Ruth Asasira, the Head – Women in Business at dfcu bank
dfcu Bank has been a key promoter of female entrepreneurship since 2007, through the dfcu Women in Business program. In 2018, dfcu Bank in partnership with Nation Media Group, and Uganda Investment Authority started The Rising Woman Initiative- a platform that seeks to mentor, profile, and grow Ugandan women entrepreneurs by giving them access to funding, business advisory services and marketing opportunities.
Ruth Asasira, the Head – Women in Business at dfcu bank, shares the initiative’s journey through the years and its impact in Uganda as the sixth season begins.
Q: Could you tell us what the Rising Woman campaign is all about?
A: Certainly. The Rising Woman Initiative was launched to provide a platform for Ugandan women in business to grow their businesses, showcase women-owned businesses through media advertising, and provide financing solutions that meet their needs while addressing the fear of borrowing among women in business. We’ve successfully implemented five editions of this program and are well on our way to the sixth. This initiative is held in partnership with dfcu Bank, Nation Media Group, Uganda Investment Authority and Uganda Airlines.
Q: What impact has the initiative had in the last five years?
A: Since 2018, we’ve reached at least 30,000 women through training sessions, supported three cohorts of 30 women entrepreneurs with mentorship programs, and provided approximately Shs100 million in seed funding. Around 6,000 women entrepreneurs have accessed financing from dfcu Bank.
Q: Who is eligible to participate or benefit from the rising woman initiative?
A: At dfcu Bank we are passionate about women and supporting women businesses through our Women in Business Program. Therefore, this offer is open to female entrepreneurs who either individually or jointly own a business formally registered and domiciled in Uganda. To qualify, the business must meet specific criteria, including being at least 50% owned by women and having a senior leadership or board with a representation of more than 30% women. Additionally, businesses founded by women who retain active roles in the company and have a workforce where women represent at least 30-50% are eligible. This initiative particularly welcomes businesses that deal in products and services geared towards benefiting women and addressing critical barriers to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
Q: What are the non-financial benefits of the Rising Woman Initiative?
A: Women can participate in free training programs and expand their knowledge. These programs expose women to financing opportunities, networking, and new markets through the Women in Business Expo.
Q: Can you share some success stories or testimonies from the women who have participated?
A: Certainly. Some women have purchased machinery to improve their businesses, especially in agriculture. Others have set up governance and administration structures, hiring technical staff. dfcu Bank also offer loan facilities to those who qualify when the grant isn’t sufficient to implement their plans.
Q: What is the vetting process like? How do you select the women who receive support?
A: Proposals go through a three-stage vetting process. The first stage looks out for businesses that meet our criteria such as registered businesses. In the second stage, an independent firm assesses viability, impact, sustainability, and scalability. In the third stage, the top 20 pitch their businesses before a panel to choose the final 10, and then the top three receive the funding.
Q: How do you ensure transparency in financing women through this initiative?
A: Transparency is vital. Women compete for grant money by submitting business proposals detailing their businesses, their impact on the community, and the challenges they’re addressing. We focus on the most compelling, scalable proposals. We also follow up with winners to ensure the funds are used appropriately.
Q: What challenges have stakeholders faced in organizing the Rising Woman Initiative?
A: One challenge is the need to equip more women across the country with vital business information. Some women-led businesses operate informally, and there’s still a lack of confidence in accessing financing. We address these issues through training and reduced lending rates.
Q: Please tell us about any new developments in the upcoming sixth season of the Rising Woman Initiative?
A: In the sixth season, we’re encouraging women to identify challenges in their communities and develop solutions through businesses. Training will cover areas like market research and adapting to market disruptions. We also hold an expo where women can network and expand their markets, and Uganda Airlines is sponsoring air tickets for the winners’ trips abroad.
Q: Lastly, what advice do you have for women looking to start or grow their businesses?
A: Seek knowledge, conduct research, and identify opportunities. Find business colleagues for support and mentorship, choose a bank like dfcu Bank that supports your financial needs, and invest in learning and growth.