I recently travelled to Jinja, Uganda’s second largest city, to meet members of UWEAL’s Jinja arm. Prior to my meetings, I was repeatedly told that women in Jinja enjoyed less financial freedom than their average Kampala counterparts. Marriage is of utmost importance, and polygyny is widely practiced. The wife is to blame for the failure of a marriage regardless of her husband’s behaviour, so she is sometimes wary of ventures that might risk her union, like a new business. Omwami kyakoba zena kyenkoba is a telling maxim.Margaret Kyemba Kulaba is the Chair of UWEAL’s Jinja branch, and an adventurous Jinja woman. When Margret noticed that the small city boasted many tourists but little accommodation, she turned her home into a hostel and started Jinja Hospitality Services. She opened with one room hosting two guests. Those two guests brought two more, and her hostel has now grown to 16 beds on half an acre. Her clients live there as if at home.
Margret is now proud to be a well-known and appreciated busnesswoman in her community, and is pushing to access the capital she needs to expand to meet market demand. For Margret, “It’s about perseverance.” She advises budding female entrepreneurs not to fear risk. “Your first business might not be successful, so you might have to change along the way. When you have a loss, God is opening the way for a gain.
Margret is also a proud second wife. “My husband sees it as development,” she says, laughing. “Because of competition among the wives, each household has more and he reaps the benefits.”
Flavia Nakisuyi is less comfortable with polygyny. Flavia, UWEAL’s Secretary in Jinja, left her husband when she could no longer accept her position in the home. Looking keenly for ways to make money, she saw growing grass as an opportunity. She started mowing lawns for cash, expanded to schools and other public and commercial properties, and then moved indoors to provide cleaning services. In addition to offering interior and exterior compound maintenance, Avia Enterprises is a supplier of cleaning products.
Flavia is also makes handicrafts. When women in her community were seeking income-generating activities, she formed the Together in Poverty Alleviation (TIPA) alliance of home-based women handicraft makers to help them improve their skills and market their products.
Flavia’s ambition is very clear: In five years, Avia Enterprises should be the leading provider in compound maintenance services in Jinja. “I will get there,” she asserts.
Margaret and Flavia agree that things are changing in, however slowly. Margaret and Flavia are proud to be part of that change.
Posted By Annika Allman
Posted Aug 9th, 2010