Agriterra trained 14 strong willed female (future) leaders in the first ever ‘Female Leadership in Agricultural Cooperatives Masterclass’, held in Kenya. The group is composed of Zambian, Ugandese and Kenyan participants, representing organisations that are active in coffee, dairy, sunflower or credit and saving.
Main purpose of the masterclass is to strengthen the leadership skills of these women. These highly motivated cooperative leaders return full of energy and ambitions back to their respective cooperatives, better equipped to take up their leadership roles and make a change contributing to closing the gender gap in agricultural cooperatives.
Costance Asiimwe is a young woman from Kabale in the south-west of Uganda. She grew up in a large polygamous family composed of a father, his 3 wives and 14 children. It was not an easy start as the family was large and resources were limited.
When Costance was in class 5 of primary school, she had to take care of her mother, who was sick. She was very determined about her future and had 2 principles: she did not want to end up in an early marriage and she wanted to live as an example to her younger siblings.
"Through sharing and interacting with women from different countries, we have acquired a lot of knowledge."
When she was in class 7, her father told her that there was no money to pay her school fees anymore. Costance decided to leave the village and go to town to find a job. From her first salary, she bought clothes and shoes to look more representative and to give herself the status she deserved. After one year of hard work, she had saved enough money to continue her school and further studies, without any support from her father.
She continued to study and became a banking officer at Lyamujungu SACCO. Because of her hard work and sincerity, the SACCO promoted her and she became the first female credit officer, driving a motorbike to visit remote clients. After that, she was promoted to branch manager and recently, she became the internal auditor of the SACCO. She still continues with her studies now and is about to complete her MBA.
Costance is active in mobilising women, not only in her SACCO but also in her own church, society, and the neighbourhood she lives in. She started a SACCO for the staff of Lyamujungu SACCO and set up various credit and saving groups in her neighbourhood. She always leads by example and is honest and dedicated.
In August 2019, Costance participated in the Female Leadership Training organised by Agriterra. The Lyamujungu team analysed its products and decided that it was time do develop products that better suited female needs. They are working hard on this new product and it is almost ready. Costance also argues for more women in credit officers’ positions that were only occupied by men, because, according to Costance, women don’t accept bribes. So far, one female credit officer has been appointed.
Costance participated in the Female Masterclass in Nairobi, an unforgettable experience for her: “It was my first time out of Uganda and through sharing and interacting with women from different countries, we have acquired a lot of knowledge, such as negotiation tips and the improvement of communication through the MAFSAC model. This knowledge is vital for the implementation of the action plan and the development of women and the SACCO at large. During this Female Masterclass, we realised that, if we want women to succeed, men should be actively involved”.