Fighting poverty, one sweater at a time

 In Arua district, knitting sweaters has empowered women by enabling them earn a decent income to take care of their families and improve their standard of living.

Suzan Ezatia, a retired teacher, runs a successful small enterprise in Nvara ward, Arua Municipality. Together with her partner, John Ondoma, also a retired teacher, the two decided to form Friends Cottage Industry, a sewing company, in 2002. Susan, who acts as the production manager, devotes all her time to the business and John does the marketing.

As a little girl staying with the missionaries, Suzan developed interest in learning how to knit. However, it was years later as a primary teacher that she acquired the knowledge and skills in knitting. Little did she know that something that started as a hobby would later sustain her in old age. Suzan and John used their savings to finance the business and have six sewing machines.

Friends Cottage Industry is growing. It now employs six permanent staff and has a training centre for people who want to learn knitting, mainly S.4 and S.6 graduates. It also has a production unit and a training room. “We are planning to acquire more machines to meet increasing demand,” Suzan says.

The industry produces 10 sweaters a day on average. As a growing business, faces a number of challenges, which include delayed payments, staff turnover, lack of capital, lack of power, and lack of technologically advanced equipment.

UNDP, through the West Nile Private Sector Development Promotion Centre (WENIPS), has trained Suzan in records keeping, financial management and accountability, marketing, quality control customer care.

 “With the training I received, I am able to tell whether I am making a profit or not because I now keep records and write books of accounts at the end of the year. I have also diversified the products I offer to my customers,” says Suzan.

She now produces bed covers, sweaters for adults, children, scarves, shocks and head gear for the youth and babies. Her customers come from Arua Municipality, Adjumani and Koboko districts. These include schools, football teams and individuals.

Suzan buys most of her raw materials from Kampala. With the income from the cottage business, Suzan has been able to buy land and construct a modest but comfortable family home. She has also managed to pay fees for her five dependants and look after the family.

With the growth in business and acquisition of new machinery and capital, Friends Cottage industry will be able to serve more customers, increase on its clientele, and in future, be one of the model small enterprises in the region.

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