resulted in a general sense of wider peace.

5,508 were reached in total through this project, both directly and indirectly. (This figure includes those who have increased household income as a direct result of project activities, their household members and communities members reached through outreach.)

To learn more about this project and it’s impact, please click here.

* Note: the parishes in which the project was implemented now fall under the newly established Kapelebyong District since July 2018.

One of the young women who took part in tailoring training, now selling her work at Oditel market with a group of her peers
One of the young women who took part in tailoring training, now selling her work at Oditel market with a group of her peers