Uganda recently joined the rest of the world on October 15 to commemorate the International Day of Rural Woman and a chance to celebrate the accomplishments of rural women around the world.
In Uganda Rural women play key roles in their families and communities however they face challenges of being marginalized, economically, socially and politically.
This has attracted many actors to take up the mantle in empowering such women who by default have become the drivers of Uganda’s economy, through agricultural activities which are the major player in the economy that depends on agribusiness as a back bone.
Ugandan women have lately taken up many responsibilities that were initially considered for the male gender including amongst others providing for their families basic needs, educating their children and starting up projects such as building homes.
For this, many have been forced into being the sole bread winners even in their marital homes while others are single mothers or widowed.
Development partners such as IFAD that invests in rural women has played a very vital role in empowering women who were stranded with no economic empowerment and entirely dependent on handouts.
Rural women are now economically empowered to reduce their burden of work, and to strengthen their voice and participation in the decisions that affect their lives.
Initially, lack of access to credit prevented rural women from starting up and building businesses that would translate in to daily income but with development partners such as IFAD, World Vision and UN, these women are now being empowered at a larger scale.
Now though at a smaller scale, individuals seeking to empower such vulnerable women in the remotest villages have taken up this responsibility to ensure sustainable economic development and financial literacy for these women.
A religious leader, the presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) in Uganda Jacinto Kibuuka took this up in the remotest areas of Kibuku district where he introduced projects such as mushroom growing and piggery that have registered immense success in terms of development and financial empowerment and literacy for the target groups.
After realizing the need to financially empower single mothers and mothers with dead bit husbands, the Mother Mary church leaders in Kibuku district, Kagumu Sub County found it relevant to consult their mother church, the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) led by Bishop Jacinto Kibuuka in Uganda whose headquarters sits at Mamre Prayer Centre at Namugongo Janda, Kira Municipality, Wakiso district.
Just then, the Bishop birthed an idea that would later empower the burdened mothers through mushroom growing and piggery which was already thriving at the headquarters.
The leaders of the Kagumu church and those at the headquarters zeroed on mushroom growing instantly strategizing on how best they could train, distribute Mushroom seedlings, create value addition and ensuring a wide ready market.
The leader of Mother Mary EOC church, Deacon Moses Lyomoki narrated “Shortly after opening our church in the early 2018, our Bishop emphasized the importance of preaching to a healthy body, mind and spirit and thus challenged us to quickly help our community out of the miserable situation they were stuck in and with his guidance we started up Oyster mushroom projects mostly targeting the single mothers and widows.
“After a massive sensitization of the women, we carried out our first training which attracted a total of 312 people who embraced the project, with whom we provided the seedlings. However while 287 took it to the processing level for financial benefit, the rest opted to grow for home consumption.”
Deacon Lyomoki asserts that in all their trainings, they kept emphasizing to the trainee to take the skills serious, pass them on to their little ones since it was a life changing opportunity to which almost the whole team heeded thus the success of the project.
Bishop Jacinto Kibuuka, the leader of the Evangelical Orthodox church in Uganda revealed that the national church management buys the harvests from them then adds value to it, turn it into products like Mushrooom Chips, mushroom Biscuit, Mushroom Soup Powder Mushroom Nugget which they sale to the public by supplying to supermarkets and hotels across the country.
Anita Namwoya, a single mother of five children says the project has helped her make great financial strides through her savings that have not only enabled her to cater for her basic needs but also provide a decent education to her two children whose father abandoned and moved on to start up a new family.
“I don’t know how I would have managed through this life single handedly with two daughters to raise if I had not taken up this project”. She said and added that she is very grateful to the team that trained her and gave the financial empowerment on which she and her daughters thrive.
Anitah explains that she can now ably foot all the bills, cater for her daughters’ school dues and requirements as well save to make bigger financial investments citing the two roomed residential ironed roofed house she has erected and is nearing completion.
The assistant chief administrative Officer CAO for Kagumu Sub county Mugolo Richard says the program has positively impacted on the lives of their people especially women since they were stuck in abject poverty but can at least earn a decent living.
He applauded the Mother Mary church for the project before revealing that they are now looking at broadening their market base.
Meanwhile, Betty Namuyangu, revealed that mushroom does not only serve as a good source of nutritional value at home but a great source of income.
“Before I could hardly make 1000 shillings as my daily income but now, since the financial literacy I received from my trainers, I no longer look at my farming and gardening projects as a food source but a real job and source of livelihood for me and my entire family.
Namuyangu who says, she has always struggled with a drunkard husband who can hardly provide for their home need, is very grateful that she was trained and empowered to make wise financial decisions that have translated in to her own personal development and that of her family and entire community.
She adds that she does not regret taking the decision to take up the mushroom growing project that was introduced by her peers. “My friends encouraged me to join the project and I don’t regret my decision since I grow, process and sell it making me earn between 3000 Uganda shs to 7000 Uganda shs per day which I use to buy basic needs at home and save the rest.” Namuyangu adds.
Youthful Gonsia Joan on the other hand acquired the skills from her mother. She says despite the financial independence she and her mother have gained from the mushroom growing project, they still face a challenge of a diminishing demand for their products which tend to be seasonal.
Gonsia notes that they registers losses when it is off season for the mushrooms despite their many attempts to process the mushrooms.
She has appealed to other development partners and local government leaders working together to empower then, to help them procure processing machinery that would help them diversify their products.
Inspite that, Gonsia says with the combined efforts with her mother and siblings they have made some strides since they can buy the basic needs and get some school fees from the projects.
The Kagumu sub county chairperson, Kayombo Moses revealed that he is soon tabling a motion in the council requesting that the project is supported by procuring the processing and value addition machines in addition to broadening for them their market base.
On his part, Bishop Kibuuka who initiated the project says he views the church as a key player in changing people’s lives not only spiritually but also socially, politically and most importantly economically thus their decision to roll out the projects to their various provinces spread across the country.
“In April, this year, we started another project provincial areas of Bweyale, Kiryandongo district this time putting our focus on piggery.” He emphasizes.
He however, adds that though they would wish to implement the project on a much wider scale, they are limited by funds to facilitate trainers, efficiently monitoring the project and also procure machines for value addition.
He thus urged development partners and government to come on board and expand their capacity to reach out to more women who are interested in benefiting from the project in terms of empowerment and financial literacy.