Kampala, Uganda – Legislators are opposed to the merger of the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) with other wealth creation funds saying it will cause financial disenfranchisement of women in the communities.
On Tuesday, 20 April 2021, the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Betty Aol Ocan moved the motion which support from across the political divide. MPs said that the Government should leave UWEP in the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development.
Ocan said the programme was initiated to address access to affordable credit, limited technical knowledge and skills for business development, access to markets and information regarding business opportunities.
Ocan argued further that the fund promotes women empowerment by providing cheap access to credit for entrepreneurship and that doing otherwise would put this avenue for women in jeopardy.
“Wealth creation funds have had their own issues when it comes to monitoring and distribution and they have largely remained unsuccessful unlike UWEP,” she added.
Ocan stated that the women programme has been performing well under the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development and generalizing it will push many women to withdraw from it due to excessive competition with other wealth creation funds.
Amuru District MP Lucy Akello equated the move to a mother putting food in one bowl and expecting the children to compete for an equal share.
“When money is sent to the parish to be distributed to women, the parish leadership may misuse these funds and re-allocate them to their funding priorities,” she said.
Akello added that women are not able to access loans or financial funding because they do not have collateral like land which is mainly owned by men.
Kasambya County MP, Hon Gaffa Mbwatekamwa backed the motion saying that UWEP should remain independent and separate from other local funding programmes.
“When people out there hear about moving UWEP to the parish model, they think that they are to benefit from it since it is no longer independent and this in itself creates a problem,” he said.
Mbwatekamwa added that there is no justification to merge UWEP with wealth creation because money is being put to good use and there is marked improvement in the livelihoods of women.
PWD MP from Eastern Uganda, Hellen Asamo added that the fund was able to economically empower women groups at the lowest levels in the community with a high repayment of over 77 per cent.
“The women councils in districts are in charge of this fund; why is its management being transferred to the parish chiefs without consulting the women who are the main stakeholders?” Asamo asked.
Bugabula South MP, Hon Henry Kibalya said instead of transferring the programme, additional funds should be sought to boost it especially at the grassroots level.
“Women are the ones running their families in most villages we know and this is because the men have either abandoned their families or many have passed on,” he said.
Kibalya added that the government should focus on empowering women more instead of taking whatever little they have and focusing it on other things.
“Diverting this money from Ministry of Gender and merging with Operation Wealth Creation which cannot give special attention to women needs is detrimental to the existence of the fund,” Kibalya added.
The Minister of State for Finance (Planning), Hon. David Bahati said the parish model is not scrapping the money for the women but increasing it.
“We are targeting financial inclusion. We need to continue discussing & understand this. We are suggesting that 30% of the money at the parish level should go to the women,“ Bahati said.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga directed the finance minister to make a formal presentation on the merger before a decision is taken on the motion.