Whether they are refugees forced to leave their lives abruptly behind or locals trying to rebuild their lives after two decades of civil war, most women in our programs are starting over with no money at all. With no banks where they live and little access to capital, they rely on informal community networks for their finance needs, often via a joint revolving fund that allows them to save money as part of a group and borrow from the communal pot. However, the amounts involved are typically too small to be truly impactful, keeping women in a cycle of poverty.


AWR helps women to:

Learn basic business skills

Access microfinance capital

Save money to reinvest in business

Through long-term mentorship, we provide women with the basic record-keeping and business skills training they need to become financially literate and secure. We also provide grants to local women’s savings collectives that allow them to scale up their revolving funds. This extra capital allows women to invest in better regenerative practices on their existing farmland, increasing crop yields, and also start entirely new business initiatives. The additional income generated enables women to pay school fees, invest in livestock, build savings, and support other small businesses, growing the local economy.

Program Model

AWR’s Microfinance program is based on a proven community-level approach known as the Village Savings and Loan methodology. Self-managed groups of 15 to 30 people meet once a week to deposit their savings, take out loans, learn new skills, and support each other. Savings are kept in a communal safe equipped with three locks whose keys are held by three different women, and its location is kept secret to reduce theft. AWR community mobilizers provide each group with technical support and mentoring over a three-year period. For groups that have demonstrated an ability to sustain savings, AWR provides a $250 USD grant, increasing the amount available for members to borrow. Instead of being constrained by loans of just a few dollars, women are able to access $20-75 USD at once – much more substantial sums which increases the amount of business they can conduct, boosting profits. These loans are then returned with interest at a rate decided upon collectively.

Financial Training

Community mobilizers meet regularly with savings groups to teach critical record-keeping, accounting and business skills.

Business Mentorship

Community mobilizers keep in regular touch with savings group members over the course of multiple years to help facilitate and scale up entrepreneurship.

Seed Grants

AWR provides $250 grants to boost revolving funds, which are parceled out to group members via small loans repaid with interest.


Community mobilizers employed
Saved by AWR collectives over the last five years
Average increase in individual savings over three microfinance cycles
Average more in savings for women in AWR programs
Participants still showing positive savings rates in 2021, despite the impact of the COVID pandemic
Participants who have acquired assets or started a new type of business since working with AWR

Stories of Impact

Consi, 27, mother of four
“Being in the African Women Rising group has brought a lot of change for me. When we got help from AWR, I was able to take out a loan and start my business. I grow onions and sell them at the market. It’s a good business – people always want my onions. When you have a business and regular income it’s easier to save money. I bought two oxen and a goat with my first savings. I used to have a little over an acre; now I have five. It becomes so much easier with oxen. When you open a field by hand it takes three weeks. With oxen it takes no more than three days. I plan to open another three acres when the rain starts. I use the practices we have learnt in the Field Crop program. We never have a shortage of food these days. That makes me so happy. It’s good to know there is enough food. At the end of this year when we get our savings back, I’m planning on buying a cow for milking.”
Stella, 30, refugee and mother of four
“I was a businesswoman back in South Sudan. I did wholesale, buying from farmers and selling to vendors at the markets. But then we had the conflict. They took my father from our house and shot him in front of us. We all started running. So here I am, a refugee for the last three years. At least it is safe here. The biggest challenge is food. The rations we get from the World Food Program are always cut. Every month we get maize, beans, oil and salt, sometimes soap. It's never enough. I’m a member of this savings group and was able to borrow money to start a wholesale business again. I can buy bulk directly from the Nile. I deal mostly in fish now. It’s been good for our family. I have money for food, and have bought uniforms for the children. I can buy small things like soap, salt, and pencils. But the most important thing is we have enough food now. It’s hard when your children have to go to bed hungry.”
Christine, 70
“All my children are grown now, but I still have four grandchildren who live with me. I used to do a little trading at the market. One of my grandchildren got sent back home from secondary school because I was missing 60K ($16) of his school fees, so I sold everything I had in stock and paid for him to go back to school. Now I need to borrow money again so I can start the business all over. I love to work at the market because I’m constantly interacting with others and having a good time. I can't farm anymore – I’m too old and don't have the strength. I was abducted by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) a long time ago. They beat me so badly with the handle of the gun that my shoulders are still bad and often in pain.”
Becky, 29, mother of 3 children
“I sell fish, soda and fruit – it is all wholesale. Business has been good and I can pay the school fees for my children. These days, people respect me.” Becky opened a business three years ago with the help of an AWR loan. It started small but has grown over the years.
Beatrice, 58, mother of 7
Beatrice started her bakery after her husband died and she needed more money to help her children finish school. AWR microfinance loans helped her build the bakery into a thriving business that employs 10 and produces 1,800 buns a day. Her own seven kids are now grown, but she takes care of another 15 local children, eight of whom are orphans.
Kevin, 25, mother of 3 children
“I love to listen to the radio. Listening to music makes me happy. AWR helped me start a business – that’s how I could afford to buy a radio. I keep records and make budgets to keep track of everything. I’m a single mom and still able to support my kids.”
Teddy, 31
“I’m the askari (guard) of the group. I guard the money we have saved. Being in this group makes me so happy. We are many women with different experiences, and we support each other.”
Give Hope
African Women Rising serves as a catalyst for thousands of women and girls in Northern Uganda, giving them the support they need to live their lives with dignity.