Philanthropist battles poverty in Uganda through social enterprise

Philanthropist battles poverty in Uganda through social enterprise

News (International)

Ethnic Supplies, the social enterprise founded by Ugandan philanthropist Ida Horner, is proving a success only one year after she founded the organisation.

Founded in October 2007, Ethnic Supplies provides invaluable market access for female entreprenuers in Africa. Many of these women do not have anywhere to sell their crafts apart from the odd tourist, which is not enough to sustain them and their families.

Ethnic Supplies aids both craftswomen and suppliers, such as Hand Products of Tanzania (HOT), which is composed of women from Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda; some of whom have disabilities or are affected by HIV/AIDS. Horner says that Ethnic Supplies offers these people “a more dignified and sustainable way out of poverty”.

The company has a popular website and now supplies cotton bags to the Exeter museum gift shop in the UK.

This month Horner will travel to Africa to review the project by speaking to the women Ethnic Supplies helps. Their views are an integral part of the appraisal process, she says.

Horner, who now lives in Surrey, England, recognised that informal enterprises are important to the economy in Africa but typically are not able to reach target markets; many focus on small numbers of tourists. She chose to focus on handicrafts because they are typically sold by women in this way but appeal to women in the west, so that Ethnic Supplies can have a significant impact.

To build on the achievements of Ethnic Supplies, Horner has started a new initiative called Let Them Help Themselves Out of Poverty. This organisation aims to help communities start their own income-generating projects and to get volunteers into communities to share their skills.

And, the two projects compliment each other: “Let Them Help Themselves can get tools in place for women to start weaving baskets for sale but could not actually get those baskets to market, whilst Ethnic Supplies can”, Horner told Philanthropy UK.

She advocates the lasting solutions provided by social enterprises, but says, “There is room for traditional grant-making too, in as far as getting people started in the right direction, for instance by giving or lending money to someone to enable them to start an income-generating project. However, there is a need to be mindful of pouring money into a basket with large holes that will never be repaired.”

Let them Help Themselves Out of Poverty is holding a fundraising gala dinner on 17th October at the Hilton hotel in Cobham. Proceeds will go towards building a well and a community centre in Ruhanga village, Uganda. More information is available on the organisation’s website.

  • A comprehensive feature on Horner is available on the UGPulse website as part of their celebration of African Women’s Week.

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