Gulu, UG – At first glance, Agnes’ life story seems like that of a typical Acholi woman. Living in a grass thatched hut in the village of Laroo with her husband and four children, Agnes spends her days as a tailor with a stand she shares with two other women in the Gulu Main Market. Her children, ranging from twin ten year old boys to 14 and 19 year old girls live with her while attending school.
Agnes is now entering her fourth year as a member of Kleos Uganda in which she is currently in her third loan cycle as a member of the Gulu Tailors group. She started with a loan of 250,000 Ugandan shillings (UGX), the equivalent of about $88, which she used to buy new materials for her tailor shop. Back in 2014 when she started, the current Market had yet to be built and she had set up a stall in the land in now occupies. That is where things started to change in the Agnes’ life story.
The differences in her life are not necessarily easy to spot unless you take the time to speak and get to know her. The years that followed included two new loan cycles, the latest of which was for about $140, and the beginnings of subtle changes that will make a long term impact on her life and that of her family. As her business has grown, her increased profits are starting to grow fruit. Her children are now all attending school as she is able to afford school fees for all of them, which has been a constant struggle for her. Additionally, she is now able to buy and store maize flower in larger quantities, which allows her to stretch her funds, while ensuring her family is able to eat full meals. While those impacts are subtle, well fed and well educated children will lead to the long term impact Kleos is focusing on.
The improvements for Agnes came during a tough stretch for her family. Her husband, who works as a butcher, has been struggling financially for the last couple of years, which could have led to disastrous results for her family. Instead, with her flourishing business, Agnes is now the main earner in her household and the family is in even better position to meet their needs than they were when the butchery business was doing well.
Agnes has enjoyed her years as a Kleos member, and credits the staff with how they treat the members. She sees the difference with Kleos, where members are treated as people first, and the staff are there to support them in their success. She was especially thankful for the flexibility she was shown when she fell ill and wasn’t able to make her repayments. Rather than be punished, she was granted a break from her payments until she was healthy enough to continue with her work. She also credits the low interest rates with ensuring loans are easy to repay. Now, she says on her third loan, she has no problem with the payments because her profits have increased so much!
When speaking of her own future, Agnes has one major goal in mind: to buy land for her and her family where they can build a home and no longer have to rent their hut. The goal of buying your own land you can build on and live off of is widespread among people in Gulu, although for many it remains a distant dream. For Agnes, she says if all goes well, she may be able to buy land within the next two years! Once that happens, Agnes may just become one of those successes who no longer needs to rely on any aid at all, as economic independence is already in her sights!