While meeting Ugandan business women at Sheraton Hotel yester afternoon, Graca Machel, former first Lady of Mozambique and South Africa, urged Uganda business women to come up with a network because all other women in the other African countries face the same challenges they encounter here.
“We need a common voice” Graca said, “We need a network of African network of business women…one of the reasons we have not succeeded as much as we could is because we are fragmented.”
She is urging the women therefore to strategize ways of fighting this fragmentation using the initiatives under the Graca Machel Trust, South Africa which include Network of African Businesswomen (NABW) Multiplying faces, amplifying voices. NABW, conceived in 2011 comprises a network of nine national chapters in East and Southern Africa including one in Uganda with the main focus of “increasing women’s participation in the economic development of Africa.”
Machel, two time widow following the demise of her second husband, South Africa’s former president Nelson Mandela is in the country to meet with Uganda women and also engage with the leaders of the Network of African Business Women Uganda chapter that is run by six women board of directors with about 10,000 members. Machel has tasked the board comprising Deborah Kaddu as chairperson, Theo Sekitto Ntale, Florence Kasule, Gudula Basaza from Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Ltd (UWEAL) to build institutions and partnerships with women from those at the grassroots level to those at the top. Not only should the women focus on agribusiness to feed Africa first where by about 200 million Africans go hungry every day but also find out what else to venture into like tourism, oil and gas.
“The women in this country are so powerful. Please recognize the power which is in side you and you will be able to grow,” Machel added, “Women are not born just to own small businesses. Women can and must get means to run medium and big business.”
“You are my daughters … my role is just to encourage you. The networks we have started to build are simply unstoppable, it is 21st century …you have the knowledge expertise, and have a government which is really open to support your initiative, there is no reason this would not be our time.”
NABW-U was established in May 2013 and formerly registered this year.
Also present at the event was the minster of Gender, Labour and Social Development Mary Karoro Okurut who said a women enterprise fund will be included in the next financial year from where women groups can access credit for business.
She lauded Machel for her efforts to see women benefit from her trust’s initiatives. Karoro also announced that the state had organised a dinner in Machel’s honour at State House.