Economic Empowerment for Pastoralist Women: A Comparative Look at Program Experience in Uganda, Somaliland and Sudan
By John Livingstone & Everse Ruhindi
PENHA (the Pastoral & Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa) is a regional NGO, focused on pastoral development, operating across the Greater Horn, with offices in Uganda, Somaliland, Sudan and Eritrea. PENHA has a longstanding commitment to gender equality, with a strong public statement in its Nazareth (Ethiopia) Declaration of 1995, and a series of contextspecific studies on gender and pastoralism. Subsequently, different PENHA country chapters pushed for increased attention to gender and efforts to promote social change, often against resistance from those wanting an almost exclusive focus on things such as animal health and water supply. There is now a broad consensus on the centrality of gender in development, but pastoralist women remain under-served by governments and development agencies, the marginalized of the marginalized. In 2007, PENHA undertook a regional Women’s Economic Empowerment program, funded by DANIDA. The program covers selected pastoralist communities in Uganda, Somaliland and Sudan.
This paper seeks to draw lessons from program experience in the three countries. It points to the effectiveness of business skills training for women’s groups in pastoral areas, when combined with grants for rotating funds that enable women to acquire productive assets and expand their micro-enterprises. While, microcredit may be difficult to implement with partly mobile communities in which women do own land or assets that can be used as collateral, it is increasingly viable in the growing towns and trading centres in and around which pastoralists are living more settled lives. The value of support for women’s micro-enterprises is recognized, with significant social impacts through increased household spending on children’s health and education, as well as strengthened women’s groups that can support a wide variety of activities outside the home. But, the paper also points to the need for efforts at the “meso” level to promote small and medium sized enterprises that can employ significant numbers of women, as well as to work at the macro (policy) level to promote a more business-friendly environment, with supportive transport and communications infrastructure and regulatory frameworks.