Preparing for 2021 and Beyond
In 2014, Africa Development Program launched its programs in Rwanda and Uganda with a mission to drive the collective action of rural entrepreneurial women to advance sustainable business and economic independence. We knew that we wanted to work with groups of women because we believe that collective action, training, and enterprise are proven pathways for empowering rural women to achieve their livelihood goals.
We also knew that our entry point would be agriculture because seventy percent of rural women practice rain-fed subsistence farming. From the onset we knew that we would take our lead from the women’s own understanding of their needs and aspirations and build on the strengths and success of existing collectives/ cooperatives. In addition, we would work alongside the local government to insure the sustainability of our efforts. Our programs have yielded significant success for over 450 women who are now members of thriving cooperatives.
What we have learned, as we have grown, is that if we want to promote women economic empowerment, we must look beyond a single-entry point – agriculture – and instead adopt a more flexible approach to address the needs and concerns of women farmers. Since most of the households that we support are not connected to the electricity grid, access to solar energy would greatly enhance their livelihood. In addition, many of the cooperative members are interested in starting micro-businesses therefore, there is a need for vocational and small-business training. It is this learning that led us, in 2019, to add a vocation program and solar kiosks (run by women and that sell solar home lighting products) to our program offering.
Time for Reflection
With the advent of the pandemic and its restrictions, Africa Development Promise has been working on short-term coping mechanisms for rural households but it has also given us an opportunity to reflect and improve. Our 2021 -2025 Strategic Plan process started with a heartfelt conversation about our mission statement. With the added programs does the mission statement really capture what we intend? Other questions that came up were “does Africa Development Promise actually drive the collective action of rural women or do we take our lead from existing cooperatives goals and aspirations?”, “does what we do lead to economic independence or improved livelihood?”
After weeks of discussion, we agreed on this new mission statement: To improve the lives and livelihoods of rural women in East Africa through training and resources that support their collective efforts to operate competitively in the marketplace. We wanted to ensure that rather than focus on Africa Development Promise’s efforts that instead we honor the women’s collective effort and their desire to operate competitively. We also wanted to capture the fact that we support other livelihood opportunities besides agriculture.
In the months ahead, we will be sharing with you the additional changes to our strategic plan but wanted to take this opportunity to share this important change. We look forward to your continued support as we expand our work to reach more rural women in Rwanda and Uganda.
Monica LaBiche Brown