In 2017, Village Enterprise partnered with the Whole Planet Foundation to grow our poverty graduation program in northern and western Uganda.
Wanican is one of the 4,500 first-time entrepreneurs who received seed capital to start their microenterprise as a result of this partnership. She is from the Okiir Village in northern Uganda. Before the death of her husband, Wanican fulfilled her housewife duties and left issues beyond the household to her husband. With the death of her husband, Wanican found herself head of her household, a status shared by only one in four women in her community.
After being introduced to Village Enterprise in 2017, Wanican transformed from a shy housewife to the confident leader of her business savings group.
This is her story.
In our society, a woman’s place is in the kitchen. For many years, I filled the role of a typical housewife, and any issues beyond the household were handled by my late husband. I was afforded little opportunity to join any social or formal community group like a town council or a farmer’s union—most established groups within were for men only. Other women like me had few opportunities to become members or leaders within our community as well. That was my reality until I was introduced to Village Enterprise.
The arrival of Village Enterprise in our community marked a turning point in my life — and for others. The pattern of men monopolizing group interactions and leadership was gone, and the program vowed to empower both men and women equally to work towards a poverty-free, sustainable, and bright future. I learned about leadership, group management, hygiene and sanitation, family support, business planning, and management.
Towards the end of our training, we formed a business saving group of 30 members. I was nominated to take on the role of chairperson. At first, I was hesitant and refused to accept the role due to fear and lack of confidence in my abilities. Despite feeling like I would not be able to manage this position, I was convinced to accept the position.
The Village Enterprise business mentors trained me on leadership and group management skills, and I started to gain confidence in my role as chairperson. I realized that I did not need to tell people what to do but rather facilitate, support, and counsel when important matters arose. As chairperson, I motivate group members to develop a vision for their families to contribute to their savings every week. I monitor and document those visions for each member, noticing positive changes for each family. My group members have a lot of trust and hope in my leadership, and we are now one of the best performing business savings groups in the Nwoya district.
To date, our savings have grown significantly, totaling over $7,000 USD, and we’ve been able to distribute savings three times now. Our focus is shifting toward saving enough money to build permanent housing structures for each member and their family. We agreed that each member should save 2,000 Uganda shillings per week so that in five years, each member will have enough money to purchase the materials to build their homes.
Through the program, I started a business with two other individuals growing rice, corn, and groundnuts. From my business’s profits and the savings from my business savings group, I bought three acres of land, five goats, a motorcycle for my son to earn money transporting people daily, and set up a mobile money shop town council. I built a latrine, rubbish pit, and bathing shelter, considerably reducing disease incidences among my family members.
The Village Enterprise program brought improvement and changes in our families and businesses, unlocking the tremendous potential hidden within us.