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 Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP)

‘Unlocking the business potential of the Ugandan woman’

The Ugandan woman is a businesswoman. Besides constituting the largest portion of the Ugandan population (51% of the 34.9 million Ugandans: Census 2014), women also form 53% of the 11.5 million economically active population.

Women on a daily basis go out to fend for their families. The cultural and social settings in the country dictate that they shoulder the largest burden of responsibility at household level. With relatively little wage employment in Uganda (less than 20 per cent of the population have paid jobs), the women struggle through various ways, but mainly by engaging in petty business, to earn an income.

Less than 12 per cent of economically active women are in paid employment; the remainder are either self-employed or contribute to unpaid family labour. Even in paid employment, women are more likely than men to be in low-status, less paying jobs.

This means that majority start up small businesses to earn a living. Unfortunately, women largely remain excluded from accessing formal financial services, which limits their capacity to grow and expand their businesses. For those that access credit from loan institutions, they do it at painstaking payback interest rates, which cut into their profitability and only keeps them in this cycle if they are to continue with business.

The Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) comes in as a lifeline initiative by the Government of Uganda to not only improve women’s access to financial services but also equip them with skills for enterprise growth, value addition and marketing of their products and services. The women shall be availed interest-free credit to initiate or strengthen their enterprises. Upon payback, the money will be extended to other women and the sequence will continue in that revolving modus.

The Programme implemented under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development seeks to accelerate the entrepreneurial acumen of Ugandan women while empowering them for economic development.

A brainchild of the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Mr. Pius Bigirimana, the Programme is poised to contribute to the creation of self-employment and wealth at the household level riding on the back of various activities that include mobilization and sensitization of communities, training and capacity development, access to credit, access to appropriate technology and access to markets.

The programme is also in line with the scope and focus of the National Development Plan II 2015-2020 (NDPII) whose goal and  specific intervention area under the Social Development Sector is to “promote women’s economic empowerment through entrepreneurship skills, provision of incentives and enhancing their participation in decision making at all levels.

On the regional and global front, Uganda is signatory to various obligations that stipulate gender equality and women’s empowerment. Some of these include the East African Community Treaty (EAC, 2000), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Gender Policy (COMESA, 2002), the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Gender Policy and Strategy (2004) and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD).

The global instruments include: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality.

With the women being a more responsive demographic group, the programme is highly optimistic to drive Ugandan women to a whole new entrepreneurial level.