By: Jacinta Abwooli
The situation for women and girls in Uganda right now is not easy. The unfortunate reality is that women and girls suffer disproportionately from the burden of extreme poverty: 70 percent of the world’s extreme poor are women and girls. In Uganda, young women and girls live in a male-dominated society that dictates women’s subordination and economic reliance on men for survival, so it is hard for them to escape the cycle of extreme poverty. Without equal educational and economic opportunities, girls are never able to fully realize their potential.
When the overall well-being of girls and women is put at the forefront of development interventions, they can understand the importance of gaining control over their life and bodies. They develop their confidence as empowered girls/women and begin to speak up against issues that are unjust toward them.
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a precondition for sustainable development. Providing women and girls with quality education and health care, decent work, access and ownership rights over property and technology, and equal participation in political and economic decisionmaking will lead to social, economic and environmental sustainability across the globe.
The Her StartUp program, run by Smart Girls Foundation Uganda, is an annual program focused on economically teaching and boosting young women (ages 20 to 35). Eighty percent have been in business for at least two years in any of the four categories: STEM/ICT, agribusiness, arts/media, and financial services. The program, which started in 2017, works at building skills, mentoring, training and financing young women so they can start and grow their businesses.
In the program, we have been able to successfully empower more than 20 girls who are in business in the four categories. For example, Hanifa Mayanja is in the service business. She makes coffee and tea and sells to clients who have events, like weddings. We’ve trained her on fully branding herself, registering her company, and using technology to fully market her brand, Hanz coffee and tea.
Another young woman, Huddah, has promoted her spiced tea through the Her StartUp program. Through this program, she has been able to sell her tea in the big supermarkets in town and is on the way to be fully certified by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards.
Her StartUp aims to:
- Inspire an increase in entrepreneurial and startup activity in young ladies.
- Increase the quality and quantity of young women startups on a local level to grow local jobs through new business endeavors, hence fighting the high unemployment rate in Uganda.
- Inspire collaborations and sharing among young women entrepreneurs.
- Inspire new and innovative coaching and mentorship among older and younger women.
- Create global success stories from Ugandan women with respect to innovation in business processes, bringing Uganda onto the global innovation map for girls.
- Teach business skills and inspire young girls to become job creators rather than job seekers.
Smart Girls Foundation Uganda is proud to continue these programs to provide economic opportunities to as many young women as possible in an effort to create self-sustained and hardworking women in the society. Smart Girls Foundation Uganda was started by Mandela Washington Fellowship alumna Jamila Mayanja.
For more information about the Her StartUp competition, visit facebook.com/smartgirlsuganda. #Africa4her #smartgirlsUG #herstartUG.