“Now, I know I can have an impact with my knowledge and skills”
April 12, 2021 – Last month, the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) finished training its third group of 285 female refugees from in and around the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Business & Entrepreneurship. The women in the cohort – who were trained by our Youth Peacemakers at the settlement over the past nine months – were distributed into 19 groups of 15 women, who will now work to establish cooperative businesses throughout the area. Managed by ambitious – and now skilled – women, these businesses will generate many benefits to the women and their communities by providing both revenue and relevant services as well as contribute to the development of a larger culture of resilience and peace.
The training of this third group of 285 women is part of a larger initiative designed to empower people from vulnerable segments of the community within and around the settlement with the skills and support they need to start their own small businesses. Training women in Business & Entrepreneurship is especially empowering, as they are often in charge of their households and provide for the needs of many family members. With the success of the first two cohorts and their 38 businesses, in the beginning of 2020, we recruited another 285 aspiring entrepreneurs to train and later incubate their 19 businesses. Over the course of a year, we provided them with intensive trainings in topics related to Business & Entrepreneurship, such as financial literacy and recordkeeping, so they could have the skills necessary to create opportunities for themselves, their communities, and improve livelihoods. For those who were illiterate, we also offered literacy courses that would help them use accounting books and other tools necessary for the sound management of a business venture. While these efforts were delayed due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the ensuing national lockdown that took place in Uganda, our Youth Peacemakers had to begin their training in July of last year. Despite the delay, we were able to thoroughly train the entire cohort over a nine-month period, with every woman successfully graduating from the program at the end of March.
In the coming weeks, the 19 groups will finalize their business plans and submit them to our Business Oversight Committee. Once these plans are reviewed and revised, they will be launched, with WPDI’s support. Our 285 aspiring entrepreneurs are confident in their abilities and excited at the prospect of being able to have an impact on not only their livelihoods, but those of others in their communities. This much was voiced to us at the graduation ceremony. Akello, a 49-year-old woman living around the settlement spoke about how “As an HIV-positive person, I used to feel that I couldn’t be of help to my community. Now, I know I can have an impact with my knowledge and skills. I think I am better than before and I’m looking forward to starting a business.” Another cohort member, Jane, a South Sudanese refugee, mentioned that “I learned a lot about how to operate a business and I already have ideas that are in high demand in the settlement. I can’t wait to start a business!”