NAWOU (the National Association of Women’s Organizations of Uganda), formed in 1992, is a local NGO which works with women all over Uganda, including the north. NAWOU runs Training Programs in leadership skills and resource mobilisation, loan management and record keeping, and a Micro Credit Program, assisting many women to start small sustainable businesses. Another key area of NAWOU’s work is a Nutrition and Early Childhood Development Program, which is geared towards training in best nutrition practice, especially for children aged 6 years and below. NAWOU, is not only an umbrella organisation but is also perceived as a mother to women groups. It is a home where women from all walks of life, (including Nubian women and disabled people from Kabarole), find comfort and strength through a diverse array of training courses, from bee keeping to nutrition, and goat breeding to leadership skills.
Through their Marketing Network Project, handcraft artisans from all over Uganda are trained in product development and linked to markets locally and overseas. Through this project, NAWOU teaches the artisans new designs and trends, but also importantly, how to control quality and standardise their products, to improve their ability to use handcrafts as an income generating activity, leading towards long term income security. Nawou is a WFTO member. Oxfam has been working with Nawou since 2005.
Beading Her Way To A Brighter Future
Milly, a jeweller of recycled beads in Uganda, is a mother, a wife, an aunt and a Fair Trade worker. Despite her earlier struggles with poverty, Milly managed to turn her life around and enhance the education and future opportunities for both herself and her family after joining the Fair Trade bead industry.
Milly Luwaza Semwanga, 39, is a softly spoken yet very determined and hard working woman. She is happily married with three children and she has also taken on the responsibility of caring for her 19-year-old niece. At the age of 17, her parents married her off preventing her from continuing with her studies. She persevered through this unhappy marriage for five years. When Milly finally broke free from her husband she became the sole provider for her daughter and niece, and was confronted with the harsh realities of poverty. As she continued looking for menial jobs in restaurants, she struggled to make ends meet, and funding her daughters education became a struggle. Milly met her second husband and started a new life as a house wife. She spent eight busy years occupied with household chores and economically dependent on her husband. However, her husband’s earnings were not enough to support their three children and a niece. Milly was compelled to search for a job in order to contribute to the household upkeep.
Luck was on Milly’s side when she was introduced to “Bead For Life” by a friend. “Bead for Life” is an organisation that is fully committed to helping women artisans like Milly through capacity building. She underwent training and soon had enough skills to make good-quality recycled paper beads. Milly found work with NAWOU in 2011 through the help of a fellow artisan, Mrs Kyembe Victoria. Since 2011, Milly has continued receiving purchase orders from NAWOU and says “I am so contented to have found work that I can easily do from my own home. This has not only become a reliable source of income but has also ushered in peace in our home as my husband was not comfortable with me working in the city centre and staying for hours away from home. Between the two of us, we are now able to pay for our children’s education and also put some aside for the upkeep of the house. Through NAWOU, I have also been trained in the art of jewellery making, a trade that I would never have found on my own.” Milly says that it is often a challenge to source the recycled papers necessary for her jewellery production. The NAWOU customers are sometimes very specific with their desired colours and designs yet the supply of recycled papers is not constant and as artisans, the women have no control over it. Besides this obstacle, which is an issue that requires addressing, she enjoys her work very much and would not trade it for any other job.