Business and marriage: Should women protect their finances?

Tuesday March 10 2020

A business woman interacts with a customer during an exhibition in Kampala. According to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019, nearly 4 in every 10 business owners are female in the leading markets of Uganda and Ghana. Photo by Rachel Mabala

For eight hours, ten women growing small businesses perched in a conference room to understand how they were going to scale to the next level.

From time to time, husbands featured in the conversation. This particular conversation went on in the lunch room and on the bus back home. Some talked about the pressure they were taking to abandon running their own businesses. Others simply wanted to be told how to guard their businesses in this case.

Take for instance Ms Nancy Namulondo. She was married off in her teenage years and never got the chance to carve out her career.

Several years after supporting her husband’s construction firm in a supervisory role, she decided the time was ripe to create her personal wealth in the 2000s.

Unfortunately, the idea of her own business 20 years into their marriage, left her husband unimpressed. She talked agro processing and catering businesses but he would not hear any of it.

The catering business later collapsed because he disagreed with the late night work despite the money it raked in.


“He has not been allowing me to do my business. He does not want me to attend trade shows so I go by force,” she says.

“He thinks that when I go out there, I will befriend other men. I do not know whether it is jealousy or he just wants me to depend on him. But when I sell and get my money, he asks for a loan which he rarely pays back.”

Today, her products are packaged and sold in Kampala. From what Namulondo says, financial and moral support is part of what she needs from her spouse, for her business to thrive.

“There was a time I thought of abandoning business because there was no money. A new player on the market pushed me to restart production,” she narrates. In her words, is a concern that husbands like these create gaps in household income.
“Sometimes, men leave home without giving us any money. When I have my money, I can use it. I cannot tell you when he last bought me a cloth so I think it would be good for both spouses to work because then they can pool resources and do something tangible,” she explains.

Worth a conversation?
Gudula Naiga’s views are supported by her experience not just as chairperson dfcu Women in Business club but as a social entrepreneur and farmer. She emphasises that married women have a responsibility to the population they are multiplying.

“It is a conversation we should have. These days it is difficult for a family to rely on one income,” she says.

“Many men who do not want women to work are just using money for control since you are dependent on them for everything,” Ms Gudula says.

On the other hand, the belief is that such financial abuse is inevitable where dialogue about household income never came up.

“Before marriage, it is important to agree on how you will be handling money. If you do not discuss anything, there are no grounds to refer to,” she says, and to those already married,
“There has to be another bargain. If she is staying home instead of working, she should still be paid because a salary helps her to make important decisions that require money.”

Business ownership
In Africa, according to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019, Uganda ranked first among the top 10, globally, as regards Women’s Business Ownership Rates at 38.2 per cent. Ghana and Botswana followed with 37.9 per cent and 36 per cent, respectively.

“For instance, in the leading markets of Uganda and Ghana, nearly 4 in every 10 business owners are female. These markets are ranked very low in the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019, largely due to inhibitive factors such as poor quality of governance, low women financial inclusion, poor support for small and medium enterprises, less opportunities for women to rise in the workplace as business leaders and professionals or technicians due to generally lower prospects for tertiary education, and higher barriers to business,” the report reads.

Kinsman Advisory’s William Nyakatura has years of experience in financial consultancy. He knows some husbands may feel the provision they bring home is enough so the wife’s income is unnecessary.

He also knows there are men who desire a wife to stay home even if their incomes are insufficient because of the concerns that she may become successful or that business will take away time off the family.

“Where a wife has expressed an interest, I only urge that a husband allow the woman to venture. The challenge is that the involvement in the home begins to vary and this is a private conversation they must have,” he says.

He notes that a husband should actually assess his wife’s business journey and provide direction where there are hurdles whether he provided her with capital or not.

There are women opting to keep their business dealings private. However, for a woman to hide the business from her husband, he went on, is the biggest blow it could ever have.

“The business will demand her to go and solve a particular problem and if she cannot, she runs the cost of having the business not reach maturity. So it is inevitable openness. It is a very tough one without a clear answer but I see engaging and compromise playing a role,” Mr Nyakatura says.