From Casual Jobs to Self-Employment: How PROMIC Transformed Grace Birungi’s Life
Being a mother with no steady source of income is every woman’s worst nightmare. Grace Birungi, a resident of Fort Portal Tourism City and a mother of three, says that if Promotion of Micro-Finance (PROMIC) had not intervened, she would be in the exact situation.
In November 2005, Caritas Fort Portal – HEWASA started PROMIC, one of the projects under the Women Desk Gender and Development office with an aim of alleviating poverty through promotion of entrepreneurship and giving of loans.
At that time, Birungi was just a housewife who would only earn from digging for other people at a very low price. Over time, she stopped getting customers to dig for while at the same time demands from her school-going children were pilling. Her husband equally had no source of income and each day that past, the family got so hard to sustain.
“We were living in mud and wattle house with a small banana plantation near our home. Occasionally, I would wash peoples’ clothes to earn a living. It was a very tough situation,” Birungi reminisces.
It was in 2008 that the 40-year-old learnt about PROMIC and she decided to be part. Here, she was trained in capacity building, financial literacy, saving culture and gender awareness.
After getting the Micro-entrepreneurship skills, she acquired a loan of 500, 000 to start a retail shop and a piggery project in Kitumba-kabegira that is now in Central Division Fort Portal Tourism City.
Birungi says she nowadays earns enough income per month to pay school fees for her children, buy the scholastic materials and afford basic needs like food, medical care and others.
“I will forever be grateful to PROMIC. My life has changed for good and I am now self-employed. I no longer worry about what are we going to eat. My children are studying without being chased for school fees,” Birungi says with a smile.
Promotion of Micro-Finance is a program that was initiated by Uganda Catholic Women’s Bureau (UCWB) in partnership with Open Hand Foundation SWISSHAND in Switzerland in order to enable less privileged women access credit facilities for economic development.
This project started in Bukwali Parish with a group of 60 women from Bukwali Women in Development (BWIDA) group, and currently it has 645 beneficiaries. It has since extended to other parishes of Virika, Yerya, Kanyamukale, Kitumbi and St Charles Luwanga among others in Kabarole and Bunyangabu districts.
The Program Coordinator, Rosemary Kembabazi, says that in a space of 12 years, they have been able to equip the clients with development skills, 45% of clients have built permanent houses, paid fees for the children and bought motorcycles and plots of land because of the same programme. Also, the clients have since adopted the culture of record-keeping and saving for development purposes.
“We have also learnt lessons. For example, an on-site visit is very important in loan scheme before giving loans to clients and having regular meetings with client group leaders is also very important,” Kembabazi says.
According to Kembabazi, the clients face some challenges that include price fluctuation of agricultural produce, limited markets for borrower products, weather changes, and poor infrastructure like roads that hinder the transportation of agricultural produce to markets.
But she adds that they are devising means of how to handle some of the challenges so that the clients can thrive in their business.
With PROMIC, Birungi says the sky will be the limit.