Worldwide, women make enormous contributions to the economies around them. However, these contributions often go unseen, unrewarded, or stifled, because of the unequal opportunities that exist between men and women. If given access to the financial resources and services necessary to flourish as successful entrepreneurs, together, women could lift themselves out of poverty, support their families, and help their communities to thrive.
Studies have consistently shown that when women are economically independent and engaged in income-generating activities, they can provide more opportunities for their children—such as a chance to get an education and receive proper healthcare, as well as being in a better position to take on more of a decision-making role in the family. By securing economic autonomy, women can also prevent some of the interconnected challenges such as such a gender-based violence, early pregnancy, and exposure to STIs and HIV.
Investing in women is investing in an entire community, and one of the ways to achieve this is to provide them with tangible means to economically empower themselves. Girl Up Initiative Uganda recognizes the importance of providing investment capital to women in low-income, marginalized communities, and as a result established the Revolving Savings Group—a club that helps young mothers to put their money together, save, and invest in their respective businesses. Every week, each woman contributes a small amount of money to the group savings, and another woman receives the cumulative contribution. On January 11, Executive Director Monica Nyiraguhabwa and Program Assistant Gloria Komukama met with seven of the young women who were interested in joining the collective fund for 2015. The women believe that the cash accumulated in a 6-12 month period will allow them to develop their respective enterprises— which include selling fruit, brewing beer, offering catering services, and rearing pigs—as well as cover basic needs like medical expenses and children’s school fees. As a member of the club, each woman will receive a large lump sum to assist with their business expenses and in turn the women learn about the importance of planning ahead and saving, and how that can profoundly benefit their families. The Revolving Savings Group was borne out of GUIU’s Young Mothers Economic Empowerment Program, which targets young mothers (ages 16-25) to help provide them begin income-generating projects. The program included monthly business management and savings training as well as follow-up mentoring and advice for each woman. Immaculate (age 23), a stay at home mother of two, explained her thanks to the Young Mothers’ Economic Empowerment Program:
“I have learnt to be able to think as a woman and look for solutions since I cannot rely on my partner to provide for my family…the saving scheme helped us learn how to save while giving us a platform to help each other.”Immaculate
Socio-economic barriers have long prevented single women in Uganda from opening personal bank accounts, consequently stripping them of the ability to control their own finances. As most women work in the informal sector they generally do not make enough money to open a personal bank account. According to a 2013 report by the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), “three out of every five unemployed persons were women with the urban areas (70 per cent) depicting a higher proportion compared to the rural areas (42 per cent)”. The Uganda Women’s Trust and PostBank Uganda Limited are examples of local entities that have brought substantial relief to financially marginalized women, and Girl Up Initiative Uganda is invested in doing the same. By expanding the Revolving Savings Group program, GUIU hopes to help equip young mothers to become economically self-reliant. It is clear that women’s economic empowerment is at the heart of solving the challenges to achieving gender equality and sustainable development. Perhaps working together in savings groups, may just be one of the cost-effective and simple ways to do so.