National Treasurer Uganda Nurses and Midwives Workers Union and Secretary NOTU Women Committee Ms Annet Birungi

SACCOs "vehicle" for Women's rights

By Annet Birungi

The Uganda government through the Ministry of trade, industry and cooperatives is promoting the formation of Saving and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOs) across the country owing to the fact that they can be effective means through which the poor can achieve economic security and improved quality of life. Women and youth have significant role of carrying out economic activities yet their contribution is seldom recognised, trade unions women and youth leaders need to play a significant role in fighting gender inequalities on financial inclusion
Women and youth are yet to be fully engaged in SACCOS owing to gender inequalities perpetuated by cultural norms and practices, women are culturally believed to be suited solely to caretaker in households, and to that effect men often question women suitability for leadership. Gender equality and women empowerment are challenges both within Sacco and in the environment in which Sacco operate.
The marginalization of women in public sphere and the structural exclusion of women from financial mechanism have hindered them from reaping the sweet fruit of SACCOs The skills gap among many women and youth means that they lack the level of education or technical capacity to undertake the negotiations or advocacy required in SACCOs.
It is upon this background that the National Women and youth workers multipurpose cooperative society has been established to respond to challenges faced by vulnerable working groups including women and youth, especially those in the informal sector who cannot easily access loans for working capital due to lack of collaterals Women and young workers have been organised into saving clubs and are empowered to gain skills and knowledge in economic activities and accessing business financing.
Unlike that SACCOs that are closed ended limited to savings and provision of credit to members, Multipurpose Cooperative Societies has an open ended concept where members can form investment clubs and save for purposes of establishing business enterprises of their choice. The National Women and youth workers Multipurpose Cooperative Society members comprise mainly women and youth from various trade unions who come together to save and pool finances from which they can borrow at lower interest rates for business and livelihood deeds
The Multipurpose SACCO core business portfolios include, Business and financial literacy training to members, resource mobilisation through shares, value addition, development of business proposal and business advisory services to the members as well as encouraging a saving culture among members This is a female focus financial inclusion initiative aimed at economically empowering female workers in Uganda to achieve a positive change for improved livelihoods at household level.
The Program is aimed at pitching business ideas, challenges and needs for the female entrepreneurs and thereafter link them to the key players in the financial sector who can finance their business enterprises, The female bankers will be encouraged to come on board and join forces and pitch new ideas and solutions for better serving the women’s market. Multipurpose SACCOS are potential game chargers in Uganda’s aspiration to transform itself from a peasant to a modern middle income country by 20140 in line with the sustainable development goals under the theme of a leaving no one behind.
They play an important role in social economic development through creation of jobs, enhancement of production and productivity and promotion of value addiction and social stability SACCOS provide a vehicle through which the predominantly rural workforce and the dynamic urban sector can be integrated into Uganda’s transformation Agenda.
Women led businesses especially face many challenges they largely operate in the informal sector where accesses to networks, mentoring and other business support structures are limited. Women often fear the banks and do not reach out to them as easily as their male counterparts. Many female entrepreneurs have attested having tried many times to secure business loans, but have been let down due to lack of collaterals
I encourage workers to identify themselves with group, be it women or youth groups and build a loyal following for themselves, when you bring something substantial to the table, you will be take seriously and politicians will not take you for a ride. Let us be strategic to fight it out for sharing of the national cake, this is just the beginning for greater things to come