One Woman & A Sewing Machine

It is often the case that the hardest and most expensive places to reach are where the greatest need exists. P4P works to surmount obstacles—both physical and financial—
that stand in the way of isolated regions realizing economic success. Since 2006, we have measured our success in helping Ugandans develop economic independence
by noting the increased demand for the delivery of bicycles. Now, through our existing partnership with the Entrepreneurship Institute of Applied and Appropriate Technology (EIAAT <http://eiaat.blogspot.com/>), which receives and distributes our shipments, we have included sewing machines along with the bicycles
and extended more opportunities to more Ugandans.



Of course, this is not as simple as it sounds. Uganda is among the most expensive places to ship. Getting from here through the Suez Canal to Mombasa Kenya is relatively reasonable, but our vessel, the Maersk Alabama, was recently attacked again by pirates. Trucking containers inland across thousands of miles from Mombasa Kenya to Kampala Uganda on bad roads is much more expensive
than maneuvering within pirate infested shipping lanes. We funded the most recent
shipment with grants from the Helen & William Mazer Foundation and the Clif Bar Family Foundation.

The courageous hard working Jane Kigoye is just one example of how the inclusion of
sewing machines in these shipments has begun to change lives for the better. Jane
had no employment and worked as best she could in her garden for food. Sometimes she could find beans, nuts, and other cereals and she improvised as best she could. Her husband’s job as a motor vehicle mechanic did not bring in enough money to keep their four children from hunger. Jane did have some knowledge about basic tailoring; all she needed was a reliable sewing machine. As is often the case, necessity breeds innovation and she managed to search out and hire a manual sewing machine and a small shop to operate from. When she made some money, she made some inquiries in Kampala about the cost of sewing machines. From there she was directed
to the EIAAT by one of the agents who buys bicycles from them. She went to the institute and, after looking at the various electric sewing machines, selected
one.

They told her that it cost $85 but, after some bargaining, they settled on $80. She only had $40, so she left that as a deposit and had to leave the sewing machine behind, promising to pay $10 from what she made from the tailoring every week.
During this time she was mastering the art of tailoring and the income she was making was used partly for home provisions and partly for her weekly payments on the sewing machine. As her business grew, she was no longer digging in the garden and she was able to hire casual labor to take the manual chores over. All her efforts were on growing her tailoring business and creating a stable life for her children.

This may all sound rather charmed, but it was not an easy path that led to full stomachs and financial security. A major setback occurred after only two weeks of payments. She arrived at the EIAAT almost in tears telling them that the sewing machine she had hired was taken away from her and she did not know what to do. Inevitably, if she lost her tailoring shop, somebody would readily move in and take
over her customers. Getting a new place is very expensive. She would need to be able to pay for three to four months’ rent at once, plus the fee for the house “blocker” who finds the place for her. She would also have to furnish the new
place and develop new clients.

Besides the problem of not being able to raise this amount for a new place, losing customers meant that she could not pay the $10 installments on the machine she had reserved. She pleaded that the EIAAT allow her take the sewing machine with the balance of $20 left on it and promised to pay the money in the next two weeks without fail. They took a risk based on her character and past performance and they
did sympathize with her dire predicament. After all, wasn’t this just the kind of problem that P4P and the EIAAT try to address and resolve? She had made the biggest part of the payment and this woman had a family and children to look
after. Jane resolutely departed with the sewing machine leaving a signed receipt for the balance due. The very next week, she brought $15 instead of $10. She told them that she had won a small primary school uniform contract and that if this new machine had not been available to her, she did not know what she was going to tell the principal of the primary school. The improved speed of an electric sewing machine had allowed her to work faster and complete and deliver the uniforms in time. She would have cleared the full balance due of $20 but she had to go and
buy more materials for the next consignment of uniforms. She thanked the EIAAT for saving her business and livelihood. Not only did she pay the final balance as promised, she brought a deposit of $40 for another sewing machine. She requested that she be allowed to take the machine immediately and promised to pay the balance in brief two weeks. This second machine was intended for a hired worker. She
informed the EIAAT that she was increasing her output and actively expanding the business. Now the proud owner of four sewing machines and a steady clientele, Jane is no longer dependent on her husband’s poor income. Not only is she the major contributor to the home expenses, she is also able to meet additional and integral expenses such as school fees for her children. Through the opportunities afforded her by the partnership of P4P and EIAAT, Jane Kigoye has her present and future in
her control.

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