International Women’s Day: The Thing About Women

Women Executive panel

Last Saturday 2 March 2013, I convened a meeting in Kampala the capital of Uganda, to explore the business case for women as part of global supply chains . The panelists were some of the most successful business women and executives the country has to offer including the Minister for Trade and Industry.

By the end of the day I came away feeling that the meeting had in fact raised more questions than it answered. And these are that ones that stood out for me

  1. Are women disadvantaged by their gender?
  2. Are women capable of empowering themselves or this is the job of men?
  3. Do women hold onto cultural practices that hold them back?
  4. What are women like as employers of other women? Are they for instance more understanding when it comes to issues of child care etc?
  5. Are women deserving of special treatment when it comes to global supply chains?
  6. Are women their own worst enemies?
  7. Do Multinational companies prefer to work with women?
  8. Are there gender barriers in business?
  9. Is the rural woman deserving of special treatment over an urban women in business?
  10. Should employers take extra steps to ensure that a woman’s income doesn’t end up in the man’s pocket/drinking den?
  11. What is happening in the Home? Are girls being raised with enough confidence in themselves and or their abilities?
  12. How about collaboration? Can women leverage their networks in order to supply into global chains or are they working in isolation?


Employees of Perfect Roses Uganda

What about the rural Woman? The Minister for Trade and Industry spoke passionately about the plight of the rural African woman and cited several challenges faced by the rural woman including cultural practices such as polygamous marriages, access to knowledge/information, financial training etc. The Minister challenged the audience to take action to address the plight of the rural woman.

But is the minister right to be concerned about the rural woman? I certainly think so. Whilst the urban woman has choices and is aware of her rights this isn’t necessarily the case for the rural women, who typically passes her days doing working the land for very little reward.  When this becomes too much to bear, the young women in particular give up and head to the cities. The city often has very little to offer this rural to urban migrant and according to one taxi driver this type of woman often turns to prostitution.

There seemed to be unified agreement that in order to adress some of these challenges, it is necessary to ensure that agriculture as seen and treated as a serious business and make it pay, this would in turn stem the rural to urban migration trends.

Young girls in rural areas should be supported to remain within the education system for as long as the boys are. It was further agreed that the education system should be examined to ensure that as well as academic grades, girls should acquire skills that would ensure their financial independence .


And then there is the media!

  1. Does the media give women a raw deal by promoting poor images of women?

Like I said I came away with more questions than answers, this is not such a bad things actually as it will force me to continue to explore the issues raised.

And the thing about women?  Are we really our own worst enemy?

Join the conversation 


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Bridging the financing gap in agriculture value chains




Photo by Ida Horner : Ruhanga SW Uganda

This was the topic for discussion this week over at Business Fights Poverty following an event hosted at Citi Bank in London on Monday 11 Feb 2013.

What was interesting for me is the discussions on development are changing in the sense that development folk appreciate that issues of development cannot be addressed in isolation.

In particular Dougie Brew from Unilever acknowledged the fact that Unilever is best at Business and will not be drawn into providing social services as someone else is best placed to provide these. I didn’t take this to mean that Unilever do not care about the welfare of the communities within which they work, instead that Unilever recognises the fact that their skills set isn’t best placed to deliver social services. 

The key message during the evening was that, the picture in the field is more of a mosaic where various entities, individuals, governments etc come together to bring about results that impact development. In my view this is  an important development,  we need focus our efforts and resources on collaborative or multilateral working for greater impact.

Back to the question of financing for smallholder farmers, one of the biggest huddles they face is landownership, or rather the failure to prove that they own the land they farm. This in turn means that they have no security  as the land can be ceased, in turn they cannot use the land as collateral to asking cheap funding at the banks. The banks in turn cannot take risks upon farmers. I met one such farmer in Masindi NW Uganda and in this post he told me about the reality of their situation

Other challenges faced by smallholder farmers are to do with climate change, fires due to very hot weather and mudslides due to heavy rains have become common occurrences, Smallholder are hardly equipped to deal with such events.


The message from the meeting was clear, money is important to enable farmers to scale their enterprises but it isn’t the be all!

The issues that face smallholder farmers looking to join value chains are complex and need all of our collective efforts, skills and resources.

We will continue this conversation in Kampala on 2/3/13 join us there if you can



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Bridging the Gap for African Women In Business

Bridging the Gap for African Women in Business meeting is convened by Ida Horner of Ethnic Supplies and the Trustees of the Charity Let Them Help Themselves out of Poverty a community development and UK Registered, ahead of International Women’s Day 2013.


The meeting focuses on the Supply chains of Multi National Corporations (MNCs) and brings together Business Executives from MNCs, women who run Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in East Africa, Donors and academics.


According to the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) Women account for 60% of the world’s working poor but own less than 10% of the world’s property. Discriminatory practices at workplaces, in regulation and in the home stifle women’s entrepreneurial drive. Investing in women can be transformational.

Whilst Research commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that many international food companies could improve crop productivity and quality, grow the smallholder supply base and improve access to high value markets when they increase women participation


However in spite of such evidence problems for African Women in business persist and the same research identifies some of the challenges faced by women in the agriculture sector but these problems could be true for other sectors


1. Fewer women are members of company contract farming schemes than men

2. Many companies source from established producer groups, yet women are typically underrepresented in both membership and governance of these groups

3. On male owned farms, female family members do much of the work, yet receive little of the income from crop sales, and have little say about how that income is spent

4. Women are much less likely than men to benefit from technical training and extension programs

5. Sustainability certification schemes are also less likely to benefit women than men


Within that context the meeting will explore the opportunities that exist for African Women to join the supply chains of MNCs as well as the business case for women being part of such supply chains both as suppliers of goods and services.


The findings from this event will be fed back to Business Fights Poverty a network of Business Professionals, Multinational companies, Academics and Donors. The findings will also inform a separate piece of work that is underway at the Centre for Africa Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London



Events structure

The event in Uganda will be will be split into two sessions,

1. The morning session will be for invited guests only. The session will focus on equipping delegates with practical skills in the following areas; use of Social Media as a marketing tool, networking skills for business success

2. The afternoon session is a business discussion and will feature two panel sessions;

a. The first panel will comprise of female Business Executives who will explore the challenges they face in getting women to supply into MNCs



Dr. Maggie Kigozi- Director, Crown Beverages
Olive Kigongo- President, Uganda Chamber of Commerce and Managing Director, Amagara Skin Care
Amina Hersi Moghe – Proprietor, Kingstone Enterprises Limited
Ms. Cornelia K. Sabiiti – Executive Director, Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority
Dorothy Tuma – Consultant, DMT Consult Ltd


b. The second panel will comprise of East African women in Business who are successfully supplying into MNCs




Jennifer Mwijukye – Managing Director, Unifreight Cargo Handling Services
Maria Odido Difonzo – Chief Executive Officer, Bee Natural Uganda Ltd
Julian Omalla Adyeri – Managing Director Delight Uganda Limited
Josephine Okot – Managing Director Victoria Seeds Ltd
Prudence Ukkonika- Managing Director K-roma Enterprises
Hope Kabirisi – Managing Director, Perfect Roses Farm Ltd

The event is sponsored by



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