Views from Fiona: Nigiina

Views from Fiona: Nigiina


The women self help project.

By Fiona Abaasa
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First published: January 22, 2006


Nigiina (rejoicing, jubilating or celebrating) has been around for some time now. It started as a women self help project to help each other with household items uplifting women from poverty and be able to sustain themselves. The project has taken the country by storm. Women, in groups of thirty, split into sub groups of ten and usually pick an individual to whom they give gifts. The one chosen to receive the gift for that particular meeting is called a mugole [bride] the women dress for the occasion, the function has a chief guest, music, food and all the pomp of celebration.

Following the success of these Nigiina groups, men have also joined the groups so it is a common phenomena to find mixed groups of men and women and the gifts have also veered off personal or household items to cash. But there is worry that, with the men joining, they will fleece the women because these groups work on mutual trust. Very many women who joined this venture have gained materially especially in terms of household items. This has helped them focus on other needs of a home. After everyone has received their gifts in round one, the next round they are free to ask instead of house items to receive their gifts in form of cash and this can be used to invest in their businesses to create an income for the family.

Like many associations they have rules and requirements for the members to meet. In on example each member contributes Ushs 3,000 at every seating. This money caters for food, entertainment, hiring chairs and tents plus decorations. Then they may pay Ushs 20,000 for running the association twice a month and the gift to give has to be 5,000 Ushs and above not less. If the trust on which these associations is not violated, it will go a long way in improving household incomes.

However some women are skeptical in joining these Nigiina groups because in 2004 there was a scrupulous association for women called Gift circles that fleeced many women of their hard earned money and others forced their husbands to give them money which was lost. Gift circles started in the US as pyramid schemes of making money until they collapsed. The US securities exchange commission said these were fraudulent means of making money because for it to survive you need to recruit more clients, friends to join and it is this money that is used to pay those individuals who joined early. So as the pyramid expands very quickly, only the founders at the top of the pyramid make money. In several countries they were named differently sometimes as chain referral, binary compensation, matrix marketing and in Uganda it was gift circles. The police arrested the women who had started them and some women were seeking compensation from those they gave their monies to.

Nigiina however, is a bit different. Apart from being a womens group, there is no cause to fear that the individual will be cheated. Nigiina has even received a presidential nod. While in campaigning President Museveni promised to inject Ushs18 billion in these associations to help lift the women from poverty.

The gifts given sometimes are flamboyant. Take an example of Mama Phina in Ndeeba, a traditional herbalist she caused a stir when she gave her friend a car [Toyota Corona] commonly known as kkikumi as a gift in their Nigiina association. If these self-help projects are not misused they should go along way in alleviating household poverty and increase incomes in homes.

By Fiona Abaasa
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First published: January 22, 2006
Fiona Abaasa is a visitor of UGPulse.com.

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