WEEP review – 16th – 17th December 2010 The African Women’s Economic Policy Network (AWEPON) organized a two days workshop at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala – Uganda which took place from 16th to 17th December 2010. The major objective of the workshop was to assess, evaluate and review progress of one of its major Danida funded programs named the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program (WEEP). The WEEP project was launched in 2009 and the project was in its second year of implementation.
The workshop was attended by 36 participants; out of whom 29 were females and 7 males. All participants were representatives from all the six WEEP implementing countries that is Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon. Members of AWEPON’s Finance and Administration committee, and the Steering committee from the different countries also attended the workshop.
During the workshop, all WEEP implementing countries gave an up date of the project progress. Successes,
achievements, challenges were highlighted and a way forward was decided upon. Successes highlighted indicated that at secretariat level, staffing, organization structure, and policies had been reviewed and strengthened. Employment of interns / volunteers at the secretariat from member countries had strengthened collaboration within member countries. The finance department had acquired a soft ware to assist in managing project finances and more computers and furniture had been purchased to ease workload. At Focal point levels, institutional capacity had improved in terms of financial and narrative reporting. AWEPON’s membership had increased in all WEEP implementing countries due to collaboration with grassroots CBOs and NGOs as the project was being implemented.
At community levels, skills had been developed among the women beneficiaries in areas of business, production, marketing, negotiation skills, self reliance, group development and dynamics, due to the various trainings. At household levels, there was improvement in women’s capacity to provide for the families and to make economic decisions due to increased incomes and access to markets. In Lesotho for example after sensitization women could ably sign project contracts without seeking authority from their husbands. Many women gained employment for example to make briquettes in Uganda milling in DRC, bricks, tents and chairs hire in Kenya, fish smoking and processing in Cameroon, and piggery and poultry rearing in Lesotho. Women entrepreneurs in the area of manufacturing such as wine had been linked to national boards of standards for quality standardization purposes, and others had been linked to trade fairs and exhibitions to explore more market opportunities.
To increase women’s access to markets, market information brochures and leaflets were developed and circulated, messages were being sent through mobile telephones and public gatherings were being used for women to expose their products. AWEPON secretariat had organized an exposure / exchange visit for women from other countries to Kenya which had enabled them to gain more skills and knowledge through observations and sharing, Monitoring and evaluation of the project had been carried out by the Finance Officer from AWEPON secretariat who visited all focal points in the WEEP implementing countries. She had visited the project activities and supported / guided more in areas of financial management systems as per the DANIDA guidelines. AWEPON secretariat had developed simplified information kits to assist focal points in identifying Income generating activities, simple but appropriate technology for women, selection of groups,market access and market opportunities for women. Among the challenges noted during the WEEP review was the fact that that the project had generated a lot of enthusiasm and interest and more groups were applying to be trained in all countries but funds were limited. Project administrative costs were quite high due to the coordination of logistics for the various project activities yet this was not considered in the initial budget.
The cost for standardization of manufactured products was too high for the women yet products needed to be standardized. Lessons learnt during the WEEP review were that the WEEP activities were practical in nature and related very well to the immediate environment of the women and youth and community needs. This had enhanced ownership of the project in all countries by the grass root women and other community members and created a lot of hope for poverty eradication. In addition, the activities under WEEP were unique and had enhanced AWEPON’s publicity and visibility. As a way forward, AWEPON members felt that more still needed to be done in areas of economic training and sensitization on gender and socio transformation.
This was because there was still resistance from husbands for married women, especially when it came to making economic decisions in the homes. For example in Cameroon there were still cultural laws that allowed husbands to stop or allow their wives to work, but this was slowly changing.