In early November rural women in Uganda were involved in qualitative interviews discussing decision making in the households. Women have a very central role in the farming households, but their possibility to influence decision making varies greatly.

We travelled to the district of Kiboga in Uganda to conduct some qualitative interviews with twelve women from the sample. The goal was to get a deeper understanding of household decision-making and what the role of women is within it. Questions about use of money and what women would priorities to put more focus on, were included as an important aspect of the interviews.

As always, going to the field was an invaluable experience. The insight you get even just from observation says more than a thousand words in a report. Because people are not just numbers, they have many hopes and dreams and all kinds of rational and irrational reasons for the decision they make. In order to support them, we need to understand them. So, here are a few of them, for you to meet: Anges, Leila and Maina (names have been changed).

Agnes is doing well but worries about her childrens economy

Agnes is a widow and therefore she is able to make her own decision, but she is also influenced by the community and financial restrictions she faces. When her husband passed away she moved to his former home town, where he owned land, which she had now inherited. However, when arriving in the new community a great surprise awaited her. The husband had had a family also in this community and she had to share the land with a range of other inheritors. However, Agnes is a very active lady and in addition to farming the land, she has set up a small restaurant in the market place, where she sells food, mainly made from products she has grown. Therefore she is doing well and feels proud of her achievements. However, her worry is her grown up children, who sold of their own part of the inherited land. They did not make wise investments with the money and she is afraid their will return to her household and expect her to take care of them when their money runs out.

Leila’s business is profitable but school fees challenge her

Leila is a small-scale business woman with a shop where she sells clothes, in the market place by the main road. Leila has seven children and her biggest worry and challenge, like so many of the women in the area, is paying for school fees. She wants her children to get a good education in order to have better opportunities in the future. She shares the responsibility for the school fees with her husband, who owns a grocery shop. Actually, he is supposed to take care of the fees, but does not always have the funds. In that case Leila chips in. Each of the spouses is responsible for the money they make in their respective businesses. However, decisions about the use of funds are usually taken together, and the husband has the last word. Previously Leila was involved in a lot of farming activities. She still grows cassava to sell and beans for home consumption, but since the children are away at school and can no longer participate in the work, she has had to cut down on this. However, she has visions for the future, once the children have finished school. The plan is to invest in constructing buildings to rent out as shops or houses.

Empowered Maina has plans for the future

Maina is an empowered and politically active Muslim woman. She claims that trainings in gender, empowerment and business has made her who she is today, but talking to her it is difficult to believe he has once been subdued. She also admits that she has a good husband who has always involved her in decision-making on household matters. She talks about her business, farming and future plans, as well as what she wishes for her three children. Her only daughter works as a tailor in the city, so Maina takes care of her grandson. She is slightly disappointed about the daughter’s career as a tailor, as she had higher ambitions for her. She now hopes her youngest son, who has just finished senior high, will go on to university to become a lawyer. Maina herself, in addition to the farming work she does, works as a decorator for weddings and other events. Her plan is to get an office in town, to improve the image of her business and increase income.

Women and children in Uganda.
Women and children in Uganda.

Agnes, Leila and Maina, as well as the other women we met during our days in Kiboga, all had fascinating stories to tell – and very different from one another. Again, it became evident that no two life-stories are the same. Which means, in terms of projects to support them, that there is no ‘one-size fits all’. Activities have to be designed so that women with different needs and aspirations are able to benefit and participate in a flexible way. A challenge for all of us working in development- but one we should certainly take!

The content of the interviews will be formulated into an article, which will complement and deepen the results of the baseline survey of WP6. WP6 studies focus on improving market access for small-scale farming through the provision of market information by modern information and communication technology.

Text and photos by Project Coordinator Mila Sell, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)