As a strategy, the Institute for Social Transformation (IST) participates in a number of networking receptions that are in pursuit of development endeavours. Such events provide avenues for the exchange of experiences and resources, link local efforts for more effective lobbying and advocacy, and improve the quality of our interventions and efficacy of our actions in the communities where we operate.
In light of this, we participated in the 3rd National Women’s Week that was convened by the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) from the 17th to the 21st of October at Hotel Africana under the theme “Every Woman Counts.”
A cross section of participants making their contributions during the event
Given our vast experience in empowering women economically, we organised a Parallel Session that explored the findings of the market women situational analysis study that we conducted about the conditions under which market women work. During the event, the challenges and/or constraints that such women face, their role and capability to challenge speculations that women are weak and less capable of involving in business ventures, the opportunities available for them to tap into business, trade and market access, as well as major policy gaps that leave such women unprotected and prone to exploitation were discussed in detail.
Participants who included development partners, representatives from civil society, the media, district local governments, key line government ministries, as well as rural women and men were also able to hear real life experiences from the market women themselves, about their experiences in the business sector, particularly the marketplace.
A market woman from Kotido sharing her experience with participants
Some of the challenges the market women posed included – lack of capital and business skills, cultural barriers, family obligations, lack of interest and confidence, sabotage by spouses/male partners who do not want them to engage in such businesses suspicious that they would cheat, and lack of support from loved ones.
The participants were particularly moved by these experiences and as a result made some suggestions that would help redeem the dire situations under which these women work, with some even going ahead to make commitments about how they would contribute their efforts and resources toward their realisation.
- Providing market women with start up and business growth matching grants.
- Supporting them in developing savings scheme, which could grow into cooperatives to minimize exposure to moneylenders that charge and exploit them.
- Facilitating trainings in financial literacy, business development, supplies management, customer care and record management, and;
- Lobbying to improve market facilities with the establishment of baby/child and breastfeeding centres, separate toilets and bathrooms for men and women, more stalls and spacious pathways and for the setting of rules and regulations that take into account unique roles of women.
As an organization, we established new strategic relationships and partnerships, which we hope to use as an invaluable source of information and support in future interventions during this event. The market women on the other hand gained confidence to speak for themselves against the exploitative leadership in market places and formed caucuses (some of which are recognised by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau – URSB), for purposes of dialogue and self-empowerment. Other achievements registered by these assemblies after the IST mentorship include: enhanced ability of the market women to participate in the leadership and governance of the marketplace; and senstisation and generation of support for women’s rights mostly from the marketplace leadership.
99 – the number of people engaged during the Parallel Session, with women accounting for 85%.
“I have liked the sensitization on women in the market, it really gave me an insight on how to work with my team as we are championing women rights in our local communities. I have also learnt about the power and importance of collective effort, and the need to tackle issues of economic empowerment, especially when working with women. This session has also given me the opportunity to witness first-hand the potential that our women have. If it were possible, IST would extend such platforms to other districts so that a bigger impact is felt.” Gerald Tumwebaze, Civil Society Representative from Kamwenge Development centre