Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Gender, Labour and Social Development Ministry is stuck with thousands of women groups seeking funding under the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Program- UWEP.
The program, in its third year of implementation continues to suffer consistent decline in budgetary allocations from Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
Frank Mugabi, the Communications Officer of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development says the funding difficulties have forced the Ministry to ration funds among few women groups well below their intended annual target.
At its inception, government committed to disburse up to 500 billion Shillings for the UWEP activities over a period of five years. Mugabi says government has only managed to disburse Shillings 75 billion Shillings of the planned 125 billion Shillings for implementation of the program over the last three years.
Funding to many women groups has reduced due to the funding crisis. For example, Lubangatwero Widows Women group in Gulu district only received 7 million Shillings out of the 11.5 million Shillings they applied for.
Sunday Ekano, the Chairperson Lubangatwero Disabled Women’s group in Gulu Main Market, says the funding crisis affected their second hand clothes business.
She says they received only 6 million of the 10 Million Shillings they requested for. Ekano says ten other women groups in the market are waiting for funding since they applied for together last year.
Mugabi says the Ministry has been forced to ration funds to the women groups for many of them to benefit. He says the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development blames low revenue collection for the consistent decline in funding.
The Ministry says it has so far reached 6,788 women groups composed of 85,336 members with the collateral free business development credits, which they could never access from financial institutions. The number is far lower than the intended 500,000 vulnerable women over the five-year duration of the program.
According to Mugabi, timely funding is critical for the success of the programme since agricultural Projects are dominating it. He says delayed funding has forced some women groups to miss planting seasons and the revolving loans repayment period.
In Gulu district, multiple programme beneficiaries are seeking refinancing after paying back their loans to zero within the first year. They include Rubangatwero Disabled Women Groups in Gulu Main Market and Lubangatwero Widows Women Group in Layibi Division.
Geoffrey Lakwonyero, the UWEP Gulu Municipality Focal Person, says they have reduced funding to new women groups to prevent those that have taken off from collapsing.
Lakwonyero says businesses that have taken off are in dire need of refinancing to grow their capacities and beat the business growth probation period.
He says Rubangatwero Widows Women Group in Layibi Division require additional Shillings 12.5 million to procure automated bakery equipment for sustaining their businesses while the Gulu Main Market Women Group living with disability is seeking another 10 million Shillings for boosting their stocks.
Women constitute up to 53 percent of Labour force in Uganda, making them an important target group for economic development of the country. Government says promoting women entrepreneurship is a great way to create wealth necessary for the ambitious journey to the middle income status.