Learning Route on Gender and Microfinance, Uganda

WELCOME ON BOARD!!! by Maria Fernanda Arraes

We have just started our Learning Route in Gender and Rural Finances - New approaches, services and products in Uganda. We would like to share with you this unique experience…Welcome on board!

We are a diverse group formed by 15 practitioners from 13 different countries, from Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia); from Asia (china and Japan), Latin America (Colombia, Chile, and Brazil) and Europe (Belgium).

A quick assessment on my colleagues’ expectations for this journey affirmed their curiosity to learn from each other, see different and practical experiences in the field and get new information to bring back home. They are also looking forward to improve their knowledge on microfinance management including monitoring & evaluation of impacts, working with partners on different levels and improve gender and HIV issues within their programmes.

After a warm welcome by the Procasur Team coordinating this Route, we started with a first presentation on the overview of microfinance in Uganda. This was really interesting getting to know the history of the first country in Africa that started the regulation and supervision of microfinance institutions and as well the only country that has a Ministry of Microfinance. This was just the first impression and made clear, why the learning route will be taking place here!

The second part was the fair experience- exchange of institutional information by participants' focusing on the key areas of microfinance and gender issues, opportunities and challenges that our organizations currently face to improve the interventions.

In the afternoon we were introduced to the gender issues in microfinance. In group exercise, we drew pictures of how we thought an empowered woman looks like. Some of the ideas the group came up with were: “a woman thinking on her own and a voice to express herself, who has the capacity to provide education and health conditions for her family”; “someone who has access to financial and technical services for economic activities, among others”.

But the most exciting activity until now was the opportunity that we had trough our first field visit. We went to Kiboga district North West of Kampala to learn from the experience of two women’s groups supported by FINCA a deposit taking microfinance institutions regulated by Bank of Uganda using “Village Banking model”.

Other than the technical information, we were treated to the women’s artistic expressions though dance, comedy, drama, and poems performances to show us their lives before and after the participation in their village banking groups and all changes that they experienced. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience!!

And now we are preparing ourselves for the next stop: Tomorrow we will be moving on to Mbarara, southern part of Uganda to learn about interesting experiences with Uganda Women’s Effort to support Orphans (UWESO) and its offshoot the Success Microfinance Services (SMS) Ltd in financial services for people living with HIV and aids.

See you tomorrow after this next adventure!