Learning Route on Gender and Microfinance, Uganda

Unexpected Safari along the Route by Maria Fernanda Arraes

Mbarara District. Here we come ! After traveling southwestern direction for three hours from the capital city of Kampala, we arrived in the second stop.

The objective of our visit here is to understand the operations of the NGO Uganda Women's Effort to Support Orphans (UWESO) and its offshoot into the Success Microfinance Services (SMS) Ltd in financial services.

This case brought out a lot of questions and deeper group discussions, for examplem can an NGO providing social services based in charity at the same time operate a microfinance instituition that is more focused on economic development ? Are these services complementary or contradictory ?

The participants learned that the process to separate social and business case involves a lot of technical, institutional and financial challenges ! We realize, for example, the importance to clarify for all target groups the new institutional arrengements, to separate the management and actions of these two areas and to invest in the technical capacities of team.

The learning process from this experience was composed by different activites. We started with the institutional presentation from SMS. This was followed by the field visit in the Bushenyi rural community where we saw the SMS branch office and met their women's client group.

After the welcome speeches from the local and regional authorities, we listened to stories from the women's leaders, clients of SMS through solidarity group loan.

We also did a good discussion in smaller groups to understand in detail how the access to loans changed their life. They shared with us that this gave them an opportuniry to start or improve an economic activity and meet their household expenses.

The women group prepared a sumptuous lunch time for the participants and this was really appreciated because the rich and tasty local food. In addition to the food, they also danced and acted a play for us indicationg the benefits of microfinance. We also have the opportunity to visit their business. For example, Madam Margaret is a successful businesswoman who, with a loan, built a business premise which serves as her house, shop, another thres rooms that she rents to business neighbors and ten rooms that she rents out.

In the end of the afternoon, in order to recognize the warm reception they accorded us the Procasur team gave them certificates of recognition to each women group and to SMS for their knowledge service.

When we were on the road to our next destination of Kasese town we tought that all emotions of the day had finished but surprise, surprise: We found ourselves in a free safari as we crossed the Elisabeth II National Park and the Equator imaginary line ! This experience gave us the opportunity to see bush backsm gazelles and one of the big five: the elephants.

Our learning route is certainly a different training experience !!!

See you soon, when I come back to tell you more about our next surprises in the Ruwnzori mountain region...