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WPDI launches a groundbreaking program to empower 285 women from the Kiryandongo refugee settlement and around as local business entrepreneurs

On October 12, 2017, a group of 285 women residents from the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement and from the host communities took their first classes in a new series of business skills trainings that WPDI has specifically initiated for refugee women. 

The training is programmed to run for 3 months and will cover the basic areas required to become a successful entrepreneur, including marketing and market analysis, management customer service, record keeping and financial management, and business ethics.

The purpose of this comprehensive training is first and foremost practical. By the end of the three-month period, our 285 trainees will be expected to work together to develop business ideas into business plans that they will implement after their graduation. The projects deemed commercially viable by WPDI will receive a grant from us to support the creation of social income-generating projects by the trainees, who will be distributed into 19 groups of 15 women. We will also provide on-site trainings to the groups as they take their first steps in the development of their community projects.

Working with its partners in the settlement, including the Office of the Prime Minister, UNHCR, and the Kiryandongo District Local government, WPDI will also ensure follow up, monitoring and evaluation of the businesses to ensure viability and sustainability.

This new program expands on the work we have started in partnership with the Western Union Foundation to prepare young women and men from the settlement as peacemaker and entrepreneurs. The idea of addressing the needs of women emerged in the course of consultations we had initiated with the refugee communities of Kiryandongo. We could not ignore that many women were complaining that as widows, they could not school their children or feed their families adequately because they had no income so to speak.

Given the scale of the matter at hand, we decided to create a gender-specific component within our activities on entrepreneurship, which was very well received. One of the women leaders within the settlement, Grace Ayoo, said: “We are so thankful to WPDI for this initiative of training us in business skills after our long cry for capacity building. Some of us have been in this settlement for a very long time and not even doing anything productive economically. We hope after this training and subsequent support from WPDI, we shall be able to start income generating activities that will benefit our child, families and the entire communities in different ways since many of us are widows with many dependents.” 

Only a week into its inception, we can already tell that this entrepreneurship program is probably only an initial stage towards strengthening women’s empowerment in Kiryandongo. This was made clear to us by one of our trainees, who thanked us warmly only to ask whether WPDI could “teach many of us who don’t know how to read and write because this is also a problem here in the settlement.”

It is undoubtedly in relation to such needs that the settlement commandant, Micheal Joel Nabugere, commended us for spearheading “a rare and golden opportunity,” which he hoped would transform the lives of women and their families within and around the settlement, since 50 of the 285 participants in the program are Ugandan women from the surrounding communities. Their presence among the beneficiaries is in line with the refugee policies of Uganda, whose government views refugees as an opportunity rather than a threat, and also with such core values behind our work as inclusion and cohesion. 

Indeed, the project aims not only to improve individuals’ livelihoods but also to gather different communities and ethnic groups around concrete projects with the objective for them to build a sustainable future together.