Benedicta has won many awards from prestigious organizations. She’s been written about in newspapers and magazines. She’s had the honor of meeting affluent diplomats, and is regarded by many as a smart businesswoman who inspires women throughout Uganda. But at the core of her heart, Benedicta is simply a mother of five who saw an opportunity to turn her community’s waste into beautiful handcrafted items, create a livelihood for herself and help other women.

Benedicta lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Kampala, Uganda, which has significant challenges with waste management. She began to collect used plastic straws and wove them into bags, jewelry, mats and even a dress. She learned quickly she could sell these unique items for a profit, creating a niche, popular business. She also saw an opportunity to teach other women artisanal and business skills, enabling her to grow her business while improving the quality of life in her community.



Benedicta

Thus, the idea for the Kinawataka Women Initiatives co-operative was born. Benedicta founded the organization with a mission to help the most disenfranchised women develop entrepreneurial, artisanal and agricultural skills so they may create a sustainable income for themselves and their families. These women are often single mothers living in poverty, sometimes disabled, and often infected with HIV. They cannot feed their families properly, provide a proper home or afford medical services for their children or themselves. They are often stigmatized by society and have very low self-esteem. Benedicta also supports the needs of 15 orphans who live with her as foster children.

More than 80 percent of those employed by Benedicta and Kinawataka Women Initiatives are women. They work with her to collect straws from the local Coca-Cola bottling plant and other sites around the city. Through a 10-stage process, the straws are sorted, cleaned, pressed, woven and sewn into lovely handcrafted items. More than 735 women in Kampala, Gulu and eastern Uganda have been trained. By mentoring these women, Benedicta strives to teach business skills and financial independence. They now earn an income that allows them to purchase textbooks, pay for children’s school fees, provide a home and pay for medical fees. Perhaps more importantly, their self-esteem has improved and they can mentor other women and become a role model for their children, creating a ripple effect.  

Kinawataka Women Initiatives has received many honors, including the UN Habitat Twenty-six Good Practices” of 2009 award and was the winner of the 2007 A. Lubogo Award for Community Involvement by the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association. Kinawataka also had the opportunity to create a handbag for the first lady of Uganda, Madam J. Museveni in 2010.



Benedicta

Benedicta is a member of the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association, the Uganda Export Promotion Board and Investment Authority, the Techno-Serve “Women Mean Business” Program, Oxfam Great Britain in Uganda, and UN Habitat.

Benedicta has certainly accomplished a great deal, but she’s not finished yet. Kinawataka Women Initiatives is seeking additional capital to fully utilize the 10 acres of land it has available for farming. She would like to expand the entrepreneurial opportunities beyond handcrafted items made of straws by purchasing seedlings, livestock and a small truck to help them transport goods efficiently to market so they can maximize their earning potential. She also dreams of building a larger building for her workshop, an office and living quarters for herself and her 15 foster children.


Benedicta is a participant in The Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 program. Through Coca-Cola’s partnership with the Artisan Alliance and Kiva, Benedicta’s profile is on Kiva’s site at http://www.kiva.org/lend/790492 with an open request for micro-funding to help the Kinawataka Women Initiatives achieve their ambitious goal to expand its artisan and agricultural initiatives.

Visit http://www.kiva.org/lend/790492 to view her profile and contribute to Kinawataka Women Initiatives.