The first encounter they had, created a sisterhood that was meant to focus on their social problems. This community of Muslim women in Greater Bushenyi were facing issues such as selective abortion, domestic violence, and disparity in education, child marriages, malnutrition, sexual harassment and lack of property rights, among others. However, soon, simply sharing their experiences was not enough; they believed they had to change their situation together. The answer they found lay in a social enterprise, liquid soap.
Together as one
Muslim Women for Entrepreneurial Development and Self-sustainability was thus born in 2014, with a vision of being a leading Muslim women’s association to unite, empower and mobilise.
They started with initial capital got from fundraising and subscription fee from the members.
They agreed to start with making both bar and liquid soap which they would sell to supermarkets and surrounding institutions including Kampala International University in Ishaka town.
“We came together from different families and contributed Shs15,000, which we used to start making soap. We began making bar soap but it did not meet the required standards, so we settled for liquid soap,” says Aisha Nakalema, the chairperson. They pay Shs5,000 per month as subscription fee.
Today, 56 in number, the members have become economically empowered and are in better position to solve their personal problems.
They have also re-invested in the liquid soap business so they could expand and reach out to other women in the community with an aim of having their business grow into a big business empire with time.
Nakalema reveals that the group manufactures 10 jerricans containing 20litres of liquid soap every week.
Each jerrican costs between Shs28, 000-Shs30, 000 since they are targeting a bigger market.
“We also pack it in small bottles of about one litre and sell it at around Shs2,000 to Shs3,000 to individuals in Ishaka and Bushenyi towns,” she says.
Their soapmaking business faces competition from other competent soap suppliers from Ishaka town and surrounding areas. They have also found it hard penetrating the market since they lack marketing skills.Aisha Biira, the treasurer of the group, says they are looking for other markets in and outside Bushenyi area to have their soap sold for bigger profits to sustain the business.
“Being many members in the group has greatly affected our business. You find that very few members are fully committed to what we are doing.
They do not give priority to our activities. For example, when you call for a meeting and very few will turn up. This has crippled work,” Biira explains.
The group also suffers shortage of raw materials as most can only bought in Kampala and Kasese districts which are far from their business station thus affecting the sales.
Alongside this business and mushroom growing, the women conduct Islamic education, participate in local politics in their communities and train their fellow women through workshops. The group has started a “Madarasa”, an arrangement where Muslim children are taught Islam and its customs. Pupils and students from different Muslim schools meet after classes, during the weekend and holidays for tutorship.
Nakalema explains that their group is looking at growing and increasing their earnings. “We recently got help from the British Council who gave us Shs500,000 and we are selling our stock to add to our savings and buy many sewing machines to start a tailoring business,” she says.
Tailoring business will enable the group make uniforms for schools and institutions around Ishaka and Bushenyi thus soaring the women to greater heights.
Their mission is to embrace small business and enterprise development among the Muslim women for the purpose of Muslim family economic development.