With funding support from Independent Development Fund (IDF), Gulu Women Economic Development and Globalisation (GWED-G) has supported 20 women groups who first started learning rights and organised themselves within Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLA) platform, amongst which is Members of PekeRwede Village Saving Group in their routine meeting (see group picture on left).
The VSLA project was designed to empower women on their rights, creates awareness about the dangers of sexual and gender based violence. This was useful to ensure that the women gain knowledge on their rights through a human rights education model and are then committed to sharing their stories and amplifying voices of bold women and girls who have been experiencing unthinkable violence in order to break stigma and advocate for change at all levels.
Women being in groups were automatic local approaches that they adopted from the onset of the return periods to allow them become strong although GWED-G model of empowerment was also based on establishing women groups that will become change agents and are able to respond towards setbacks and shocking experience as a result of violations of rights. After some levels of interventions, a number of women were self-driven to join existing women groups or creates new ones on their own based on their needs and what they are interested in addressing. GWED-G therefore developed a model of VSLA solidarity group that works through strong capacity building on women group’s members at individual, family and community levels.
This model allows groups through their facilitators to participate in various trainings for empowerment while creating learning and reflections amongst the groups especially on women’s rights, psychological issues, and their effects, women and girls learn communications skills and assertiveness, the overall groups reflects on overall issues like rigid gender roles, women’s rights violations amongst others. Solidarity group members then reached out to invite isolated women to join the groups and the solidarity groups VSLA members provide welfare funds for members in crisis. Meanwhile the leadership of the members works on setting up trainings to enrich the groups with skills such as developing constitutions to enable savings in the right directions and having linkages to bigger resources through Bank loan linkages, market and private sector.
“Arach Florence is the chairperson of PekoRwede Peke group, she has been organising meetings and ensures that the groups funds are banked. She has set various committees at group levels, members are in charge of selecting and setting the various committees like Loan committee, agricultural and animal committee, community service committee, the chair person has responsibilities for following up groups micro-projects after action audit. In all the VSLA groups, women takes our 95% of responsibilities for the group, they are treasures, secretaries, money care takers etc. they gained self esteems and confidence, but they also response to psychosocial issues”
The women’s savings under this project has now grown to 75million and frequently is borrowed by group members to support their family livelihoods and others engaged in micro-projects. For example Peko Rwede Peke savings 17M, Aketokoma women group saved 12M, Cingmayubu of Paicho groups 9M, Waribu Cingwa women groups 8M, Atimango Groups, 7M. etc. VSLA groups has become catalyst as they support the effort of economically vulnerable women to gain financial and economic security while others business opportunities. With benefits and interest coming out of the savings, leaders and members of the groups have been working positively to impact themselves and their families.
With the VSLA funds generated, the women are engaged in various business activities like selling Silver fish in the market, vegetable productions, produce buying and then farming as a business.
The women gained more income through the VSLA and some started owning asset, for example Rose Onguti has constructed a permanent house in Paibona after serving as a treasurer of Aketokoma women groups for now 5years. In Lapeta a daughter to Genefer Lanyero managed to get educated to secondary level now studying at S.3 levels because of the funds injected to her education by the mother, a group in Paibona has taken up VSLA for education and paying 35 children of which members are saving for only VSLA. PekoRwede Peke VSLA groups were able to link the girls in their communities to Vocational centres in Gulu like GYDA through scholarship from World Education. They are being trained in bricks laying and concrete practice, mechanic, hair dressing, tailoring and designing, catering amongst others.
The groups are working closely with health facilities and monitoring government structures; they are improving on roads and sinking boreholes.
“The women VSLA groups are pillars for advocacy and responding to social issues, and at the end of the year through their savings they become economically empowered”. The groups ensure quotas for female leadership, learning, monitoring of service deliveries, economic activities and distributions of work. The VSLA groups receive supports from GWED-G working as strong constituency of women grassroots movement who are able to create and re-enforce their own by-laws. Other aspect of the broader work under solidarity groups is being able to design campaigns and engage in local levels political dialogue and advocacy. Already 6 women local leaders have been elected to district and sub county council levels and previously they were VSLA women local leaders.
Akech Sabina Owidi chairperson Aketo Koma women’s group Paibona. Mentioned that it’s important to note that these groups now remained strong and are advocates for other women who feels marginalized and voice less. They are always working to promotes women’s rights and gender equality at local and district levels.