CSOs call for freezing of interest rates on loans acquired by women in informal sector

The Civils Society Organisations (CSO) under their umbrella body, Women’s Movement in Uganda have urged government to freeze interest rates on all acquired loans for men and women working in informal sector and put up a rebuilding plan to provide interest free start up packages to revive businesses during the covid-19 pandemic.

The clarion call was made during the celebrations to mark international women’s day. Held under the theme, ‘Women in leadership achieving and equal future in a covid-19 world’, the CSOs revealed that, majority of Ugandan women are self-employed in the informal economy, making up an estimated 70 per cent in informal businesses.

Women entrepreneurs were hit hardest as the pandemic affected them at the enterprise, household and individual level. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) majorly owned by women were forced were forced into uncertainty due to a sudden loss of markets, reduction in cash flow which is the blood life of enterprise.

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“Women faced the increasing threat of failure to meet tax obligation and loan repayments. The pandemic has led to disruption of supply chains, increased costs of production, demand inefficiencies due to alternation in consumers’ priorities and the closure of specific market segments.” they said in a statement

In tandem, government stepped up with stimulus packages to support the recovery of the economy however this was not informed by sex disaggregated data indicating that the development of the packages lacked evidence and fewer women are likely to benefit from the programme.

The noted that the lockdown mainly affected women and children trapped with their abusive partners and guardians. During the first weeks of the lock down, Ministry of Labour Gender and Social Development (MLGSD) reported that a total of 3280 gender based violence cases had been reported and 283 cases of violence against children.

The survivors were unable to seek medical treatment, counselling, legal aid services due to financial and transport constraints. “It must be noted that these services were not considered essential or emergency channels. Many cases were unreported because of fear of stigmatisation and community backlash and police could not adequately respond to the cases due to diversion of resources to deal with other issues,” they noted.

The organisations called on government to make deliberate effort to increase investment to critical social security and protection sectors during the national planning and budgeting process.

The CSOs include; UGANET, Uwonet, NUWODU, Acfode, NAWOU, Cedovip, Landnet, International community of women living with HIV, Akina Mams wa Africa, Uganda women’s network.