Skills devt crucial to economic empowerment agenda, experts say

Capacity building should be a key component of initiatives aimed at women financial empowerment, including efforts to make women-run cooperatives more sustainable and profitable.
Bisiza handing over a knitting machine to one of the cooperatives. / Michel Nkurunziza
Bisiza handing over a knitting machine to one of the cooperatives. / Michel Nkurunziza

Capacity building should be a key component of initiatives aimed at women financial empowerment, including efforts to make women-run cooperatives more sustainable and profitable.

According to proponents of financial independence among women, business management and hands-on skills are crucial for women to start and ensure their income-generating initiatives perform well and create more jobs for others.

Antoinette Uwimana, the country representative of Women for Women International, a global organisation that supports women, said equipping small businesswomen and women cooperative members with skills to design bankable proposals and run their enterprises profitably gives them high survival and growth rates. According to Uwimana, running an enterprise or a cooperative society without the requisite skills is a sure way to underperformance of the initiative or failure, at worst.

She said her organisation supports enterprising women and women groups through training and investment like equipment to help them improve their performance.

Uwimana was speaking at the end of an advanced business skills training course for 200 women from 22 cooperatives from Nyaruguru District, conducted by Women for Women International. The official added that skills play a central role in enterprise growth and sustainability to benefit members and the community.

Besides, they are able to design bankable business projects so that, once linked to financial institutions, they can acquire loans and implement their initiatives without any challenges.

“We encourage women to join cooperatives so that we can easily trace and support them,” she added.

“We need those women to transform their small businesses into big ones by embracing innovation as it would help increase volumes and quality of Made-in-Rwanda products. We also train the women in communication and leadership skills to boost their confidence and make them good leaders,” she said.

Uwimana said similar training programmes have been conducted in Gasabo and Muhanga districts in conjunction with Business Development Fund (BDF), SACCOs and authorities authorities.

The organisation donated equipment and materials to 12 cooperatives after the training. The over Rwf10 million micro-business capital support include knitting machines, beads, tailoring machines, irrigation equipment, pigs (for providing manure), honey-packaging machines, among others.

The beneficiaries are Ingendinimwe and Duhuzimbaragamunyarwanda that are involved in basket weaving and knitting, Abadasobanya (beadwork), and Ambaruberwe and Dufatanye who are engaged in tailoring. Others are Duterimbere and Abafitintego for beekeeping, and Ejoheza, Tuzamurane, Imberehea and Duterimbere cooperatives involved in vegetable growing.

Local leaders speak out

Antoine Bisiza, the Nyaruguru District vice-mayor in charge of finance and economic development, said the district has many opportunities that cooperatives should exploit to increase quality and quantity of their products.

“This area also hosts thousands of visitors who come to visit Kibeho holy land each year; this presents you and other residents huge opportunities for sustainable business ventures targeting these tourists and local buyers,” he said.

We will do our best to connect the cooperatives to markets and every sector should have a place where women can operate their business, he added.

He said cooperatives should acquire stands in the modern market that is being constructed by the district, where they can showcase and sell their products.

The district official also encouraged cooperative members to join SACCOs to save and also acquire loans to expand their business operations.

He urged farmer cooperatives to embrace irrigation, saying that sometimes there is a shortage of foodstuff because of dependence on rain-fed agriculture.

“When we visit markets in this area, we do not find enough vegetables. Therefore, use irrigation equipment maximally to increase yields and supply the market with vegetables sustainably through the year.

“We will also connect you to other markets,” he told the vegetable growers cooperative.

He urged cooperatives to be creative and innovative “so that you are able to produce unique items that attract clients, and become competitive”.

What beneficiaries say

Valentine Mukarusa, the president of Ingendonimwe, a basket weavers cooperative in Ngoma sector, said the financial literacy training has “opened our eyes” to join SACCOs and stand a chance to secure credit to expand their business. The group received a donation three of knitting machines to support of their activities.

Therese Mukamukama, who belongs to Mbonisaro cooperative, said the training equipped them with knowledge to make chaplets which they will sell to Christians visiting Kibeho holy land.

“We are ready to properly use the 150 kilogrammes of beads we received to make more products,” she said.