Next Steps: ETC @ GDPU in July

The ECT @ GDPU team have been very busy in Gulu and Acet this month carrying out the first training sessions on areas of weakness identified by the pilot groups themselves. These groups included Nyeko Rac Hairdressing and Cosmetology and 6 Members of Gulu Pwds Electronics Repair & Maintenance, Rwot Aye-Twero and Kica Pa Rwot Knitting group and some of the students studying at GDPU  also attended the trainings in business plan development and conflict resolution in group dynamics.

July Training in Acet 3
Prayers before training begins

It is great to see that the training given directly reflects the needs identified in earlier months. Although this is a pilot, it is reassuring to see that the activities reported for July are all focused on building the participants abilities to sustain their own future.


July Training in Gulu
Record Keeping Training in Gulu

As a pilot phase the July report raises questions, but these concern methods of delivery rather than direction of travel; in particular:

  • Group and personal dynamics are going to be the crucial element for these participants as they establish their sustainable future (low self-esteem is an important factor to work on) .
  • Core Skills: Building up core vocational skills alongside developing knowledge about basic business procedures is a slow process with constant reappraisal

    Sweater Weaving Training 2
    Sweater Weaving Training; updating core skills
  • Memory: during the pilot, facilitators and the project team will working on the best ways for students to develop what they already know, to learn new things and most importantly, to remember what they have learnt and apply it as part of a long term process. Classes are conducted in Acholi (the local language) and texts are translated, using local knowledge; stories and culture will help ground what is learnt.
  • Absenteeism: a major difficulty with frequent refreshers is frequent absenteeism, so the Gulu team will be concentrating on follow up support in the workplace rather than in the classroom.

    July Training in Gulu 3
    July Training in Gulu at GDPU
  • Mentors: The team in Gulu are looking to find role models who can talk about their enterprises to motivate members. These role models will also become part of the network that students can use on their own for further learning through mentorship, and of course students will become mentors in their own right as the project develops.
  • Numeracy/ Literacy: low skills in this crucial area are already holding students back, work on record keeping/ planning will demand more work on numeracy and literacy as the project develops.

    Record Keeping Training in Gulu
    Record Keeping Training in Gulu

Lastly, some other routes to sustainability, identified in the project proposals and initial audit, will be further emphasized as time goes on:

  • Diversification as a survival mechanism, so that if one aspect of the enterprise temporarily fails there are others that will keep it afloat;
  • The role of Village Savings and Loans Associations as a ‘pull factor’: keeping group members together and the single activity around which other group activities revolve. However the group numbers in our pilots are small, eg Gulu PWD electronics 6 members, and Nyeko Rac group in Odek are 5 members. As they have suggested that they need training on VSLA to increase their savings, ECT @ GDPU will support the groups in this area, perhaps joining with other interested colleagues to make a total of 10 members at minimum. VSLA groups usually meet on weekly basis to deposit savings and we think this could be a motivating factor to work harder, so that you have some saving each week.

    July Training in Acet
    July Training in Acet

The Future

The project team in Gulu have obviously realised these difficulties and factored in a series of follow up sessions across the range of areas identified. It will be exciting to see how these develop. Activities for August include: training in conflict resolution and group dynamics at Acet Centre; skills training in Hairdressing covering areas of Styling, Pencil, dreadlocks etc; training in electronic repair and maintenance in areas of radio, TV, phones and DVD players etc in Gulu Municipality. A busy and productive month to come: pushing on well indeed!

July Training in Gulu 4
July Training in Gulu at GDPU

Next Steps: June Report for ETC @ GDPU

Project officer training and sharing knowledge
ETC @ GDPU Project officer training and sharing knowledge with Gulu PWDs and Akera Robert

The ETC @ GDPU project officer (Musema Faruk) has come back with his June report detailing the very first pilot group Knowledge Sharing meetings, an exciting step forward. In summary, there were two meetings, one in Acet about 30 miles out of Gulu town, with Hairdressers and Sweater Weavers,. The other was in town at GDPU itself, with one electronics group and one electronics individual enterprise.

The purpose of both meetings was to begin to find out what each group thinks they need to sustain and develop their businesses.

The ETC @ GDPU project officer at the Knowledge Sharing and Planning Meeting with Nyeko Rac enterprise and Rwot Aye Twero knitting enterprise in Omoro

Training needs:

In essence what the groups want to do is:

Upgrade their core vocational skills,

Develop their offer to customers

Learn how to plan effectively for that development

Learn better record keeping

Train for better group dynamics

Find out how to work with money/ learn a ‘Savings Culture’

Find out how to pay for the above

Diversify, especially into agriculture, to cover lean times

Akera Roberts Businesss Enterprise
Akera Roberts, individual Businesss Enterprise


These training needs imply greater investment, helping each group find the money for that investment is one of the next steps for this project. In his initial audit reports, Faruk noted that group members find it almost impossible to access bank accounts, loans or possible grants, although some have started to use Village Savings and Loan Associations (micro savings and finance). He thinks this is down to a combination of poor self-esteem, lack of knowledge and barriers (physical and cultural) erected by the institutions themselves.

All groups want to acquire new equipment (sweater weaving machines/ sewing machines/ portable generators/ carry wider stock etc) but apart from learning how to use, maintain and repair them well, owning such equipment brings inevitable security problems. Theft by others, by group members or by domineering relatives is a common problem and solutions will need to be found.

Faruk reports that fear of taking risk, poor group dynamics and low self-esteem might well hold all the groups back in taking the next steps, so careful psycho-social support will need to be part of the pilot and subsequent programme.

The Knowledge Sharing and Planning Meeting with Nyeko Rac enterprise and Rwot Aye Twero knitting enterprise in Omoro

All in all though, some great steps forward; really pushing on well!

Still Pushing On: three key questions for ETC @ GDPU

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The Nyeko Rac Business group signboard at Acet (note that they are registered with the local authority, very important)

Still Pushing On: three key questions for ECT @ GDPU

  1. What do you need to set up a small business and keep it going?
  2. What do you need to run a sustainable small business in Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa?
  3. What do you need succeed in a small business in that district if you are a person with disabilities?

These are some of the questions that the ‘Enhancing the Capacity at Gulu Disabled Persons Union; (ETC @ GDPU) project is starting to look at.

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Bicycle Repair: Tam Anyim Youth Enterprise

Where are we up to?

GDPU have come back with the first assessment of the nine existing business groups that were set up by students with disabilities under the Youth Development Programme in 2015. There are 4 x electronics repairs groups. 2 x hairdressers. 2 x Sweater weavers. 1 x motorcycle and bicycle repairs. The electronics groups seem to be the most financially successful, partly because they are based in the centre of town, although that has significant mobility and security issues.

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Diversification: a knife sharpener fashioned out of a bicycle

Group Strengths

Their businesses have been running for about two years, it seems that (most of) the groups share certain strengths:

  1. Good customer relations
  2. Viable businesses, in that there is a demand for their services in the area that they are working
  3. Many are able to diversify. So, for example many are able to carry out some small-scale farming alongside hairdressing.
  4. About half of the groups are able to make small savings from their earnings, typically about 200, 000 shillings a month per group (about £40). Having a financial cushion, however small, is vital to protect against ‘life events’. Average individual income is not easy to determine, given the lack of records (see below) but is somewhere around 66, 000 shillings a week or £14.50.
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Store keeping

Group Challenges

But, from the GDPU report it seems that all the groups share similar weaknesses:

  • Keeping records is not built into their way of thinking, partly through poor literacy/ numeracy and self-confidence which…
  • Makes it difficult for members to plan ahead and to find out where they are at the moment
  • The planning methods they were taught under YDP are not suitable: too complex and text based for people who still struggle with reading and writing.
  • Core skills need updating to satisfy the needs of customers
  • Lack of suitable tools is holding back development, but there is no point members investing in tools until …
  • Security is much better
  • Group dynamics are stronger (in most cases these are poor), with theft and lack of trust between members holding back development.
  • Groups need considerable support (in literacy/ numeracy and self-confidence) to apply for grants/ loans to help them invest in their future.
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Lubanga Aye Twero Business Group: Sweater Weaving

What next?

Now that we know how these nine groups are getting on and what their challenges are, the next step for the steering committee at GDPU is to choose three groups for the pilot phase of the project. These pilot groups, together with the project team, will then put together their own tailored programme for skills training, literacy/ numeracy, pyscho-social support and so on; exciting days.

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The Nyeko Rac business group

Pushing on well: Piloting ETC @ GDPU

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Carrying out the pilot assessment, May 2017

2 June 2017

The ETC @ GDPU Project Leader and Project Officer have been out and about in Gulu Town and district, visiting the nine functioning business groups set up by the students with disabilities who were trained at Gulu Disabled Persons Union.

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Phone mending kit in the Electronics Shop, May 2017

ETC @ GDPU are choosing three groups to best suit the pilot phase of the project.

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Ex YDP GDPU Sweater Weaving student at work 2017

As the Project Officer said:

“Greetings from GDPU we are all doing fine, only just busy working on the findings and report for the first assessment done so far. It was really great to find these beneficiaries still working, compared to other youth enterprises set up by other VTIs [ie the other Vocational Training Institutes that trained students without disabilities under the same scheme]. The report will tell more on what they’re doing, their level of diversification, challenges and needs of support to improve the capacity and build their businesses and then we agree on whom we can work with, as almost all of them are vulnerable.”

‘All pushing on well’, as they say in Gulu.

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Ex YDP/ GDPU students outside their electronics shop in Gulu, 2017