Although the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) has done well in economically transforming Ugandan women, a new study has revealed that challenges to the rolling programme still abound and particular attention has to be paid to those obstacles if full success is to be achieved.
A study conducted by the Forum for Women in Democracy (Fowode), titled: Accelerating Women’s Economic Empowerment, maps out what has been achieved under UWEP and what barriers still litter the path to the economic empowerment of women.
It demonstrates that although a lot has been achieved, more work needs to be done to eradicate the barriers that have blocked Ugandan women from being fully empowered.
The Accelerating Women’s Economic Empowerment report discovered that by December 2018, UWEP had exceeded the target number of women beneficiaries it intended to reach, further underlining how remarkably well the programme has performed.
What is not in doubt is that Ugandan women have taken the initiative of owning businesses.
According to a MasterCard (2018) report, one in three (33.8%) businesses in Uganda is owned by a woman, an increase from 31.2 percent in 2017.
Uganda ranks third, behind Ghana (44.4%) and Russia (34.6%) on the MasterCard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship, according to the MasterCard report.
Women participation in the market is very key for them to achieve economic empowerment and UWEP has helped accelerate the figures of women who are now able to access markets, pulling off a key milestone in the struggle for women’s economic emancipation.
The FOWODE study discovered that: “The (UWEP) programme has also expanded women’s opportunity to participate in the market. Nearly half (44.5%) of the 8,247 UWEP groups are involved in trade.”
At household level, the FOWODE report found that women had gained more respect from their husbands because of being economically secure and accumulating assets.
“Women indicated that they had gained more respect from their husbands and/or communities (55%), and were financially independent of their husbands (36%). Some beneficiaries indicated that they were economically secure (26%) and had started accumulating assets (19%),” notes the report.
However, the report established that, sadly, because of the asymmetries in household decision-making and socio-cultural constraints, financial inclusion is not effectively contributing to gender transformative change.
Another unfortunate observation made by the report was that financial institutions marginalize women as they are, “confronted with relatively poor support for small and medium scale enterprises.”
However, despite the tremendous achievements that have been registered in the war to have full economic empowerment for women, there are still many barriers which have to be unlocked if the war is to be won.
The barriers that are blocking women’s full economic empowerment range from failing to acquire the financial resources necessary for investment, control of women’s morbidity by some husbands, women not owning property out of fear that it will be grabbed by their husbands to lack of innovation of products and services.
With women failing to acquire financial resources for investment, they are forced to be bound in the cycle of poverty, with low income, low investment ultimately leading to low income.
On the limited access to financial services, the Fowode report noted that: “The beneficiaries attributed the difficulties of acquiring the financial resources necessary for investment to poor harvests due to climate change, competing interests such as payment of school fees, diverting business resources to household expenditures, non-membership to groups as well as irresponsible husbands who leave all the financial responsibilities to their wives.”
Another particular cause of concern was the tendency of husbands to control the mobility of women, with 68 percent of the beneficiaries reporting that some husbands control their mobility.
With such controls on women’s mobility by their husbands, it was noted that such controlled women are not allowed to engage in income-generating activities, particularly if these are undertaken outside the home.
“Men’s control of their movement is a barrier to their strategic networking and, therefore, the growth, development and survival of their enterprises. Unsurprisingly, nearly all of the married beneficiaries interviewed (96.4%) reported that they sought permission from their husbands before joining their respective UWEP groups, “explains the report.
A good percentage of the women, the report found out, do not make attempts at entrepreneurship out of fear that the husbands will grab their income.
“41 percent of the beneficiaries revealed that women do not attempt entrepreneurship out of fear that their husbands will control (grab) their income. Some beneficiaries (32%) also pointed out that men sometimes stop providing for their families when their wives start earning,” indicates the report.
Women businesses are also dogged by minimum innovation of products and services which leads to high competition and minimal profits, according to the report.
The report revealed that: “Two out of five (43%) of the beneficiaries pointed to women’s lack of innovation of products and services as another barrier.”
As a result, women tend to engage in similar businesses resulting in high competition and minimal profits.
To exacerbate the barrier of minimum innovation, it was discovered that women entrepreneurs often lack information required to manage a successful business.
Most Ugandan women are also still held hostage to care work, meaning that limited time is left for participation in activities for economic empowerment.