As project lead for business training, I was heavily involved in setting up and facilitating business classes in Lugazi and the surrounding vicinities. In addition to the official classes we had for more established businesspeople, we also held meetings with a few women’s groups in the area, offering basic business advice and encouragement to the women in attendance. Leading discussions with and listening to the ideas and the dreams of these women proved to be a very worthwhile experience. I remember distinctly, before the end of Second Wave, visiting some of these women, members of a women’s group at Ssanyu Primary School, in their individual businesses to observe their work environment and inquire into their practices. From pharmaceuticals to charcoal, from bars to fruit stands, these women did what they thought was best with what they had. Granted I could have spent a great deal of time with these visits in researching and advising, I found it sufficient to briefly explore what these good women did to provide for themselves and their families and, after reviewing my notes, offer each woman one piece of advice as to how she could improve her business. One particular woman, Sarah, stands out to me. Her employment is in a pharmaceutical shop in Lugazi where she sells medications to Mehta Sugar Factory laborers, but she dreams of someday owning her own shop. When I asked whether I could see a copy of her budget, I was amazed at how organized and how precise it was. I was similarly amazed at the neatness of the shop itself, also attributed to the hard work and dedication of Sarah. After our visit, I encouraged Sarah to teach her fellow group members what she knew about structuring a budget and running an orderly business because I could tell that she had a lot to offer. That small moment, combined with many other like moments, further confirms to me that the solutions to many questions in international development lie in the local people themselves. The crux of empowerment is helping people help themselves, inspiring them to realize their own potential and to tap into their own non-monetary capital, manpower and otherwise, in order to make a real difference in each other’s life. I feel extremely fortunate to have witnessed and learned this for myself firsthand.
The Oregon Trail
5 years ago