31 January 2013

Uganda: I Wanted Women to Supplement Their Husbands' Income

My husband died in 2007. He did not leave any investments, putting the education of our four children and our accommodation at stake.

"I started selling our household property to pay rent. When there was nothing left to sell, I could no longer have any source of income, so I had to go back to the village," says Sylvia Bonabana, a resident of Mbuya, a Kampala suburb.

However, before she went to the village, Bonabana attended a meeting organised by the local council in Mbuya to sensitise people on hygiene. There she heard about Zibula Atudde, an association which helps women fight poverty.

Bonabana followed up and joined the association, which marked her turning point. She opened a hair salon and now pays school fees for her children.

How Zibula Atudde Women Association started

Zibula Atudde Women Association was started by Grace Kamuli in 2009 to help women fight poverty. The association is located in Mbuya 1 centre zone 4, Nakawa division.

"When a woman is empowered, the family is stable because she usually takes the biggest responsibility in a home. Yet in slums, women are not empowered.

They depend on men for everything, which is why there is a lot of domestic violence. I started the organisation to relieve men of the burden of being the sole breadwinners in a home," Kamuli explains.

She began by moving from home to home sensitising women on working together to get rid of poverty. Kamuli also involved the women's husbands. However, only four allowed their wives to join her.

"When Kamuli visited our home, I embraced the idea, but my husband rejected it, arguing that he provided everything the family needed. However, our children were not in school," says Idah Kyomuhendo, a beneficiary.

"After sometime, my husband realised that many women were benefitting from Kamuli's initiative, so he allowed me to join her."

Kyomuhendo adds that she now has a salon and a poultry farm that helps her pay her children's fees. She also saves some of the money with Zibula Atudde.

Start-up funds

"I used the little money from the salon I was operating in Kinawataka, a city suburb, to kick-start the association with the four women," Kamuli says.

She also bought materials for making mats and tablecloths and got someone to teach the women how to make the crafts at no cost. They sold the crafts they made and used the income to buy more materials.

With time, more women realised the benefits of the association and joined it. As the number increased, so did the crafts. Kamuli introduced the making of baskets, bed covers and bangles.

"The association currently has 30 women and four men. A few girls come to the organisation for training," Kamuli says.

The women started earning income, but they were not saving any of it. Kamuli came to their rescue by starting Zibula Atudde Savings Scheme. The members save depending on how much they earn. The minimum one would save was sh1,000. Today, some members save up to sh10,000 per day.

Kamuli bought a metallic box in which she placed three containers. One is labelled savings, another loans and the third capital.

This, she says, helps the group to know how much they have saved and how much can be loaned. When the money accumulates, the group takes the money to the bank, where they have an account.

Kamuli has books that contain the names of each member in the organisation. The amount one has on their savings 'account' determines how much one can borrow.

Members are allowed to borrow money, which they pay back at a low interest rate. Kamuli also encouraged women to start poultry farms at their homes.

"When Kamuli asked us to learn how to rear chicken, I was reluctant because I had tried the venture before and failed. But with the training I got, I now have over 500 birds and I plan to expand," Hasfah Nakyanzi says.

She adds that she has also learnt how to keep time because when they come late, they are fined. Nakyanzi teaches her children to keep time as she has discovered that it is important for one to succeed. She also pays school fees for her three children and opened a retail shop in Mbuya.

The association also gives financial support to vulnerable groups such as elderly women and orphans.


Kamuli says some people borrow money and disappear with it, while others take long to repay the loans.

"As members increase, the demand for materials also increases, but the capital remains the same," Kamuli says. She usually picks money from the savings to supplement the capital.

The group also lacks market. "Some people want to buy the products cheaply, yet the materials are expensive."

"We also lack space. The association grew from four members, to 34, but are still in the place where we started," Kamuli explains.


"I plan to buy land and put up a spacious establishment, where the members can carry out their activities," Kamuli adds.

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