YUMBE. The Uganda Change Agent Association (UCAA) has managed to empower a total of 1, 620 women in Yumbe and Terego districts in skills development.

The 3-year project dubbed ‘women in development (WID)’ is aimed at contributing to the socio-economic empowerment of the women in the refugee hosting districts of Yumbe and Terego.

The project which started in January 2018 and ends in December 2020 is being funded by the Women Bank Finland with support from Fin Church Aid (FCA) in Uganda.

Speaking during the exit meeting with the various stakeholders over the weekend, Ms Harriet Adania the project manager for UCAA said they registered success in implementing the project and if sustained, the poverty that has been biting the women will be no more.

"We initially started with 600 women but in 2019, we increased the number to 1, 620 in the five selected sub counties of Ariwa, Romogi, Kei, Odravu in Yumbe and Odupi in Terego including the refugee women in Bidibidi and Imvepi settlements. Since the inception of the project, the beneficiaries were able to create their own funds through savings," Adania said.

She noted that as the project is ending, they are going to enter into another phase for the next two years to strengthen the beneficiaries so that they are able to stand on their own.

Mr Christopher Bwambale, the programme director for UCAA earlier said, the female beneficiaries had no access to microfinance and as a result, they had to create their own.

"The savings of the beneficiaries in the five sub counties kept on growing in the last 3 years of the project implementation. In total, the women were able to save shs176.6million and social welfare of shs19.5million," he said.

Bwambale stressed that the women who had nothing were able to at least save shs500 and shs1000 weekly.

"If the women continue with this attitude, they can become a village bank, buy produce and sell abroad. That was exactly what the women in Finland did and if they come together, they can begin attracting other opportunities for their own benefit," Bwambale said.

He observed that the beneficiaries by then didn't have access to their own assets and what were in their homes were the properties of their husbands but the project has empowered them and they have now started acquiring their own property.

Bwambale said by September this year, the beneficiaries were able to acquire 22 cows, 944 goats and 1,075 birds using their small savings.

Meanwhile he said others created income generating activities like shops, local restaurants, local brewing, produce buying and selling, vegetable sales, fish sales, bakery and a community access road which was also opened by the beneficiaries in Ariwa sub-county.

Ms Harriet Alekuru, the chairperson for Ariwa united women group appreciated UCAA for the opportunity, saying this has changed the living conditions of many women.

"The weekly savings and loans that we borrow from the group has helped us a lot in addressing some of the needs in the family. We don't disturb our husbands for support, at times we take the burden of the petty cash expenses in the family," she said.

Mr Rasul Drajiga, the Yumbe Assistant Chief Administrative Officer said many people think that what is called project is opening of roads, building classrooms, health facilities, bridges but he argued that there is a fundamental element that is lacking in people which is the human development.

He said there are situations where projects are being vandalised by the chief beneficiaries due to lack of human development, meaning the society has never gotten that self-esteem, self-discipline and respect for the public and institutions are key.

"If you look at the sustainable livelihood, this has been our biggest problem. In projects where women have offered leadership and are in the management committee, the projects have been sustained so, when you talk about women associations, there must be change in the communities," Drajiga said.

"Skills development is a factored play for the growth of a society. The problem we have here is that, the most useless issues are the ones our people regard as the most important and the very important issues are regarded as useless so there is really need for the people to change their attitude," he added.

He said if the community can generate good plans and implement very well, it can change but the people here mainly rely on ready things and they mostly don't own projects initiated by the government and NGOs.