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Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) are a vital force in the fight against domestic violence in Eastern Uganda

When Norah (pseudonym) gave birth to her fifth child, her husband’s character drastically changed. He began drinking and coming back late at home. His provision to the household also became scanty and less. As time passed, the violence shifted from emotional to physical. Her husband had no fear and would physically assault her in front of the children.

By her sixth pregnancy, the pain was too immense and their marriage was almost non-existent. Around the same time, Norah’s firstborn, a teen daughter, also became pregnant. Due to the low income, the girl had to go into marriage as they had no means of taking her back to school and caring for the baby along with her five younger siblings.

Norah’s husband only did casual work and had no major source of income. This put a strain on her relationship as he viewed the family as a heavy burden. Norah relied solely on farming but still struggled to cater for food for the household.

Recognizing that their situation was a result of financial instability, Norah devised a plan to save her marriage and protect her children from the effects of poverty. She joined the Onongo Timteko Village Savings group in Busia District and started with a modest savings of 1,000 Ugshs. She later secured a soft loan of 50,000 Ugshs and set up a fish-selling business. At first, Norah would buy fish from the local vendors, deep fry and sell it to the nearby customers.

Norah deep frying fish for selling

A year later, Norah expanded her business, sourcing fish directly from the landing site, supplying local vendors, and selling in the market. This expansion bolstered her income significantly.

Norah testifies that earning some income as a woman has changed her husband’s perception of her. She is now considered a valuable member of the family and has stopped the abuse. Her husband has become more supportive, occasionally assisting with the business.

“Whenever I fall sick, my husband is more worried than I am. He ensures that I receive the needed care and treatment saying ‘You need to get well soon and take care of the business, who will take care of the family when you sick, our lives are dependent on your health’”, Norah reiterated.

Unfortunately, Norah’s daughter succumbed to HIV/AIDS, leaving behind a three-year-old daughter who is also HIV positive. Norah assumed responsibility for the child, ensuring she receive the necessary medical care and education. She is now determined to shield her remaining children from similar adversities.

Norah’s fish-selling business has grown to a capital base of 300,000 Ugshs and has also expanded into poultry farming. While her husband still lacks steady employment, he has joined the savings group, aiding Norah in accessing loans for business expansion. He also assists in transporting fish on a bicycle.

Despite ongoing challenges with school fees, Norah credits the VSLA for bringing peace to her home. She is hopeful that the future is bright for her and her family. This reaffirms the common saying in Uganda: “A man loves you truly when you bring something to the table”

Agnes Tumuheire

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