On arrival to Apac town last year in July 2018, majority of the people had closed their businesses by 9:30 pm in order to have enough rest and for safety reasons given most attacks take place in the night. Apac district is located in the Northern region of Uganda with a population of 368,626. The major economic activities carried out in the district are agriculture, fishing, mining, and tourism. Albeit, Over 80% earn their livelihood from agriculture and the major crops farmed include coffee, bananas, sunflower, millet, sorghum, rice, beans, peas, groundnuts, sesame, cassava, potatoes, cotton, cabbage, and maize. They also farm horticulture crops, rear livestock and keep Apiary for income-generating purposes.
In the morning, women are usually up early to hit the snooze button and develop the right attitude for work by accomplishing their home chores before they can leave for their businesses as Paul Valery, a French Poet said: “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up”. One can truly admit the multitasking skill every woman possesses from the women in the region. Women have to for instance purchase foodstuffs for sale, carry out gardening, perform duties in their restaurants, roast maize and do others businesses to earn income that can sustain their families and pay school fees for their children. Majority of the men engage in business activities such as selling meat, chicken business attached with the money value of which proceed made from the sales are many times not shared.
At dusk, women’s labor is not valued, regarded as unemployed and treated with no respect by their husbands yet they spend most of their time doing unpaid labor and a few women who engage in businesses use their money for family maintenance and paying school fees or they sometimes do not have power over profits made after a long day hustle. They are regarded as visitors at their marital home who do not own and control resources and may be asked to leave any time.
The patriarchal system punishes women in the informal sector and the stereotypes which say that a good woman should perform unpaid work. Capitalism doesn’t recognize women’s labor and says that women should work more. These create a wage and make it look like the formal sectors are better than the informal sector.
Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) established an information center called Kubere Information Center (KIC) based in Apac established in 2005 with support from the Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural cooperation ACP EU (CTA) to help farmers especially women farmers access information that can help the women and the entire community improve their agricultural productivities. According to Betty Okot, one of the female farmers and project beneficiaries under the Food and Business Applied Research Fund (ARF) of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) project on Enhancing Rice Green gram productivity in Northern Uganda with different consortiums such as Makerere University, SNV Netherlands, NARO- NaSARRI and among others, She noted that seeds cannot be enough for all farmers in the district. This leaves some women and men unable to benefit from this project and venture into businesses to sustain their family needs.
Based on the MasterCard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE) 2017 report, Uganda was reported with the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs of 34.8 percent businesses in Uganda owned by women making the East African nation the top-performing country in Africa in terms of women entrepreneurship.
Every year, WOUGNET participates in Month of Woman Entrepreneur (MOWE) which is annual commemoration that happens in November organized by Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL) to celebrate women entrepreneurs especially in the rural areas that are doing entrepreneurship from farming and other forms of businesses. In the year 2017, WOUGNET brought a few female entrepreneurs under the SIPER project entitled Strengthening effective and efficient use in ICTs and women socio-economic empowerment to promote accountability and transparency for improved service delivery in Eastern and Northern Uganda and also WOUGNET’s partner, St. Bruno Doll making Group (SBDMG) exhibit their products and network to pave way for global markets as one of the events UWEAL partner called Women Entrepreneurship Day (WED) organized during the MOWE at Golden Tulip Hotel which WOUGNET and other organizations participated.
Also, Under the ARF project spearheaded by WOUGNET, different farmers’ group were trained to adopt farming as a business in the districts of Apac, Kole, and Lira with a total of 15 selected farmer groups trained on all aspect of farming as a business in the 3 districts. A total of 103 participants were trained (45 male and 62 female).
The government should, therefore, make the informal sector better for women by working with trade movements to unlearn certain stereotypes about women entrepreneurs in the informal sector and empower them since entrepreneurship is neither an art nor a science but a practice.
By Sandra Aceng, Gender and ICT Program