Shared Learning Strengthens Women
GWED-G supported one of its long-term women’s VSLA groups to host a learning visit in Lapeta village, Unyama sub-county that gathered women from across Gulu and Omoro districts, as part of the VOICE Project for influencing change for women’s rights and amplifying women’s voices in leadership. 65 women participants comprising women’s VSLA groups and local government leader representatives participated in this learning platform.
During the visit, the VSLA groups were able to share their advice and challenges with one another and engage in open dialogue to ask questions in order to gain a deeper understanding of practices that have led to successes in savings. The hosting VSLA groups from Lapeta village (Peko Rwede Pee and Waribu Cingwa) were selected as “mature” savings groups that were been able to collectively purchase a community maize milling machine and irrigation system to help increase productivity and add value to their crops. These groups touted the importance of instilling a savings culture to better cope with adverse effects of climate change. Their focus on savings meant easy access to loans for their group members, meaning they did not have to resort to selling their goats and cattle at sub-optimal market prices during times of drought or flooding.
The VSLA groups also mentioned the importance of developing solidarity and trust among group members to collectivise their wealth and support each other in times of strife, such as food shortages and funerals, through the use of contributing to an active social fund. This collective spirit is infused within the group setting to facilitate the discussion of how to deal with family issues affecting group members. Members reported feeling more confident to discuss issues with their husbands and to discuss social issues within their groups and share knowledge.
In addition to practical tips for savings and loans, participants were addressed by women leader representatives at various levels of local government. The key message was to discuss “Caucusing without Colours”, meaning that women must mobilize beyond party lines, as well as across and beyond ethnic, religious and other differences. Discrimination that women face are shared throughout the Northern Region, therefore the women leaders talked about the need to adopt Women Manifestos to collectively articulate social issues women face that impede their political participation and representation in governance, as well as concrete action plans to outline tangible strategies to achieve goals. The women leaders presented rousing speeches to inspire the participants to use their voice and to continue motivating each other in building solidarity and self-esteem.
GWED-G plans to hold more of these learning visits in the coming months to serve as platforms for shared learning among its various VSLA groups and women leaders in the hope to empower women to come together, enable each other to strengthen their economic positions, and to encourage women to activate their political voice at the local level.