CELEBRATING UGANDAN FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS

Every time hit twitter, some type of day is trending; world cupcake day, national sibling day, etc. Honestly, most of the time can’t relate. But every time I read of a woman breaking a barrier, or overcoming an extra mile, I always think, ‘surely today also, today, should be  international women’s day.’ I mean, what has a cupcake done for me lately?! There’s just something about a woman rising in and out of her own circumstance that does something for me..

Anyway, in celebration of the one day woman do get internationally, I would like to dedicate this article to a the resilient woman I grew up watching..Ugandan women.

I truly  believe one of the biggest ways to celebrate this day is through story telling. Sharing the lives and legacies of the women we know and love. Women who have inspired us along the way. A grandmother that raised you, an english teacher who told you that your a great writer, etc

In the most recent years, Uganda has been recognised as having the highest number of female entrepreneurs. As I read the various articles with pride, in anticipation of women’s day, I couldn’t help but want to pay homage to my country women. Believe me being an entrepreneur in my country is no easy feat, and for the country’s female bosses to  be recognised internationally, is an attestation to their resilience and strength!

Entrepreneurship comes easily to the Ugandan women! I don’t say that to brag, I say that as a witness to this phenomenon. I was raised by a woman who in the course of my lifetime started up three different kinds of businesses. My mother was part of a women’s mushroom growing association, a second hand clothing boutique,(she did these simultaneously) and most recently another agricultural project. To be honest, looking back at her and all her friends, this is just what Ugandan women did and continue to do. Two of her closest friends also operated their own clothing boutiques, another rared pigs, another was a tailor , two had their own salons and that’s just off the top of my head!

How is entrepreneurship born in the country of Uganda?! To begin with out of necessity! They don’t start with illusions of grandeur or because they noticed they are good at something. Many of these women are primary bread winners and entrepreneurship is a means of providing food and educating children and for the younger and educated generation with no offspring, a bad economy led by Museveni’s dictatorial regime also means entrepreneurship is born out necessity rather than passion. Mainly as a result of poor political leadership the current economy is characterised by a lack of jobs and little to delayed pay for both graduates and established professionals and for those trading, a poor and fluctuating currency.

Most of our female entrepreneurs turn to agriculture,and it saddens me that a country so fertile and populated by agricultural entrepreneurs does little to open up international markets for our agricultural goods. I dream of the large avocados grown in our backyard at home, the juicy passion fruits and jack fruit sold in road side markets daily…I often role my eyes at how a big of a deal the word ‘organic’ is in grocery stores. Where I come from, it goes without saying that food I am buying is organic. If the market is so big here and the supply so high where am from, how is it that the two haven’t met?! Surely its simple economics of demand and supply to meet!

For the younger generation, many are turning to sourcing and selling the latest fashions and it often suprises me how closed off Uganda still is, in terms of importing and exporting, again leaving our local female entrepreneurs on the disadvantaged side of business. By the time a bracelet crafted in Uganda gets to UK market its five times  its worth and yet it’s maker will get next to nothing on profit. By the time fabrics or other quality raw materials get to Uganda, they are are three times their worth, with the entrepreneur bearing the cost!

On the marketing side, whereas in the UK, a  minimal but quality website is easily achievable, its quite a feat for a Ugandan female entrepreneur. For example I created and maintain this blog rather cheaply myself,  and have the option of turning it into a business website should the need arise. Between a competitively priced;  domain name, hosting and template, I would probably spend £10  a month and yet for my counterpart in Uganda it would be ten times this price due to limited accessibility to such quality and competitive hosting services.

I remember attending various free training events and workshops such as Women in business, Princesses Trust , Young Enterprise, etc and constantly being in awe of the number of successful entrepreneurs who volunteer their time to nature women and youth, share experience and success maps.

I write all this to say entrepreneurship in Uganda is no joke.  The female entrepreneur must weather many stormy conditions in what is the only obvious source of survival, and for her to be present in so many numbers is nothing short of inspiring. I celebrate my mother for sowing the seed of entrepreneurship in me and the many other women bettering lives by building businesses. You are all real life heroes.

 

JOANITA

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