Commat Health Initiatives (CHI) is a local NGO in Uganda. CHI’s main objective is to advocate for the Empowerment of Women and Girls in Uganda and address their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) especially for those in rural areas.
In this regard, one of the projects that CHI is running targets rural women in Kanungu District, a remote area where coffee growing is a major activity by some farmers.
Women and young girls face Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) as well as maternal and child (MCH) challenges. In addition, poverty is rampant in these rural and remote areas. Women and girls in these circumstances are rendered vulnerable and are underserved.
CHI has partnered with a major Coffee Estate in Kanungu District to raise modest funding levels which funds are then given as soft loans (no interest charged) to these women and girls upfront and they pay back by committing themselves to working on the coffee estate. They dig in the coffee using a hand hoe.
The soft loan ranging from about $20- $30 is given out at certain intervals and depending on cultivation/rain seasons of the area. They pay back by working for 5 hours each working day. This project was started early 2014 and has so far benefited 250 women and girls. This modest credit given to women and girls helps them solve some of their immediate problems which include but are not limited to:
- The soft loan allows women and girls to join village saving schemes, locally known as “Ka-box”. This enables them to build their savings for especially rainy days. These saving schemes sometimes grow their funds to a level where they are able to purchase items such as heavy duty cooking pans which allow them to provide catering services for village functions and earn more money.
- Purchase cheap cell phones (at about $ 10) which cell phone is such a versatile utility in a poor, rural and remote village which is underserved. For example, they use the phone to access mobile money services; for easy communication like quick messages and also helps during family emergencies. They are also able to monitor prices of local produce in other parts of the district. In addition, these cheap cell phones come with built in FM/AM radio which enables the spread of information being broadcast in local languages e.g. they are able to hear about when immunization and children clinics are being run as well as Obstetric Fistula camps. These phones also have in-built flash lights which assist with lighting especially for the rural people who have no access to electricity.
- Access SRH/MCH services in nearby public health services.
- Start-up vegetable stalls are locally known as ‘Omudala’ through which they are able to earn some modest incomes.
- Some of the women and girls don’t fulfill their obligations once they have received money.
- The full impact of these soft loans is not well documented.
- Low capital funding.
- In future when work of using a hand hoe at the coffee farm is no longer required, these women and girls will need a different modality of paying back the loans.