Initially, UWCM trained and supported individual women on how to live positively with HIV/AIDS and these women then went out to encourage and support other women in similar situations within their communities. They offered spiritual and emotional support and friendship, as well as advice on basic healthcare and nutrition.
This then evolved into larger groups of approx. 30 women and several of these Women’s Groups have been serving their communities for many years. UWCM assists the groups in their initial set-up and structure and offer training in many areas including:
• HIV/AIDS care and prevention
• basic counselling skills
• personal hygiene and sanitation
• empowerment of women by providing knowledge and skills for self-reliance
• women’s rights
• creation and management of income generation activities (IGAs)
• community managed micro finance
• environmental projects such as tree planting
Groups are also encouraged to care for the most vulnerable within their communities. Often these individuals or families are struggling with sickness, bereavements and/or extreme poverty and include both the frail and elderly as well as ‘child-headed’ families of young orphans or abandoned children. There is no government support available for these marginalised people. The support offered by the groups, as well as by UWCM, include regular visits to give physical, emotional and spiritual care alongside practical assistance such as gifts of food, household items and clothes.
Groups can also nominate the most needy families/individuals for funding from ‘Sarah’s Shelters’ and will then mobilise the community to help build a new home (shelter) for that family.
“When my husband died I didn’t know what to do. UWCM gave me the help I needed. I did not waste any of that help. I have been able to take my children to school, build a house and have a cow. I owe a lot to UWCM. Thank you so much.” Grace, Bubirabi District.
Each group is encouraged to start small income-generating projects (both on an individual and group basis) eg selling vegetables, dressmaking, revolving goat, cows and poultry rearing, which help to raise confidence among members. It also increases their household income so that the women can meet some of the household needs and therefore reduce the total dependence on men. In addition, it helps to improve women’s bargaining power in society.
Groups also receive training on how to run a Community Managed Microfinance scheme which is aimed at fighting poverty through raising household incomes. Members are introduced to the concept of savings and credit and many have seen their lives transformed. They are trained and encouraged to start up savings and loan schemes within their group and also within a cluster of groups which has proved to be highly successful and there is great demand for this training.
Our funding also enables UWCM to give money to the groups to buy scholastic materials (exercise books, pens, pencils) for orphans and vulnerable children within their communities.
Luzzi Church Women’s Group in Luzzi village, Sisiyi Sub-County in the Bulambuli District is a very good example of how working together as a group can really lift individual households as well as whole communities.
They have been trained in group dynamics, home and family management, sanitation and community managed micro finance. Individual members have benefitted from improved family incomes and gained skills and knowledge that have improved their development. At community level, there is noticeable food security, diversification of income generating projects and efficient energy use including the acquisition of solar lighting for over 600 families.
See below for a video of Ramba Shifubi Women’s group greeting us as we arrived to help them build a new shelter for a needy family within their community.
Similar to Women’s Groups, Community Mobilisation Teams (CMTs) are teams of volunteers (male and female), trained by UWCM, to extend their work into the many rural communities around Mbale and the foothills of Mount Elgon. Team members are drawn from the villages, usually through church connections; they form a committee and then commit their time, skills and resources to serving the most vulnerable families in their local area.
Generally, UWCM have found that the Women’s Groups perform better and are more effective within their communities than the CMTs and so many of these groups have been phased out over the years with just a handful of the most successful ones still being supported by UWCM.