Partnership Update, December 2019:
Minga is supporting the Lubengoa Women Development Association (LUWODEA), founded in 2003 by a group of women seeking to improve economic opportunities for HIV positive women in rural Kamuli District of Uganda. LUWODEA’s initial project was a village savings and loan system, which has been quite successful in expanding opportunities for women. Now, with support from Minga, LUWODEA is further enhancing women’s economic power through food security and menstrual hygiene projects.
Our work with LUWODEA really demonstrates Minga’s holistic approach to global health and development. Rural Ugandan households affected by HIV/AIDS struggle with food insecurity and undernutrition due to basic resource limitations, recent droughts, and the lack of agricultural extension services. We then see a downward spiral as malnutrition exacerbates their illness, and HIV/AIDS treatments take time and resources away from farms. Many women have had to spend savings or sell land to pay for family members’ treatment, leaving them with virtually nothing to reinvest in building more sustainable and diversified family farms. LUWODEA’s work is especially inspiring because they don’t just provide medications or build gardens; they’re also creating their own network of female agricultural extension workers to benefit the whole region. This year, your support helped LUWODEA made significant advances:
- Training 100 more women extension workers—LUWODEA’s train-the-trainer model meant that, after a 14-day training, these women went on to train and offer long-term support in organic farming to 1000 additional households;
- Purchasing 1.7 acres of land to ensure that LUWODEA has permanent access to their demonstration and training farm;
- Sending 5 female extension workers to Kampala for a national agricultural conference, where they were able to learn from and network with other organizations across the country;
- Developing their staff and basic office equipment to enhance the organization’s effectiveness, especially in terms of needs assessment and monitoring and evaluation of projects.
The results? LUWODEA’s large and well-designed survey revealed impressive results.
- Food production improved for 75% of participating households;
- Participating villages saw a 9.4% reduction in child undernourishment, a 17% increase in school attendance, and a 21% increase in use of free HIV/AIDS testing and counseling.
- And amazingly, LUWODEA found that the number of women in these villages who own assets and actively participate in economic decision making more than doubled!
Over the past year, Minga has worked closely with LUWODEA to develop a new menstrual health and women’s economic empowerment project. Their project is centered around a women-run menstrual pad factory that will provide low-cost, sanitary, reusable menstrual pads to local girls and women while also generating employment for local women and funds for LUWODEA. A central goal is to improve schoolgirls’ attendance and support their long-term health and empowerment. Importantly, this program follows the best science on menstrual health interventions for schoolgirls, which underscores the need to increase access to menstrual health products while simultaneously addressing the stigma that girls and women face and improving toilet facilities at schools. With help from students at Appalachian State University and the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, LUWODEA enhanced their business plan, won a $15,000 grant from The Irving Foundation, conducted baseline research and developed a reproductive health curriculum, and began construction of the menstrual pad factory. In the next year, we hope to see the MHM project completed so the women of the Kamuli District and LUWODEA have even more power to advance their own health and well-being on their own terms.