Over 90% of our small business loan recipients in Uganda now feed their children better and send them to school
For the last 18 months, since the success of our pilot education loans in Masese II, the Child Protection Teams (CPTs) we support in Uganda have been expanding the scheme in Loco, Masese I and Masese III.
Education loans are small business loans given via the CPTs to the most vulnerable households, enabling them to create a source of income which covers the costs of providing for their children and sending them to school.
After the most needy households are identified, people are invited to attend a series of training workshops, which include a focus on saving, small business training and opportunities to form self help groups.
These ‘education loans’ have gone from strength to strength, with an external evaluation in September 2017 stating how loans have ”boosted the economic capacity of respective households to meet their needs such as education, food [and] medical care…”
To receive the loan, a prospective business owner will make a business plan and write an application with support from the CPT. They are given a timeframe within which to pay it back, by which time they have a thriving business, a child in school and a good knowledge of how to manage their own finances.
The external report included feedback from many recipients including a mother from Masese III who said “I thank God for bringing Children on the Edge, because I was really struggling but they gave me 200,000 Ugandan shillings and I am now able to educate my children, buy books, feed my children and even pay rent. Although there has been a problem with hunger in the community, my situation has not been as bad as it would have been without Children on the Edge support. That capital helped me to start a small business where I sell tomatoes and silver fish”.
Repaid loans are then available to be passed on to someone else in need. With recipients paying a little interest, the loan pot can gradually grow, in order to help an increasing number of households. The repayment of the loan with a little interest also teaches business and budgeting skills, rather than dependency, and makes the fund itself sustainable.
A community evaluation of the ‘Most Significant Changes’ in the area, facilitated in January 2018 showed how the development of a ‘savings culture’ had significantly improved the financial status of those involved. Robina from Masese II described how “I was able to start saving as well as reserve some money to send my five children to school, provide them with basic needs and scholastic materials. So basically I am happy because my children are back to school and I can provide for the family needs as a single parent.”
The workshops introduce the benefits of saving and give hints and tips on how to put money aside, even through times of financial stress. Each person attending has a trial period of demonstrating they can save money and budget, before they are given their first loan.
Over 90 people are currently participating in the loan scheme, nearly half of whom are supporting five or more children. Not only have over half these people increased their savings, but an incredible 92% have reported that they are now able to feed their children twice a day. 93% are also now able to send their children to school, maintaining regular attendance.
Find out more about the difference these loans make in people’s lives by reading Lydia and Irene’s stories. Just click their images below:
"My grandchildren have a provider, who has stepped into their father’s shoes since he’s gone" - Irene finds hope for her grandchildren through small business loan.
Currently, the most popular type of venture from our loan scheme are vegetable businesses, with over a quarter of all loan participants starting up stalls. One of these business owners is Irene, who is 60 years old and a grandmother responsible for three orphaned children.
She used to live alone after her two children grew up and left to start their own families. She mainly survived on the support her son Godfrey provided, though once in a while she did casual work like laundry or helping in people’s fields to earn some extra income. Through this time, she always had an idea of starting up a vegetable business, but had limited funds which weren’t sufficient enough even for her basic needs.
Tragically, her son Godfrey died, and Irene took on his children, as their mother had divorced Godfrey and disappeared a few years before. At this time, Irene realised that she had not only had the responsibility of taking care of these children, but with her son gone, she was the only earner.
Despite her interest in starting up a vegetable business, she was still limited by a lack of capital. During this crisis she began to talk with Joyce, who had started her own business through the Children on the Edge education loan programme. She introduced Irene to the local Child Protection Team, who in turn introduced her to the loans officer.
After an assessment, Irene was was given a loan of 200,000 Ugandan shillings, which she used to start up the long wished for vegetable stall beside her house. Edwin Wanabe, Programme Director for Children on the Edge Africa said “Irene’s business is doing well. It is from this that she is able to provide for her grandchildren’s basic needs and education. She is very grateful for the great support given to her. She often expresses her joy by telling our loan’s officer how she has hope that, through the business, her grandchildren have a provider, who has stepped into their father’s shoes since he’s gone”.
Lydia is a member of Masese I Child Protection Team (CPT), who had a thriving banana (Matooke) business, which her family relied on. Sadly her situation took a turn for the worse, when her husband was involved in a serious accident which left him bedridden, leaving Lydia as the only earner.
For a time all her profits had to go towards his medical treatment, which suffocated the business and caused Lydia to begin to lose hope. Through talks with her fellow CPT members, our social worker and the loans officer, she was encouraged to apply for a loan to invest into her collapsing trade.
The loan soon reawakened her profits, enabling her to not only pay her husband’s treatment costs, but also take care of the household needs and pay school fees for her children.
Lydia said “I am extremely happy that amidst the challenges that befall me, I still picked up courage and invested the loan money in my struggling Matooke business, which was almost collapsing. This enabled me grow my business from buying two bunches to four, and I am really grateful because this has uplifted my household income”.
In the last few months, Child Protection Teams in Uganda have been called upon by police to trace two families of children stranded at local stations.
The 2018 theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressForProgress, with the organisers of the movement describing how “While we know that gender parity won't happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day…there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support”.
The UNDP Gender Assessment in Uganda states that “Attitudes, beliefs and practices that serve to exclude women are still deeply entrenched throughout the country. This means that unbalanced power relations between men and women continue to have a negative impact on women's agency, their human capital development, and their ability to contribute equitably to Uganda's growth and prosperity”.
Our local partners in Uganda have a strong focus on ensuring opportunities for women. Many women are involved in the running of the Child Protection Teams, which form the foundation of the work here, in a number of slum communities, mainly around Jinja. The teams deliver training on a myriad of issues, enabling local people to create a protective environment for their children. Workshops also include family planning, women’s rights and domestic violence.
COTE Africa Team member Winnie Biira says “The women and girls have become aware of their rights and have built up their self esteem and confidence to the point that they are bold enough to report domestic violence cases and child abuse cases to the authorities. This boldness I am certain will bring change to the communities and the world at large”. Social worker Nandawula Babra adds how “For battered women, I link them to different public offices which support women in need and train them on their rights. I know they can stand up for their rights if they are properly empowered”.
A recent report by UN Women stated that only 49% of women in Uganda make their own decisions about regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care. In Loco slum, Project Manager Edwin Wannabe describes how “…there can be a cycle of poverty and problems that follow families from one generation to the next. A child of a child mother is therefore more likely to become a child mother as well, and experience issues similar to the ones their mothers had. Additionally, once a girl is a child mother, she is more likely to experience more unplanned pregnancies since many child mothers are not financially independent and rely on relationships for support”.
Children on the Edge Africa has enabled 16 young mothers to attend a pilot programme that trains these them in hairdressing skills and financial management, whilst teaching on reproductive health and family planning. With these components, those involved are able to learn about finance and business, be encouraged in empowering themselves and other women and girls in the community, as well as becoming aware of preventative measures for unplanned pregnancies.
The majority of our hundreds of small business loans in Uganda go to women who are able to build a solid income and consequently afford to send their children to school. Winnie Mutesi is 25, and had finished senior level four at school, and completed a course in pharmacy and production before she moved to Nkere. After moving she was unable to find a job and her husband was often away fishing, leaving her unable to provide for herself and her two children.
After receiving a loan from Children on the Edge Africa, Winnie was able to begin her own pharmacy business in her home. She started by purchasing tablets, injections and some basic first aid equipment from the main pharmacy in Jinja, and now effectively treats up to five clients a week for illnesses such as malaria and typhoid. She also offers first aid to those who need it, and charges a small fee for treatment, which enables her to invest in further items.
Winnie loves helping people and has become well known in her community. Her fees are far cheaper than treatment would cost at the health centre, people respect her and are grateful and appreciative of her work. She recently spoke to the drug inspector who told her to find somewhere permanent to work from, so she is currently saving any extra money she makes to try and rent a small shop in a nearby market community. With time, she would like to do more training and gain further certification. Winnie’s ultimate dream is to become a nurse.
Children from the Child Rights Club we support in Loco slum, Uganda have recently organised a clean up day in their area, inspiring the adults to join in and attracting other children to the club.
30 children from the Club, based in the Ugandan Railways Primary School and supported by Children on the Edge Africa, came up with the idea when they created their Club’s work plan at the start of the year.
After they decided they wanted to have a day to spruce the area, Children on the Edge provided some equipment, and the Loco Child Protection Team also bought shovels along, with a few of the team members helping out on the day. The area was swept and tidied, with rubbish being gathered and burnt.
Ashwin Ndlovu, who is currently out in Uganda supporting the development of the team’s Monitoring and Evaluation said ‘They were so organised and enthusiastic. They all put on their child rights T-shirts, and the girl that was leading it was brilliant. She was very confident, and went around to people’s houses, talking to adults about children’s rights and what the Child Rights Club does”.
One member of the Child Rights Club lives in a neighbouring community, but he came to Loco to help his team members clean their community and share information with parents about child rights. He said “I don’t live here, but I came to help as children have the right to live in a clean environment”. A few more children followed along, asking how they could join as they were inspired by what the other children were sharing.
After the cleaning was done, they went back to the Primary School for some porridge and a workshop led by the children themselves. They sat outside and talked about how to stay safe from abuse, chatting about situations they have been through and what they find difficult.
They talked freely with our social worker Babra, and the patron of the Child Rights Club, saying that they find it harder to talk to their teachers. One girl said ‘My Stepmother gives me all the clothes and I do the laundry by myself. She doesn’t ask her own children to do this, and I have to wait until the other children finish their meal each day and eat the leftovers”.
The children were glad to be able to talk, and also shared some positive comments about the project. They talked about how much they like to play in the new Loco playground outside the Early Childhood Development Centre, when all they used to do was go to Jinja town to pick up scrap.
Watch this space to see what new ideas the Child Rights Club comes up with this year, and find out more about the wider project here.
Children from Wandago have been telling us about the challenges they face in their area. Read about what needs to change, and how you can help.