Recently, Edith Tukahirwa, Buhoma resident, received a loan of one million Ugandan shillings to support the growth of her now thriving food market stall in Buhoma, in the heart of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Edith has her challenges. She has five children, two of which sadly died when they were young, two are grown up and have flown the nest but her youngest child is still at home and working hard in Senior 6 class at school (aged 20). Edith no longer lives with her husband and simply has to find a way to support her daughter’s education.
From Monday to Saturday Edith sells produce including cabbage, ananas (pineapple), millet flour, beans, pulses, onions and silver fish to the local community and those working at Bwindi community hospital close by. Her produce is sourced from the town of Butogota close by and the fish bought in Kampala (fresh from Lake Victoria – the world’s second largest freshwater lake).
In actual fact this is Edith’s third loan. She has been so successful with the business and reliable in paying back her loans with interest that Ride 4 a Woman are now happy to approve additional funds to support the growth of the stall and the stock offered. Her friends in the community are also very happy to act as guarantors for her loan as they are confident in her ability to repay and in her success.
The microfinance programme offered to women in the Bwindi community is unique in that it is largely governed by the R4W organisation’s membership. As we say in the UK – they eat their own dog food at R4W; they practice what they preach. The vision of R4W is Empowering Women and they do that, to their very core. Together the women define the policies of the programme, set the interest rates and define rules including the guarantor process, which sets out that 2-3 women in the community act as guarantors to the recipient of the loan. It is a community-owned and driven programme from the ground up and those who are involved in its administration and the women who benefit from it feel truly empowered by it and the R4W organization as a whole.
Edith told us: “I am so proud to be a part of this organization as it focuses on women only and empowers them. Eve and her organization help the very poor who do not have the option of a commercial loan from a bank. The loan is cheap, interest is low making it feasible for us to take it up and to repay it.
I heard about the programme from the women working at R4W and my friends who also had a loan and were making progress with their small businesses.
I am so very thankful to Eve (Habasa – founder of R4W) for having the vision and drive to create an organization that is focused on women. R4W drives independent thinking and helps us take responsibility for our own lives without having to gain permission or involvement from our husbands as would traditionally have been the case.”
Profits from Edith’s business successfully cover her daughter’s school fees and has enabled Edith to work on renovations to her house and well as clothes for her daughter and herself.