'UN Women has transformed how we conduct business'

UN Women is implementing the project Access to Markets by Women Vendors to support women vendors to transform from being informal small-scale vendors to formal viable and sustainable big entrepreneurs

Date: Friday, July 6, 2018

Since 2016, UN Women has been implementing a project Access to Markets by Women Vendors a three-year project aimed at supporting women vendors to transform from being informal small-scale vendors to formal viable and sustainable big entrepreneurs.  It is being implemented in a partnership with the International Institute for Social Transformation (IST) in Gulu Central market and Kalerwe Market.

The Women Economic Empowerment Specialist, Enock Mugabi said the project beneficiaries received trainings in business and marketing skills; customer care; financial literacy and simple book keeping; value addition and packaging; confidence and assertiveness, public speaking, gender sensitization and sex and gender based violence.  Since women entrepreneurs are dealing in different enterprises and are at different levels of business organization, a continuous mentoring programme was factored in the project to ensure project sustainability.

It is two years since the implementation of the project and below women share experience on how the support provided by UN Women has transformed their lives.

Josephine Abworo is a 59-year old vendor in Gulu central market. She has been selling Cereals for the last 20 years.  For all those years, Abworo never kept business records. “My concern was to make money. Whether I was making profits or losses, that was not my concern so long as people came and bought goods from me, “she said

She got to realize the benefits of record keeping in 2016, when she was selected to join a group of 50 market women who were trained in customer care, financial literacy and leadership skills by UN Women through its implementing partner, Institute for Social Transformation.

Abworo testifies that due to the losses she made, she had nothing tangible to show for all the years she spent in the market. She used to sell goods on credit and since there was no record book, she could forget some debtors. And that’s how she made loses.

“My business failed to grow. It depended on loans for sustainability. All the time I was paying back the loans with interests,” she noted

After the training, she implemented what she learnt. “ I immediately  bought a book for keeping records. I record my stock including the price for each. I also record sales both sold by cash and on credit. I reduced expenses at work. If someone takes goods on credit and delays to pay, I give her a call. This book has really helped me. No more cheating me,” she boasted

Abworo boasts of developing a strong sense of making business which has enabled her do business profitably. In just two years after the training, she opened up a second branch another market which sells similar produce. She also paid up the bank loan, bought land in her village and also pays school fees for two children of her late brother.

“It’s no longer a matter of just stocking my stall.  I only stock goods I am sure of getting profits from,” she said

One of the market entrepreneurs shares her experience during a past event. Photo: UN Women/ Aidah Nanyonjo

One of the market entrepreneurs shares her experience during a past event. Photo: UN Women/ Aidah Nanyonjo

For Abworo, attending trainings organized by UN Women was an opportunity for her to change the way she was doing business especially in reducing business expenses, customer care and book keeping. She calls for more trainings especially for other market women who never got a chance.

“Women need these trainings. If possible train us in English language to ease communication. Most of us dropped out of school long ago. We find it hard to sell our goods to non-Luo- speakers,” she requested

The cereals are measured in cups. The price ranges from Sh1000-3000 per cup. The challenges of doing business include low turn up of customers and the unstable prices from the farmers. This is caused by scarcity due to prolonged droughts.

Besides business, Abworo was elected by fellow vendors to oversee security in the market.  This has tightened security thus reducing cases of theft of vendor produce. She is the last person to leave the market and the first to report in the morning when its opening. And she makes sure that no vendor or buyer is locked in the market in the evening.

Other market women testified that they joined the market to get daily income for purposes of meeting their daily needs. This was out of desperation since many were the sole bread winners because of either abusive relationships that had led their spouses to abdicate the family responsibilities or the families were faced by unemployment and finding it had to sustain their families.

However, after the intervention, many had got courage and transformed their thinking to think beyond the micro enterprises they had, to become big entrepreneurs with sustainable and profitable businesses.

Anna Nakyanzi, a vendor in Kalerwe Market testified that, the business skills acquired enabled her to widen her customer base using her telephone handset and this had enabled her to deliver products to her customers instead of waiting for them at her stall. This had increased her sales and profits significantly. She can now meet her domestic needs and most importantly, pay school fees for her children as well as re-investing the profits to expand the business. Another vendor in the same market, Maureen Tusiime confessed that she can now separate sales from profits after understanding the concepts of cost and profitability analysis which they were not doing hitherto the intervention. Others alluded to the lobbying and advocacy skills acquired that they presently use to engage the market authorities and other Local Government officials to improve the operating environment.

Ketty Nakimuli reported that that she was confident and assertive enough to report cases related to violence to market authorities since she knows her rights. The women entrepreneurs have organized themselves into a Savings and Credit Cooperative Society to mobilize savings as well as provide soft loans to members. They also use the body to engage relevant officials including financial institutions to improve their business environment.