As she ushers us to a tree shade in her compound, Santina Apio beams with happiness and when one of our colleagues comments about her being jolly, she says, “it’s because I feel like a new person given the achievements I have realized in the past few months.”
The 54-year-old widow is a resident of Aroo Parish, Awach Sub County, Abim District. She says she got a new perspective to life after joining a Self Help Group (SHG) in her parish.
“I joined Tamgum (loosely translated as try your luck) SHG in April 2017 after being sensitized about the advantages of being in such a group.”
The mother of five explains that some of the benefits she was told was the ability to access loans and getting general information about life.
She says that with this information, she joined a group of women within their area and with guidance from Share An Opportunity Uganda (SAO U) they moved throughout the community mobilizing other women to come for the first meeting.
‘In this meeting, the team from SAO did wealth ranking through which they looked out for the most vulnerable women.”
According to Jimmy Ogwang, a Volunteer with SAO, women in the communities selected the different SHG members. “The group members selected women they felt needed a lot of help. They did this using different parameters such as land, education level, animals and income levels among others. So those who scored the least were chosen as the most vulnerable.”
Santina was one of those who were selected and she explains that after forming these groups, members were encouraged to start saving. “Whenever we would meet on Tuesdays, we each saved Shs1,000.”
Santina says she had saved for one month when she decided to take a loan of Shs50,000. “I got a loan because I wanted to expand my business to include other items besides silver fish.”
When she got the loan in May, Santina bought soap, biscuits, salt, match boxes, more silver fish and sorghum. I have so far made profits of Shs180,000 and I completed the loan payment in November 2017.”
A changed lifestyle
“Ever since I joined the SHG and got that loan, I always have money on me and nowadays, I always pay my five children’s examination fees before they go back to school.”
Santina says this was not the case before because her children would at times miss their exams because she had failed to pay the examination fees.
“I used not to have a balanced diet but with my increased household income, I can now eat different food and I can even afford meat and buy cooking oil to fry our sauce.”
Santina adds that she has also learnt many things from the SHG because whenever they meet, the moderator talks about different topics such as sanitation, how to improve livelihoods and members also share experiences. “They also teach us how to diet within our means.”
With her improved income, Santina plans on making her life even much better. “Since I am also a farmer and I have been using the hand hoe for digging. I want to save money and buy an ox plough within two to three years. I also want to educate my children up to university and also make sure that I build a permanent house,” she says with a smile.