Koogere Women Empowerment Programme: (using cultural approach and cultural actions to promote grassroot women mobilization, leadership, entrepreneurship and rights and Using cultural actions to end inequitable gender norms and the resultant domestic violence against women)

women empowerment 1

Koogere 2 being awarded a gift after winning the Koogere award contest by one of EZT Board Members)


Koogere 2 after being encrowned as the Executive Director and Koogere 1 look on)

Background of the programme

Engabu Za Tooro in 1999 started Entrepreneurship Promotion Programme aimed at improving the business skills and incomes of grass root women and youth through business skills training and seed capital support. But grass root women’s turn up for trainings was very low and the few who participated, their rate of success in commercial activities was very low.

EZT carried out a study to find out the factors for grass root women’s failure in commercial activities. It was found out that traditionally women are not expected to engage in income activities outside subsistence production and domestic chores. Secondly, the tradition didn’t allow women to control and own property and other factors of production, With about 95% of the projects being agro based, the people that don’t own land cannot easily succeed. These belief systems can be generalized and apply to very many grass root communities inAfrica.

So it could apparently be concluded that indigenous culture was a constraining factor in the development of grass root people and many development actors condemned it as such.

EZT devised a strategy where it could positively work with culture to remove culturally constraining factors to grass root women participation in competitive development.

EZT identified a popular, positive and relevant tradition among the grass root communities which came to be promoted as KOOGERE TRADITION. This is a tradition built around an ancient heroine –Koogere, praised for being intelligent, hardworking, richest in the “world” and a great woman leader. EZT researched on this tradition, documented and promoted it. EZT built a programme around this tradition aimed at promoting grass root women participation in entrepreneurship, community leadership and promotion of women rights to own property and land. The programme is built around a bi-annual contest for an established Koogere Award which involves the Koogere ceremonial title , project capital input and international trip to a women conference or visiting a model woman project . To win the award, 70% is on effective participation in business training and success in micro-project/business.30% is success on community mobilization, leadership, women rights advocacy and culture. The title holder becomes a celebrity with model projects and engages in mobilizing and inspiring other grass root women during her 2 years tenure.

Programme Strategy

  1. To positively use culture to remove culturally rooted constraints to grass root women participation in development.
  2. To use grass root women themselves to create role models to inspire, build confidence and mobilize grass root women for competitive development.
  3. To develop small scale farming and cultural enterprises and services where grass root women are predominantly involved
  4. To use culture to stimulate grass root women to action
  5. To use contests and competition to improve skills and practice in economic activities among grass root women
  6. To use cultural actions to advocate for change in cultural beliefs that bar women from owning land and property

Activity Areas of the Programme

  1. a) Promote grass root women mobilization and leadership. This involve leadership skills training, role modeling, symbolism etc
  2. b) Promote grass root women’s production and marketing in their dominant economic activity sector namely; Agro-business and cultural enterprises. This involves business skills, farming as a business training exhibition and market linkages development.
woman in cultural shop

a woman in her cultural enterprise

  1. c) Using cultural actions to end inequitable gender norms and the resultant domestic violence and promote women economic rights.This involves gender norms analysis and change monitoring mass education and advocacy through multi cultural actions linkage with gender laws, policies and action plan and capacity building to youth women and cultural leaders in skills of gender norms analysis, monitoring change, advocacy and preventing gender rights violation and gender-based violence.

Achievements of the Programme

  1. The programme has created 50 effective community based grass root women groups
  2. The programme has created 2 important role models and celebrities (Title winners) who are regionally recognized as leaders by virtue of the title “Koogere of the year”
  3. The programme which coordinates and supports 50 grass root women economic groups has created an effective platform for Mobilisation of grass root women across targeted communities.
  4. The programme has used culture itself to remove cultural rooted constraints to women participation in development thus establishing harmony between culture and development
  5. The programme has developed indigenous knowledge as an integral part of human and community development
  6. The programme has increased grass root women participation in entrepreneurship progressively from 10% to 55% in the last 6 years
  7. The programme has been recognized as highly innovative and a model case documented and published by Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda and Common Wealth Foundation for reciprocity elsewhere.( view the documentation under E-Books)
  8. The programme has been picked on as a case study by international scholars who seek to establish the relationship between indigenous culture and development (see article under E-books)
  9. The programme has created a system of celebrities among the grass root women (Koogere Title holder) who is seen as a symbol of hope, hard work, enterprise, and leadership among grass root women and inspires and mobilizes them according to those values. The concept introduced use of symbolism to mobilize and inspire grass root women for hard work, enterprise leadership and right to own property and land.