Women in a remote village in Masaka have found a way to meet their financial needs instead of wallowing in the sorrow of being neglected by the fathers of their children.
Kasijjagirwa is a village located in Kimanya-Kyabakuza division in Masaka, mostly associated with the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) officers. The late General Aronda Nyakairima was one of the leaders at the Kasijjagirwa barracks as the armoured brigade commander in the late 1990’s. Among these residents is Jamilah Nanyanzi, a 34-year-old mother of seven.
In most cases, women who get married have high hopes of being cared for by their husbands. This was not the case for Nanyanzi and her 26 associates with whom she formed Agali Awamu Women’s Group.
Although the group has only been in existence for a short while, it has greatly benefited its members including Nanyanzi who offers her home as their meeting place.
“My husband had refused to pay for my children’s school fees or take care of our family needs. I had to look for a means of survival,” she narrates, remembering the sleepless nights she had worrying about surviving the following day.
Desperate to meet her needs, the young mother says she decided to join politics as a way of earning some money. Fortunately, she managed to secure a position as a sub-county councilor representing Kasijjagirwa at Kimanya-Kyabakuza division in 2016, two years after the start of their women’s group.
Betty Nabatanzi making a mat. She hopes to start up her own business using her savings from the group.
“The idea of creating our group started in 2014 with an objective of bringing together women whose husbands were not meeting their responsibilities,” says Nanyanzi. Agali Awamu started with 17 women who joined by paying a subscription fee of Shs10,000 each.
According to Deborah Lubega, the group’s secretary, the group’s aim was to help fellow women without any help, such as those who had lost loved ones.
Sarah Nalukaaga described herself as everything to her family despite the presence of her husband. “After going through all the difficulties, I decided to join the group in early 2015 that could make me better to handle the bad situation at home,” she explains.
“The first idea was to collect money and give it out in form of cash rounds. We succeeded and we normally shared our savings at the end of year,” explains Nanyanzi.
Lubega the group secretary adds: “As we grew in numbers, we developed other ideas to make our group stronger and there we decided to make a pool of resources and start up a crafts business in addition to making tea spices using seeds known as mukuna.”
The group eventually grew big enough to open up a bank account to save their money. Lubega explains that they were inspired by Kampala slum dwellers- who visited them in Masaka and advised them to save Shs100 every day.
“So we started off by saving Shs700 each every weekend which has helped us gain more from the group,” says Lubega.
One of the members testifies that the idea worked well because these savings eventually enabled her to pay school fees for her children. She adds; “I also picked up skills such as making bags and mats with which I can bring in more money for my family. We all learnt from a group member who already had these skills.”
The group makes mats, which they sell at Shs25,000 and Shs30,000. They also make hand bags out of polythene bags and beads which they they sell at Shs5,000 and Shs30,000 depending on the raw material used. They also make charcoal out of garbage, which is sold at Shs30,000 a bag.
The Agali Awamu Women’s Group members have succeeded in accessing trainings because most of the work they do is through workshops that normally come in at the district level.
Members also say they can now afford to support their families and cover their children’s school fees in good schools within the district. “The confidence I have gained from being a part of this group has helped me achieve so many things. I pay for all my seven children and a niece,” Nanyanzi explains.
Now, she hopes to build houses for rent from the savings she gets from the group. She believes that after her children complete university, she will be able to raise money to build more houses that will bring in more income. She is looking to be independent by starting up her own business.
“Even after I get my own business, I will still belong to the group since it’s the one that has brought me this far,” Nabatanzi pledges.
Jamilah Nanyanzi and a friend show off a tea spice commonly known as ‘kaawa’, which is one of the group’s products.
The group’s biggest challenge is accessing market for their products. “The district leaders have not helped us in any way yet we try to make our proposals to them,” she says.
The cost of raw material, especially what they need to make mats and bags such as beads and wire gauze also poses another challenge. For instance, according to members, the palm leaves they use are very expensive.
“A kilo of beads costs between shs18,000 to Shs20,000, the palm leaves cost Shs5,000 but the total cost depends on the numbers you want to buy because they usually count one,” explains Nanyanzi.
It would also help if they could acquire a sieving machine that wedges bean tea spices because they are currently using their hands to make it which is tedious.
The group hopes to grow wide from 27 to at least 50 members through recruiting more women. Nanyanzi is also looking to secure wider market so that the group can benefit more from their products.
Betty Nabatanzi, one of the beneficiaries of the group says for the three years she has been in the group, she has not been let down. “Similar groups tend to fail due to failure of members to get along with each other. We have a constitution for guidance in our group. When one of us strays, we refer them back to it. This has helped us remain together peacefully,” Nabatanzi explains.