What do you think of when you hear the word “entrepreneur?”
For most of us, it’s tech startups and Elon Musk and a new coffee food truck in your town. Things that have a pretty hefty start up cost, and are reserved for the rarified few who are brave enough to enter “nothing ventured, nothing gained” territory.
According to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, Uganda is the 2nd most entrepreneurial country for women in the world. And I’m sure you’ve gathered from these newsletters that these women aren’t getting multi-million dollar venture capital investments and renting entire floors of office space in Austin and Raleigh.
But the extremely high unemployment (over 60% when you only count “jobs” with the government or businesses) and very low number of available paid jobs (many do multi-year free internships before ever getting paid!) means that women (and girls) are forced by default to become self-employed entrepreneurs.
Today, I sent the funds for two such young ladies in our program.
Harriet is a teen mom who has been with us for a year and a half. Her mother has decided to move back to their village, and she needs Harriet to go with them because Harriet is the only one with any skill to make money. In short, 16 year old Harriet is about to be the sole breadwinner for her family of 6.
Husinah, also 16, was in our first Literacy class, where she learned incredibly fast. She moved on to Basic and then Advanced Tailoring, where she was a shining star. She graduated when my mom and I were there in April and, as always, her smile was 1000 watts. Her single mother has been sick and unable to make any money for some time, and the family has really struggled.
Harriet is getting an exit package with a manual sewing machine, the supplies she needs to start a small tailoring business in the village, and money for transportation. We are also working with her to make sure she always has a working phone — we want to make sure that if she gets sick, she has a way to contact us. (We are all still grieving Kalunji’s death…)
Husinah is getting a semi-industrial electric machine which she will use at our compound. Our former in-house tailor, Vivian, has gotten a job elsewhere, so Husinah will take her place to fill special orders for items such as aprons and bags that come in. She will receive a small salary for that, and also be able to take special orders of her own for income. Additionally, being at the compound every day means regular food and a safety net for her.
Culture change is slow and requires flexibility and out of the box thinking. It’s very easy to look out at the sea of humanity walking around in bright gomesi dresses and American knockoff shirts and feel that it’s just too big of a job.
When I worked with Hospice Jinja at the very beginning, they had a motto:
Do what you can, where you can, for as long as you can.
We don’t have to do everything. We don’t have to solve Uganda’s problems (thank goodness!). We don’t have to shift from our go-deep philosophy. We just have to do what we can, where we are, for as long as we can.
And we CAN do that because of YOU!
PS Harriet’s project still has $25 left to be fully funded, although we are getting the items today. Her mom wants to leave for the village this weekend, so we went ahead and funded it and trust the remaining balance will come in soon. If you want to help, just click the button!