This is the story of Annette, a 27-year-old woman from the rural community of Nyantonzi, Uganda, who is working to beat the odds.
Annette’s father was a doctor and left her family when she was two years old. She had eight brothers and sisters, and there was a lot of pressure on her mother to care for that many children alone. The pressure drove her mother to drink.
Annette didn’t have enough money to pay school fees to continue her education, so she asked her father for help. He refused. Eventually, Annette’s mother left, and the children were orphaned. Not knowing what was next, Annette married very young and had two kids of her own. Her husband was very abusive and drank a lot. She divorced him and then married another man who, unfortunately, presented similar problems.
“There (are) is a lot of challenges I am facing being a woman in Nyantonzi. I work very hard and my husband leaves and drinks and plays games, and I am the one left to work in the fields, cook, clean, and sustain the family,” she explains.
A local, female youth-led organization called Safeplan Uganda is helping Annette begin a turnaround — with honey bees.
Annette is raising bees and harvesting honey, which sells well in the local market. In addition to bringing in more money than other local products, the business is eco-friendly and doesn’t require a lot of physical time or effort — once the initial set up is done. Also, the women don’t need to own or rent a lot of land in order for bees to pollinate.
A training series offered by Safeplan is part of the Budongo Women Bee Enterprises (BUWOBE) activity, based in Nyantonzi. Training sessions focus not only on how to be a beekeeper, but also on other skills identified by the young women in the community.
USAID and its private sector partners Standard Chartered and Volvo awarded a small grant through the Young Women Transform Prize to Safeplan to help the organization grow. Their approach to increasing women’s employment is truly youth-led and has generated a lot of lessons learned.
Through the prize, USAID supports youth in developing countries to develop their own solutions to advance their economic empowerment in their communities. Engaging youth in their own development journey is critical to ensure they have the education and skills they need to reach their full potential.
Worldwide, an estimated 21 percent of young people are neither employed nor enrolled in education or training opportunities. This leaves them disaffected and with little hope for their future prospects.
On International Youth Day, USAID celebrates the young women who are taking the lead in empowering their communities and providing other young women with a pathway to a better life.
In addition to practical business skills, Annette explained that “BUWOBE has helped teach me how to handle my business, taught me new work skills, and how to manage the children and send them to school.”
Through local organizations like Safeplan Uganda, USAID’s support is helping small communities take ownership of their development goals. For young women like Annette, they are starting to see a path to a brighter future.
“It’s encouraged women in the community to have the confidence to be a strong voice in the community and to stand firm in the home,” Annette said.
In the future, Annette wants to grow her business by possibly selling different types of produce at the market, in addition to honey. She hopes to improve her quality of life, send her children to school, and live in a house that is well built. USAID’s support to locally-led organizations like Safeplan increases the likelihood that women like Annette will achieve their goals.
About the Author
Heather Risley is the Knowledge Management and Learning Advisor in USAID’s Office of Education.