Recently, a video of 500 Ugandan women lip-dubbing Jesse J’s song Price Tag has been making the rounds on social media. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s an uplifting video that showcases the entrepreneurial spirit and hope of these Ugandan women. Smitten by the video, and impressed with the message, we set out to find these ladies and talk with them about their lives, aspirations, and how micro-finance has impacted their communities.
SYPO, the Dutch micro-finance company that produced the video, works in a rural area about 30 minutes from Mukono Town. There are around five offices in the district that have reached thousands of clients during the past three years. Milly Naggayi, a loan officer, and the woman at the start of the video who is positioned behind the table, sat down with us to discuss the making of the video and the successes that drive her work.
“It took around 2 weeks to train for the video,” she told us. “It wasn’t terribly hard to organize because the women here are proud of their accomplishments and don’t mind being showcased. But to learn the English lyrics and dances did take some effort”. Her office, a clinic, and the surrounding storefronts are seen in the first part of the video. “It actually went pretty smoothly, and took only 3 days to finish. We used the location here and location of another office down the road. These women are happy with what they’ve done here,” she continued. “We’ve had 100% repayment on every loan.”
There are three loan levels offered by SYPO and each recipient must repay the first before graduating to the next. Level one offers 600,000 UGX for start-up costs, the second level is 900,000 UGX, and the third level around 1,200,000 UGX. “However, we need to create a fourth level as some of these businesses have become so successful, they are ready to branch out and expand, but the money isn’t there for them to do so yet.” These loans are usually given out for a term of a year; however, Milly noted that, “most women find a way to repay us within 3-6 months.”
We traveled down the road to the home of one of her clients, who was hosting the repayment gathering that week. When we arrived, a number of women were sitting in front of a lovely but modest home. The homeowner, also a recipient of SYPO’s micro-finance, greeted us warmly and arranged Milly’s chair in the center of the group. All around us were stacks of notebooks with the word ‘Budget’ printed on their fading blue covers. Inside this notebook, the women place money, their weekly repayment amount. Milly’s job is to pick up the books, collect the money, and make a notation that it was properly received. It is a simple but effective system and, during the process, cooperation is paramount. As the ladies hand up the books, change is given and received, smiles are exchanged, and the atmosphere is light.
We asked a few women to share their personal stories of how micro-finance had changed their lives; the reaction was enthusiastic. “SY^PO helped me get healthy,” a glowing woman named Rose shared. “Through brick making I’ve made money for my health costs and even school fees for my children. I’ve been able to expand my business and am looking at future investments now.”
Another woman named Jaliah told us, “I used to worry all the time because I had nothing. The stress impacted my health, and I never felt relaxed. Now I own a large plantation of bananas. They have ripened, and I am able to fully pay my loan back. Now, I can finally relax and know that I’m able to care for myself.”
The changes aren’t all financial or physical either. These women have pioneered a new social standing for themselves in the communities. “Since the loan there has been a change in my household,” said Prossi, a well dressed, petite woman near the back. “I contribute to the fees in the home. If my husband is not around, I stand in a position to care for the problems myself. I do not wait around to be taken care of anymore.”
A woman next to her named Angela chimed in agreeing, “Some of us can even buy our homes now; we no longer rent. And not only this, we can afford to buy seating and mats for inside our homes. You see the women now dress smartly and take care of their appearance, this is part of the pride of having our own financial independence.”
However, the process hasn’t always been met without obstacles. When the women first started taking interest in the micro-finance loans, many of them were ridiculed and told to stop dreaming. “We were laughed at,” says a woman named Justine, who scooted up to the front to tell her story. “But people now see us differently. Now we’re something after all their laughter. And now we are even ready for more. We are ready to expand further.”
Agriculture, shops, and trade make up the bulk of the institutions that these women invest in. Some run potato farms; others provided sand for building materials. One woman went into business selling clothes with her mother, on top of her already full-time job of being a teacher. The women told jokes, as Milly continued making her notations and collecting her weekly sums. One thing was very clear: these women have a deep gratitude and feeling of thanks. More than one woman felt the need to stand up and publicly thank micro-loans for improving her life. After such statements were made, all the other women would clap in agreement.
Yet, the biggest impact this may have is on the daughters of these women. Many of whom are able to attend schools and engage in programs they’d otherwise be excluded from. Their expectations have shifted and the idea of a woman simply living off of a husband or meager wage scraps is no longer an option. “The women here,” Justine shared just before we left, “are willing to work day and night. We are willing to pay back every loan in full. We want only the chance to improve.”
To visit SYPO’s webpage please go to http://www.sypo.nl/engels/index.html
To learn more about the director of the video please visit: https://twitter.com/i_Mikulic
See original Article: http://www.livinginkampala.com/information/interviews/ugandas-ladies-of-lip-dub/