Women’s status in Uganda has been steadily improving over the past several decades, but girls in rural communities continue to face serious obstacles that prevents them from sharing in this progress. In 2013, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Uganda launched the Girls Agro-Investment (GAIN) project to increase livelihood options for out-of-school girls ages 14 to 20. CRS is an international humanitarian aid and development organization that promotes human development and the service of Catholics in the US and around the world. The GAIN project included training on life skills, agronomy, business skills, and financial literacy. The project was located in the Kyenjojo District of western Uganda with the aim of reaching 1500 young women and girls. This group has traditionally been underserved by economic empowerment projects, and there are many lessons to be learned about how best to target and empower them.
Overall, the evaluation found that the project beneficiaries identified trainings on Savings & Internal Lending Communities (SILC), agronomic practices, business skills, and life skills as being most beneficial to their progress. These trainings were also cited most frequently by beneficiaries when prompted about what they remembered most about the trainings. Our findings indicate that GAIN’s greatest contributions to the lives of the girls was the formation and functioning of SILCs in target communities, which allowed them to access loans and mobilize their savings. Our analysis reveals that the increased incomes due to improved access to finances through SILC and the increase in agronomic knowledge were some of GAIN’s foremost contributions. These increased incomes enhanced the girls’ decision-making power at home and raised their standing in their communities. Additional findings indicate that there have been several changes in socio-cultural dynamics within households and communities. Some of these include increased self confidence among the girls, positive changes in both the way their community perceives them and the way they perceive themselves, and greater mobility in the community.