Youth Get Empowered - Economically!

Nawangisa parish situated in Kibaale Sub County is one of the localities under the “creating spaces for ACTIVISTA” programme area by ActionAid, Busiki LRP.  Similar to other Parishes, the Youth constitute the majority of the community moreover; most of them depend on menial and unsustainable ventures for income whilst those privileged enough to use their small farm acreages for livelihood, use rudimentary tools on individual basis and an even greater number does not engage in any practices for development. In Nov. 2013, I convened a  one-day Activista training forum under the Activista platform at Kibaale Sub County to empower the Youth on result-based documentation, planning, efficacy in resource use and sustaining incomes attended to by Activistas themselves. The training was anchored on first component of the HRBA methodology that details empowerment. Succinctly, the focus on; galvanizing for individual and collective action, identifying and nurturing their capacities on leadership and critical awareness of their situation through participatory and action-based methods, encouraging them to monitor government led/funded projects, harnessing communication skills and platforms for them to interact, learn and take action and lastly, embody their skills and capacities to plan, lead, implement, monitor and evaluate projects.

Kiwanuka Isahaka, 25 years-old, 5.5 Ft tall, dark skinned resident of Nawaikoke Village, Nabisoigi Parish of Kibaale Sub County in Namutumba was one of the Activistas during this training forum. For income, Kiwanuka runs a barber shop and he also farms. To top it up, he is one part of the 5 member Village Health Team (VHT) of Nawaikoke Village.  This team is composed of 2 females (1 Youth/1 Adult) and 3 males (1 Youth/ 2 Adults). He has been instrumental in enabling me interact and share best practices and knowledge with the Youth of Kibaale in foraging a working formula for their growth and development since joining the LRP. The rest as they say is history - both for Kiwanuka and me. To guarantee that the Youth will not only partake in the specific processes to empower them, I structured the training as a forum for deliberation. Little did I know that following the practical and theoretical knowledge and personal life skills that I shared them, they would later deliberate, coalesce into a group and agree to form Kibaale Youth Empowerment Association in early December 2013. Currently, the Association has two projects; Onion planting and Savings & Credit Sacco. Both projects have the same membership of 25 Youth however; the Group envisions a membership of 40 Activistas in the future. Out of this total, 13 are females whilst the rest are males Activistas.

To jumpstart the Onion project, the Activistas put into practice the knowledge they acquired on documentation to formulate foundation documents such as constitution, profiles and formulation of group meeting deliberations minutes. To bankroll the projects, the Activistas contributed UGX. 10, 000 each. This would be enough for them to purchase 250KGs of onion bulbs at the cost of UGX. 250,000. However, they only have UGX. 170,000 as only 17 have committed themselves. Towards actualizing this mental picture, one of the Activistas donated ½ acre parcel of land which was to be used for the project. Currently, the Activistas have carried out primary, secondary and third tillage on the ½ acre piece of land. Despite the harsh weather trends, they proactively plan to start planting on 5th March 2014 using the current savings (UGX. 170,000). They have further invited me to grace and document this event – a gesture which is quite humbling seeing as I know “nothing” about farming. Further to this, the Activistas have invited me as the guest of honor when they receive the keys to an office space donated to them by the Local Government at the Kibaale Sub County Headquarters in March, 2014.

The Savings and Credit project is a success story in itself and a model practice that I intend to ensure other Activista groups emulate. Since they started contributing - about 2 ½ months ago - they have managed to grow their kitty to a staggering UGX. 270,000 where by each member contributes UGX. 10,000. From these savings, the members are allowed to borrow. Upon any borrowing, one is supposed to pay back UGX.1000 every week. The essence of this is to ensure that ALL members access the cash to start up self-income generating initiative rather than generating resources and maintaining them as a Group.

Having personally grappled with the issue of female Activista participation since the commencement of my placement, I managed to elaborate to the male Activistas the benefits of female Activista inclusivity at all levels. Never mind that I was risking a backlash for venturing into what was probably a cultural issue rather than an ideological issue. This worked out well since I management to convince the Association leadership on the benefits of having a clause on their Constitution establishing an affirmative action on female participation at all levels as well as equity. Out of 14 leadership slots (7 on the Onion project and 7 on the Savings Project), ladies have 5 positions. This is a baby-step to the right direction. This has enabled them (Females) Activista leaders to mobilize their colleagues (females) to join the group and seek loans to better themselves. This attribute this has occasioned increased access to loans by female Activistas. This reiterates the potent role in growth and development.

Serah Betty Akello, a 28 year-old female Youth member of the Association recently applied and successfully got a loan of UGX. 100,000. She used this loan to expand her piggery business. She currently has 5 pigs!

According to According Objective 1 of the Activista Strategy[1] and in relation to Change Promise 6[2], Youth need to be supported, informed and recurrently engaged and those of Kibaale are no exception. To sustain the traction of their initiatives, we sat together and agreed on a 3 pronged immediate term support framework as highlighted below;
  1. Training on Information Technology (from the basics) at Kibaale Trading Centre on 10th March, 2014 for the Activistas.
  2. I will guide 3 Leaders of the Group to formulate a concept to the LRP to enable them sustain the training – at least once a week and in the long term, purchase of computers.
  3. Support the Activistas to meeting and convene a meeting with the HEALTH Centre leaders to identify a way unto which the Activistas can support the community through volunteering to clean the Health Centers in Kibaale Sub County. This approach is aimed at; (1) keeping them busy & vibrant (2) Documenting the other activities that they carry out (3) be all-rounded as Activistas.

Contrary to popular belief, the Youth are the most interesting and encouraging people to work with. Once they understand an idea; they embrace it. Then they own it. They then actualize it. After that, they improve their lives and that of their families.

[1] Create engaging entry points for Youth within the framework of Action Aid’s multi-country campaigns, including through national and Local Youth-Led and Youth-Focused campaigns, events and actions.
[2] By 2017, we will have mobilized over five million youth to take sustained action towards building a poverty-free planet


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