As the gears of her sewing machine pressed together, and the clank of each rhythmic movement was made by her foot, one could not miss the joy exuded by 58-year-old Freda Lyengulu’s eyes as she worked. A primary school teacher by profession, Freda never dreamed of the day when she would be able to have her own sewing machine and learn how to tailor clothes as a side income.

The single mother of four for years had to depend on the low earnings she got from her day job and the little farming she used to do on the side but this still left her with overwhelming bills to pay like school fees and day to day upkeep for her family. It was in 2009 when she and other women in Zirobwe Sub county Luwero decided to form a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA); Agali Awamu Women’s Group. Over the years, the group has managed to transform the lives of the members and Freda is one whose life made a complete 180⁰ turn ever since she started saving and receiving trainings from NAWOU under the “Women at work” project. She has been able to educate all her children, diversify her income and now she is in the final stages of completing her retirement plan.

Agali Awamu Women’s group during a VSLA meeting.

“Before I fully understood the concept of saving and receiving financial education from NAWOU and FIDA trainings conducted, all my money would go towards paying school fees for my children,” recalled Freda. “I had nothing physical or substantial to show for all the years I had worked and this deeply saddened me.”

She longed to have the financial freedom of investing in more than just her children’s education but also have businesses that she could fall back on once she retired from teaching. 10 years later, this dream is beginning to come to fruition. Freda has managed to fence her ¼ acre of land where she rears her poultry for business, started a piggery business in 2018 that has over 20 pigs currently, renovated her house and a proud owner of a sewing machine which had been one of her childhood dreams.

“When we were introduced to NAWOU in 2015, we were educated on the importance of financial discipline, investing wisely and expanding our businesses. By following diligently what we were taught, I have managed to achieve even more than I expected and I know I can do even better.”

Agali Awamu started off by saving shs.1000 per group member and now saves up to shs.5000 per week and last year, they saved shs.20,000,000 with each group member making a profit ranging between shs.1,350,000 and shs.1,700,000 depending on the investment throughout the year.

“This group has eased my life in so many ways. We used to run up and down to get loans to sustain our families and the collateral asked for by the financial houses would be hard to match,” she testified. “Now all we have to do is go to our VSLA group and request for a loan. The process is seamless and less tedious.”

Freda plans on acquiring another piece of land to house her dairy cow she is set to buy soon and use the rest of the land to expand her matooke and beans farm.

Freda is a “Women at work” project beneficiary which partners with FIDA Uganda with support from Forum for Women and Development (FOKUS). The project has been running for the last 5 years.     

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