Since 2017, RACOBAO with Finn Church Aid (FCA), have been supporting the economic empowerment of refugee and host community women in Rwamwanja refugee settlement through the ‘Women Income Generating Support (WINGS)’ project in the sub-counties of Nkoma, Bihanga, and Nkoma/Katalyeeba Town council near Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement, all in Kamwenge District. In the beginning, the project was targeting women in the host communities but was later and to date expanded into the refugee settlement. It aims at enhancing women’s incomes by assisting them to form village savings and lending associations (VSLA), to accumulate savings, train in entrepreneurship, and establish income-generating activities (IGA). By the end of 2020, 183 VSLA women associations were formed, with 5,490 members.
RACOBAO will continue to strengthen the VSLAs mainly focusing on women enterprise development, enhancement of micro-finance opportunities and promotion of women’s agency as a strong and crosscutting element. Emphasis is on identifying, supporting and enabling the smallholder women, who are already members of VSLAs, and with growth potential, to achieve scale in their enterprise activity so that they can create more employment opportunities for other women (and men). In addition to promoting business skills training and increasing access to affordable micro-finance, the WINGS project will work towards creating a more positive enabling environment by supporting women, decision-making capacity and removing the specific gender barriers that rural aspiring women entrepreneurs could face. While strengthening the women’s VSLA groups, the project aims at addressing some of the socio-cultural norms that impede non-farm enterprise growth and profitability.
RACOBAO plans to mobilise these groups to form 2 apex organisations (Savings & Credit Cooperative Organisations, SACCOs) and link them with financial institutions thus extending the capabilities of individual VSLAs and members to access larger and longer-term loans. Creating SACCOs will thus avail sustainable financing that focuses on women’s strengths and widen the economic opportunities available to them, as well as design pathways for them to link to markets, be more innovative and ensure the development and expansion of their enterprises.