The women were friends, residing in the same village but each was struggling on her own and could not accomplish their purpose until they sat down to discuss a joint business venture. That is when their efforts began to yield fruits.
The mothers in Kasubi Central Bardege Division, Gulu Municipality were facing problems of domestic violence, early marriage, teenage pregnancies and struggles in paying for their children’s education, among others.
To fight these challenges and disadvantages and in a bid to provide their families with the basic needs, the five mothers decided to form their group called “Awaka pa Mego” which translates to “mother’s pride”.
With the formation of the group, they pooled resources and begun brewing and distilling all kinds local brew which they say is more profitable than what they were doing before.
The chairperson of this initiative Carolina Chandia, 50, a widow and mother of four, says they started this initiative in 2007 because they wanted to see their families get all the basic needs as some of them are widows and single mothers with young children to take care of.
“If you are not doing anything in this current situation, and you have children to take care of, you can be forced into prostitution, or your children could end up as prostitutes to be able to earn a living. We never wanted our children to see us as mothers that have failed to provide for them, thereby going to get support from men in exchange for sex which can cause them many problems,” explains Chandia.
Start of the cooperative
Since each of them had some money that they had saved from their previous businesses, they agreed that each person contributes Shs600,00 that they used to buy items that are required for distilling and brewing local alcohols (Malwa, Kwete, and waragi) plus making the boiling stove.
Chandia says after they acquired all the materials they needed, they started brewing and distilling all kinds of local brews which they sell at both wholesale and retail prices to the clients within their communities.
“In a week, we produce more than 100 litres (of brew) of which 20 litres is sold at Shs60, 000 in wholesale and Shs80,000 retail which means them earn Shs300, 000 to Shs400, 000 a week. Before all our children’s fees are cleared, no money can be channelled to any other thing, ” says Chandia.
Terms and conditions
She says after every child’s fees are cleared, they first deduct the capital required for reinvesting in the business and the percentage for saving on their joint business account and then the balance is shared equally among the five mothers.
“Even if someone has burning issues and children’s fees are not yet paid, we cannot allow her to borrow money from the business. Instead, we advise her to find the money outside the business and pay her debts after we have shared the profits. We also encourage each other to venture into other small businesses that can bring in money needed for daily use. For instance, I sell second hand clothes on top of this business. It is that income which I use for other needs at home in case I have not yet received my shares from the joint business, ” says Chandia.
Story of a beneficiary
Lilian Akumu, 48, the storekeeper who also provided the premises for the brewing business, says before they formed this group and started brewing and distilling local brews, she was selling fish in one of the village markets to meet the school dues for the two children left behind when her husband died in 2004.
It was not easy to pay school fees, and whenever she failed, she would seek assistance from her brothers -in-law who would give her the money on condition she promises to let them inherit her, which according to her was mockery.
“Ever since I joined this initiative, I no longer ask my in-laws for fees. My first born who was seven years old when the father died, has now completed Senior Four and the second one is also sitting final exams next year,” explains Akumu.
She says she has also not given up the fish vending business because it was the stepping stone to her current business. Her niece is running it on her behalf.
Chandia explains that their group is looking at growing and increasing their earnings. She urges other women who are still idle to join the group so that they expand this business to factory level.
“If we could get a helping hand, we would buy a few manual machines and begin making and packing juice for sale since we already have rooms where we can make the juice.
This could provide better employment opportunities for the many unemployed mothers in this community.”
Kevin Lalam the group treasurer and the only married mother says their business suffers due to clients who consume their brew on credit and then fail to pay.
“As a treasurer of this business, I am tasked to follow up those who take our stuff on credit and vanish without paying. Sometimes, I fail to trace them. At times, the group may think I am paid the money and I fail to declare,” laments Lalam.
She also points out the biased mindset among the community who imagine that every woman who deals in this kind of business is a drunkard or prostitute who is looking for men.
“When you serve some of the clients, they expect you to sit there with them to entertain them, not knowing that we are busy. They are mistaking us to be searching at the same time.”
Materials such as cereal, cassava and firewood needed for making the local brew (Kwete, Waragi, malwa) are not readily available and the women have to travel long distances to look for them.