FAR-LeaF fellow Dr Hellen Namawejje of Makerere University, Uganda, is teaching rural women to become money leaders instead of money spenders – and her experiences in the field over the past year have led to a further prestigious fellowship. Through her research, she is improving financial awareness and literacy leadership among rural women in the Luweero district and students at a tertiary institution in the Wakiso district.

She says Africans are not introduced to the essential principles of intelligent money management or given personal money knowledge at home or school, which leaves them susceptible to becoming victims of everyday money decisions jeopardising most aspects of their lives and any hopes of financial independence – now and in old age. Her FAR-LeaF research hopes to remedy this. Her research is progressing well, and her work in the field has been very successful and gratifying.

How was your Training Needs Assessment tool developed, and what have you learned

The Training Needs Assessment (TNA) tool was developed after an intensive literature review of scholars doing similar work. Some of the scholars’ work reviewed had questionnaires already set. There are standard existing financial literacy questionnaires in place, such as Kempson (2009), Lusardi (2019), OECD (2011), OECD (2020), and Santos and Tavares (2020) which I modified according to the objectives of the study. The developed tool was shared with a few selected experts in the inception meeting for insights, inputs, and improvements. All the comments were captured and addressed to get the final TNA tool used in the study.

Lessons learnt: Developing a TNA is tedious work; one must consult many resources, especially those who have done similar jobs. One can use the already standard existing tools to develop a TNA, which can be modified to the current study context. Using experts in the field can help improve the TNA tool, as they can help you with the gaps you have left. The TNA must be direct and clear; the different questions should be understandable; otherwise, you can collect incorrect data and fail to get the expected results. Before actual data collection, a pilot process or pre-testing of the TNA tool is critical to check if it supports collecting the correct data, whether the questions are straightforward, and whether participants can give honest opinions.

How are women responding to the training?

I conducted six training sessions, two in each of the villages targeted: Kawumu, Kagembe and Kanyanda. The women welcomed the opportunity and took part with enthusiasm. After administering the TNA, I identified the gaps women needed training on. After each session, trainees were asked to give feedback. The feedback was very positive:

Harriet Nakibaale: “I have learnt to start a business through the entrepreneurship session and how to compute sales.”

Olivia Nakilyolwa: “I have learnt good customer care skills; I did not know that it is important to care for my clients when they come; and how to save from what I have earned. Initially, I consumed every little profit from my business without saving. I have also learnt that when I put up a business, the place must be clean and accessible.”

Sarah Nabulya: “I have learnt how to plan for my business, make a business budget, save and borrow money, and give care to my customers.”

Sandrah Nampebwa: “I own a salon business; I have learnt about different ways of saving, especially the Village Loans and Savings Associations, about record keeping management, stock taking, and how to compute losses and profits in my business.”

You have linked the trainees to the Village Saving and Loans Associations. How have the trainees responded, and how do they benefit from this?

Linking the trainees to different Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) was vital during the training. Most of the trainees needed to learn the relevance of the VSLA and how it could help them improve their living standards. A few were VSLA members already but needed to know how they were run or the challenges they might encounter.

A manager of the Semuto VSLA was brought in to share knowledge and experience on how VSLAs operate and how they have strongly supported women in their day-to-day lives. I used the team leaders to link the women to VSLAs. The team leaders are influential women among the participants, and we agreed that they would lead the process and pass on information.

Rural women are not introduced to the essential principles of intelligent money management or given personal money knowledge at home or school.

Women from Kagembe during a field work session by Hellen Namawejje.

Women Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization (SACCO) managers also shared their experience and knowledge with women leaders on transitioning from being members of VSLA to SACCO. This was emphasised because of the different benefits SACCOs have over VSLA. SACCO is recognised and regulated by the government.

Have you experienced any challenges? If so, how have you overcome them?

The financial literacy levels among the trainees could have been higher, and they initially needed help with the advanced terminology we used. We adapted to this by ensuring the trainers and facilitators used words the trainees could relate to and practical examples they would remember. The facilitators also shared their business experiences to support women undertaking business risks.

Another challenge was that some of the women had to get permission from their husbands to participate in the study, and a few of the husbands were negative about this. I encouraged these women to bring their husbands to the TNA data collection session – this was not a long process – to check us out. This strategy was good because afterwards, women could attend without resistance from their husbands.

The distance to financial institutions from the villages is challenging. Since Semuto VSLA is accessible, we used this VSLA as a benchmark and entry point for the trainees. VSLAs have low interest compared to banks.

Any highlights and positive surprises so far?

This research has opened my eyes to the needs of our communities. I was surprised at how life-fulfilling interacting with women and impacting their lives was. I became interested in studying the impact we had, but this is outside my current study objectives and requires impact evaluation skills which I still need to gain. This led me to apply for the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) Spring 2024 fellowship, where researchers are trained in impact evaluation skills. I was awarded this fellowship and will go to the USA next year. I wouldn’t have applied if it was not for this research.

CEGA administers the CEGA Visiting Fellowship Program at UC Berkeley and the Global Poverty Research Lab (GPRL) at Northwestern University. The fellowship aims to equip African social scientists with the skills and research networks needed to conduct impact evaluations and help cultivate the next generation of leaders in rigorous assessment in the region. A CEGA Faculty mentor, a CEGA PhD student, and CEGA staff will provide professional and personal support.

Heidi Sonnekus | FAR-LeaF Program


The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.