Microenterprise Development (VSLA) for Orphans and Widows

Social Issue

 UAOWF recognizes that limited access to financial services by rural women in Uganda, especially widows, is one of the key factors that have kept them in abject poverty. Poor rural women do not own property such as land or vehicles which they can use as collateral in Banks and other financial institutions to acquire loans to develop, improve their small businesses or deal with emergencies such as illness, accidents, death of family member etc. Whereas many of them engage in small scale farming, what they produce is mainly consumed by the family and there is nothing left over to sell.

During droughts or bad weather, widows are left destitute and unable to care for children in their households. Even the Ugandan bureau of statistics estimates that:

• 70% of widows in Uganda are illiterate.

• 80% of them work in other people’s gardens for survival.

• 60% survive on less than 5000 Uganda Shillings (1,25€) a week.

• 85% were able to keep property left by their late husbands, but were not able to own it.

All these indicators are reflective of vulnerability at both household and individual levels.

Project Description

To respond to the aforementioned problem, UAOWF has initiated a community-based microfinance model known as Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) as an approach to avail financial services to poor women to enable them save and access small flexible loans which they can invest in developmental activities to improve their economic wellbeing and eventually break out of the generational poverty in which they are entangled. Therefore the program aims to help needy families afford basics of life like food, shelter and sending children to school is a short-term goal with long-term consequences. Giving support to struggling women and helping them achieve their dreams will help in breaking vicious circles of poverty in the community as women become productive and send their children to school.

VSLAs are autonomous self-selected groups made up of between 20-36 people who voluntarily come together and accept to form such an association. The group develops their by-laws and meet regularly, every week, two weeks- to save money which is the source of loan capital from which they borrow. The group governs itself making its rules and decisions and to help enforce this, a management committee is elected.

UAOWF solicits for and supplies a start-up kit for each new group comprising of a metallic box with containing, 3 padlock, a ledger book, members passbooks, a ruler, bowls, a stamp and ink pot, money bags, 3 pens and a pencil. We also train group members in the VSLA methodology and how to manage the affairs of their group. The group then start saving and generate local capital from which they borrow and make investments.

UAOWF is seeking for a motivated person to support this program to train and impart the beneficiaries with knowledge in savings, how to make viable investments, how to manage their businesses, basic bookkeeping practices, marketing and entrepreneurship. There is also a need to monitor both individual and group business activities to ensure they are on track and to mentor them until they acquire enough skills to stand on their own. We therefore expect the intern to journey with the group members along this line. He/ She is expected to work with UAOWF to plan, train, support, motivate, monitor the groups. The intern will also work with UAOWF to connect women to resources and connections they need to drive change.

The long-term goal of this program is to fuse all these small groups into one big savings and credit cooperative (SACCO) and this program will lead to the general preparation of this development.

Community Impact

  1. This program shall inculcate a “saving culture” among a population that has lost this habit due to overwhelming many social, health, security and political uncertainties.

  2. There shall be an improvement in the economic wellbeing of women participating in VSLAs as they will be able to save money and invest in in income generating activities.

  3. Beneficiaries’ reaction to economical and health shocks shall be improved.

  4. Households participating in VSLAs shall be more likely to use loans from savings groups to cope with shocks, rather than to sell assets, livestock or crops to deal with shocks.

  5. There shall be an improvement in food security as women will access loan to invest in farming.

  6. In a country where gender equality is far from being effective, VSLAs which work specifically with women have another advantage. Statistics show that participation largely increases the likelihood of running a business for women. As for social capital, women participating in saving groups report to have more influence in household decision making as well being more politically empowered within their community, feeling able to “change things”


Student/Volunteer(s) profile(s)

The intern should be willing to adopt to new realities in a new environment different from what they are used to at home. Someone with the enthusiasm and energy to work for a better cause among poor groups of people. Good computer, facilitation and resource mobilization skills an added advantage.

Description of the community partner

United African Orphans and Widows Foundation (UAOWF) is a non-profit organization fully registered with Government of Uganda under the National Bureau for NGOs –Ministry of Internal Affairs (Reg. No. S. 5914/8434) which is operating in Iganga District. UAOWF was formed in 2004 by a group of concerned citizens, many of whom were widows who saw it necessary to establish such an organization to respond to the growing challenge of orphans and widows in Iganga District. UAOWF works with poor communities to identify their problems prioritize them and work with them to find possible solutions to such problems. UAOWF therefore exists to provide a platform for collective action against poverty, illiteracy, disease and injustice against orphans, vulnerable children, widows and other poor people in the society.