Never has the saying, ‘If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation,’ resonated more with me. Before starting my fellowship with Kiva, I always wondered why most lenders loan money to women rather than men. However, the experience of visiting borrowers all over Uganda during this fellowship has given me a totally different perspective, as I’ve now been able to see and experience first-hand how key women are to development.
During one of my first field visits, I met with Doreen in Kasese, a town in Western Uganda — She is married with 2 children and is a professional nurse. Doreen is the oldest of ten children and is responsible for the education and welfare of all her siblings, in addition to that of her two children. The loans she takes from HOFOKAM, a Kiva Field Partner in Uganda, assists her in paying school fees for her siblings. With her help, 2 of them have successfully completed their educations and are now working. Doreen also operates a transport business to support her income as a nurse and employs 2 people. She single-handedly constructed the new house in Kasese where she and her family currently reside. With her hard work, she has managed to make such a positive impact on her family and community and in her own little way is contributing to the development of Kasese and Uganda as a whole.
Mariam’s is another story that shows the importance of women to a developing society. She resides with her husband, Musa, who is a Kiva borrower in Jinja — a town in Southern Uganda where the source of the great river Nile is located. I visited Mariam and Musa at their shop in Jinja, where they sell spare parts and car lubricants. Musa explained that his shop had been on the verge of shutting down just a few months back before his wife Mariam decided to devote all her energy and resources to the family business. She also advised him to take a loan from UGAFODE to be able to purchase more inventory for the shop. Since then, the business has grown tremendously, and they are currently planning to expand the shop to be able to meet high demand. Mariam has been the backbone of the business and is again helping her husband to consider loan options to finance their expansion plans. They are currently fully focused on expanding the business, but they have future plans of constructing their own home and educating their children up to the university level.
I have seen many such inspiring stories during my travels around Uganda – single mothers, women’s groups, and even female loan officers working to make life better for their community. One thing is for sure: supporting more women through loans and fighting for comprehensive improvement in the education of the girl child is very core to our work in pushing for sustainable development and making an impact in the lives of people all over the world.