Wednesday, 19 March 2008

From growing cassava to funding a university

Beatrice Ayuru introduces herself as a teacher and businesswoman. She is from northern Uganda, a war-ravaged area with much poverty and few schools.

A few years ago, with no business training and no money, Beatrice decided that she would build her own school. "No girl should endure what I had to go through myself," says Beatrice. "Education is the best way to help reduce poverty in my region […] and giving girl children education empowers them. In my village, women are over-dependent on men."

Beatrice started with a small garden of cassava. That earned her a little money which she used to buy wheelbarrows that she subsequently rented out. With that income, she managed to open a canteen. Soon, she had enough savings to start a school. Getting the land was a struggle.

Traditionally, land is only owned by men in Uganda and it took her a lot of persuasion to finally obtain four hectares from her family. On that land, she built three blocks. Registering the school was another hurdle. She could not do it as a woman and had to ask her husband to do it on her behalf. The school was built and many students came to the school but the facilities were still inadequate.

One day, Beatrice got the visit from an official from DFCU, a Ugandan bank and an IFC client. The bank was impressed with Beatrice’s achievements and offered its support. Bank officials explained to her how a loan works, and she received management and banking training.

Beatrice's school, the Lira Integrated School, today has 1500 students, a school bus and an income-generating brass band. With the savings from the school, Beatrice has built a small-scale yoghurt factory and employs in total 104 people. Beatrice is far from being done. She is planning to open a university. She has a clear message for financial institutions: "We need lower interest rates and we need more flexibility in collaterals." And for fellow businesswomen: "Learn from me that this is possible!"

Source: PSD Blog

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