Dr Gudula Naiga Basaza is a farmer with Gudie Leisure Farm and also the Chairperson Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL), an organisation that unites women entrepreneurs.
As Uganda marked International Women’s day last week, Naiga told Alon Mwesigwa that Ugandan women had a lot to celebrate.
Why should a Ugandan woman celebrate International Women’s day?
Like any other woman in the world, there are so many things a Ugandan woman has achieved. Take, for instance, the issue of property inheritance; it was unheard of for a woman to inherit property but we have made a breakthrough on that. It’s worth celebrating.
Besides, women were [only] seen as a source of cheap family labour, but nowadays women are engaged in successful businesses. Look at education, politics, and other social spheres – women have risen.
But the ordinary woman is still suffering.
Yes we understand there are some issues that need to be resolved, but even that ordinary woman you are talking about feels happy when she sees her daughter go to school. It is because that traditional belief that education was reserved for boys has been broken.
Do you think the Ugandan woman is independent?
I’m sure there is nobody in Uganda who can suppress a woman. And there is no one who delights in suppressing a woman – everyone will look at you like a fool. No one is stopping a woman from being independent.
It is like being rich – there is no one who has been stopped from being rich. All the opportunities are there and it’s up to you to use them and get what you want. I say a Ugandan woman is independent.
As UWEAL, you have been supporting women in business: what have you achieved so far?
Oh, UWEAL is one of those things I am happy to associate with. The association deals in three things: capacity building, advocacy and networking. For capacity building, we engage women and impart skills they require to run their businesses competitively. We help them meet successful women from different parts of the world and organisations where they share stories and experiences.
This has given our women opportunity to meet with women in organisations like the African Business Women Network and East African Women Entrepreneurs Exchange. On advocacy, we have tried to advocate a good atmosphere that women can work in. For instance, women are supposed to have 40 per cent of the Naads resources. Although there are some hiccups here and there, we are the ones who advocated for it.
And why do you think many women start businesses and they go under along the way?
I don’t know what you mean when you say die along the way. Most of the businesses are just stagnant …Most women are only happy that they are earning from a business. Nobody is challenging us to grow. Most women tend to use little resources. A small number of women are borrowing and even then, they borrow very little money and their businesses will always be small.
Some women say their men fail them. Is it true?
It depends on how they relate to each other. If my family is not happy, even if I’m a leader, my leadership is checked. Actually it’s not only men; women can also fail their husbands. I think it comes down to how we are prepared for marriage.
Some people marry just because they have finished campus or they have seen breasts on their chest – and they don’t know that family is a basic social unit where they are supposed to work together. Many people out there hide finances from their spouses. You wonder why they even married in the first place.
You are one of the successful businesswomen in the country; how have you made it?
I’m a social entrepreneur and my success is measured by the number of people whose lives I touch. I own a farm, but I also have employees there. And I value them – that’s why they do exactly what I expect them to do. Employee motivation is crucial. Also the sequencing of my business means a lot to its sustainability.
I’m reliable and consistent when it comes to dealing with my customers. And I have a passion for my business. This gives me that self-motivation to make sure I see my business running normally every day.
What challenges do you meet?
One of them is human resource. We get all sorts of people coming to work for different reasons. You spend all the time and resources training them and when they are good, they leave. Some come with a lot of baggage – more than you can meet.
They want to see how they can steal. For some, you give them money and it can’t meet their expectations because they have a lot of demands.
How do you think the ordinary unexposed Ugandan woman can be helped to start a thriving business?
A lot has been done for women … government still has a huge task when it comes to issues like health. But women also need to come out and work harder. If government has put up a road, get something to transport on that road.
In life, nobody is going to bring food to your mouth. Be competitive. Even when you aren’t exposed, join groups of women who speak your language, save the little money you have and push yourself to achieving something.
Any last words?
Women’s day is a special day. Let us enjoy it as women, but also inherit capabilities that make us contribute to our country. We can’t afford to be passive anymore.