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Nurturing women leaders in Entrepreneurship- A case of Rose Akot in Agago District

posted 22 Apr 2021, 00:38 by RCN Uganda   [ updated 22 Apr 2021, 00:41 ]

John Mutebe -Water and Sanitation Entrepreneurs’ Association Uganda (WASEU)


The baseline survey conducted by the Uganda WASH Alliance team in 2018 and the survey that profiled entrepreneurs by WASEU in 2018 revealed that women represent 10% of the WASH entrepreneurs in Agago due to the high illiteracy levels of women. This posed a challenge since it affected how women managed the business. Women also had a low inclination and access to learn about WASH as a business since culturally, work such as masonry and pit emptying, are more aligned to men than women.
Moreover, when it came to owning a business and making decisions women relied on men since businesses were handed over to them by their husbands to whom they were accountable. This affected women’s ability to make decisions or have a say in the business. As a result, women were not motivated to take on WASH businesses or sustain them.
Having identified this gap WASEU made efforts of empowering and recruiting women into the WASH supply chain as entrepreneurs and leaders.

Description of the Case Study

WASEU seeks to increase the availability of inclusive and sustainable WASH products and services for households and institutional clients by establishing and strengthening the supply chain.
WASEU expects to boost the supply of quality WASH services and products to households and institutions. Through scaling up access to finance, developing the capacities of Water and Sanitation Nature-based Entrepreneurs (WASHNAB) to provide quality and affordable services/products and building strong relationships among different supply chain actors by establishing and strengthening WASHNAB associations.

The Association works in partnership with Simavi, the Uganda WASH alliance partners (HEWASA, JESE, Amref Health Africa Uganda, AFRST, Akvo and NETWAS) and other stakeholders in the Agago sub-catchment area to implement the Uganda WASH Alliance sub-programme.

In 2018, WASEU embarked on the task of strengthening the capacities of the WASH entrepreneurs to provide quality and affordable services/products as well as building strong relationships among different supply chain actors through establishing and strengthening WASHNAB associations as part of the wider Uganda WASH Alliance sub-programme in Agago.
The following software, activities were carried out to empower the WASH entrepreneurs and more specifically the women WASH entrepreneurs during the period June 2018 to November 2019; A supply chain analysis to find out the supply chain actors, WASH products on the market, price trends, product availability/accessibility, major bottlenecks, and business opportunities.

    • Profiling and mapping entrepreneurs
    • Training in Business management skills
    • Formation of new associations and strengthening existing ones.
    • Business Mentorship and follow-ups

Consequently, during the implementation of the programme, one female change agent and champion called Rose Akot stood out and is inspiring other entrepreneurs and women to join the WASH product/service supply chain and business. WASEU supported Rose with business management skills and awarded her the opportunity to mentor fellow WASH entrepreneurs under the Uganda WASH Alliance sub-programme.

Rose Akot says that due to WASEU’s contribution, she has learned as a business mentor to communicate and express her views as well as influence other entrepreneurs into initiating WASH as a business.

Profiling Rose Akot
Rose discovered she could be a WASH professional when equipment at the Hand Pump Association went missing and the Association fired the storekeeper. As they searched for a trustworthy replacement, Rose Akot was selected as the new storekeeper. While tending to the store her interest in working with the equipment took root and when the opportunity to train Hand Pump Mechanics emerged. Rose enrolled in the training and gained the skills. Her life was transformed from a local housewife without hardware skills and business acumen, to a life of a hand pump mechanic recognized by both men and women in her community.
Soon Rose became the Treasurer of the Association. This gave her more insight into managing finances alongside the hand pump operational needs.
However, her allowance at the Association was a meagre 50,000UGX per month. This triggered her sense of going private. Rose started gathering women and started a saving group and initiatives such as garbage collection. Rose enrolled in a WASH business training organized by WASEU where she got a lot of knowledge and skills on business opportunities in WASH. From this knowledge acquired, Rose supported her group to grow into Agago Waste Management Association which she is heading today as she continues inspiring women to join the WASH business interventions in her community.

Rose leads a group of 150 women and 18 male members. She mentors them in WASH opportunities and merging their efforts, to transform the sanitation and hygiene status in their community. She also continues to serve as a hand pump mechanic in her community. Rose‘s income has also soured and she earns 200,000UGX monthly according to her estimates. She is now able to help offer financial support to the family needs and grow her business.


    • With the election of a female Chairperson for the Agago Waste Management Association, more (150) women have enrolled in the Association and taken on waste management business initiatives including garbage collection. Also, they have registered a need to learn more about waste recycling, particularly in briquette making and crafts.
    • From the garbage collection business, the women have been able to get short term contracts from Agago District Headquarters Offices, which awarded them 600,000UGX.
    • They have also used this business as a means of promoting sanitation and hygiene hence conducting waste management campaigns in Patongo Secondary School and Agago Lukole Health Centre III.
    • The Agago Waste Management Association is currently working on registering into a company that should give it more mileage in winning contracts.
    • The 168 members in the Association have contributed 652,000UGX in membership collections and are working on opening a bank account at DFCU bank.
    • Having Rose Akot elected to lead the Agago United Waste Management Association with support from both men and women in the Association, showed society was now receptive of women leading as well taking on manual labour in WASH.


    1. The community continues to be convinced that waste management is a personal initiative and a free service. This affects the garbage collection mode of business. That is why the Association has had garbage collection campaigns, where they hope the community will embrace the practice.
    2. There is a high level of stereotyping “Women are good for the home not business.” Men (husbands) tend to control women’s income and what they do. The rise of women like Rose Akot and the women she has recruited is slowly changing the attitudes people have towards women engaging in business in Agago District.

Lessons Learnt

    • When women are given a chance to take on leadership roles and have the ability to make critical decisions, they can inspire other women to participate in the WASH supply chain.
    • Involving both men and women in Software and Hardware WASH training and activities alert them to realize they have the same potential to do WASH as a business and become WASH leaders as well as promoters.
    • By empowering women in WASH business skills. Women are steered to join the trade, start WASH businesses as well as engage in them and make critical business decisions.
    • Rose’s efforts with the support of WASEU, to merge women groups into the Association, has given the groups more recognition and opportunities than they had before, as they worked in smaller groups.

Critical Factors for Success

    1. The Business Mentor approach strengthens the capacity of women joining WASH business initiatives. This is because mentorship goes beyond training to include coaching.
    2. Having an Association is a better way of improving visibility, peer support and resource pooling.
    3. The local government support the Association's WASH as a business effort. Gives women and the community confidence in what they are doing. This gradually changes the perception both women and the community have about women engaged in business and particularly manual WASH interventions.