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285 new women entrepreneurs launch their business in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement with the support of WPDI and its partners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 25 May, 285 women gathered at the WPDI Community Learning Center in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda for a ceremony marking the first steps in their new life as entrepreneurs. Indeed, these former WPDI trainees from vulnerable contexts – 70% of them are refugees from South Sudan and the rest is from neighboring communities – are about to start 19 businesses, working in groups of 15. The launch ceremony was an opportunity for WPDI and its local partners to energize the 285 new business women.

It all started with a pressing request we received from women representatives within the settlement. We had just initiated our flagship program, the Youth Peacemaker Network, a leadership program aimed at empowering young women and men as mediators and entrepreneurs in their communities. Women approached us and exposed to us the dire needs of hundreds and thousands of women who had lost everything to the civil war in South Sudan and their subsequent displacement in the settlement were resources and opportunities were scarce. We had to act and decided to work beyond our initial target to include these vulnerable women, many of whom were actually young mothers who had to feed their children. 

We enrolled women from the different clusters of the settlement and from the neighboring communities. We trained them in entrepreneurship and business skills for several months and they graduated between the months of October and December 2017. The second phase of the program then started, consisting for them to gather in groups of 15 members who designed business plans that we help review and improve, with support from our partners through a review committee composed of the Office of the Prime Minister, UNHCR, Post Bank, BRAC Uganda, Kiryandongo District Local Government, Save the Children, Bweyale Town Council and the Danish Refugee Council. The idea is that we are not just going to teach them business: we are helping them develop their own business. The launch ceremony was therefore a high point in the program and the career of these women, as they will receive the first tranche of the grant we have earmarked for their projects.

The event attracted several partners, including all the partners from the review committee. They encouraged the women to manage their projects with dedication and discipline to be able to support their households and livelihood needs. They cautioned them to make good use of the knowledge attained from the business class to manage their group income projects well. The consensus was that the launch of these businesses was a landmark in the lives of these women and their communities who would benefit from their projects.

WPDI insisted that its support did not consist in funding, but also in intangible resources. Additional trainings would be provided to the new entrepreneurs depending on the challenges they would meet. Those women who could not read and write were invited to enroll for the upcoming literacy program at the settlement community learning center.

As those women embark for this new journey, WPDI is working to mainstream this program and prepare to train and support the next group of future women entrepreneurs, aiming to help the communities of South Sudan and Uganda build a sustainable future of their own.