Best Ayiorwoth is the founder of Girls Power Micro-Lending Organisation (GIPOMO), an establishment that supports girl child education in Uganda, by giving microloans to women who make a commitment to grow businesses while keeping their girl children in school.
Founded in 2011 when Best was only 19 years old, today GIPOMO has helped put more than 170 girl children in school and counting. We recently did an interview with Best to find out more about her story and the future of her remarkable organisation, GIPOMO.
Tell us about yourself and your story that led to the creation of GIPOMO
My names are Ayiorwoth Best, I am from the Northern part of Uganda (West Nile) Nebbi District. I come from a family of seven (four sisters and two brothers) but lost both my parents when I was between the ages of 8-13 years. That incident pushed me hard to become a social entrepreneur promoting girl child education by financially empowering mothers of girl children. With the purpose of starting or expanding existing businesses so as to provide a girl child’s educational needs efficiently.
Hence I am the founder and CEO of Girl Power Micro-Lending Organization (GIPOMO). After the death of my dad, my mother had all the seven of us going to school. But as a single mother, she wasn’t able to pay for all of us and provide all the necessary needs for us at the same time. Unfortunately, she passed on when I was still in primary school and that decreased my chances of getting a higher education. Even though my elder sisters and brother tried hard to support me in reaching a certain level of education, they could only do so much despite their best efforts.
I then joined a vocational institution and did a certificate in catering and started working in a restaurant. With the in-held pain I had about my education, I used my first salary to start up the above organization.
Why do you value education and what does it mean to you?
I value girl-child education especially because most communities have remained ignorant of women’s potential and women are often not given a chance to prove their capabilities.
Granting girls a chance to receive adequate education gives them an opportunity to realize their potential to develop the country or transform the world. If a girl is taken to school, she will also take her daughter to school and together they will be able to contribute to the transformation of the nation. This way, the world will end up knowing the great potential in a woman.
Have you been able to replicate the GIPOMO model in other regions?
I would have really loved to do that but unfortunately that requires additional finance and currently, GIPOMO doesn’t receive any external funding.
We haven’t been able to replicate it in other regions yet, but it is in our five-year plan. In the meantime, I have tried to sell this idea to people in other regions hoping they can implement it for broader results.
What challenges have you faced as a young female social entrepreneur?
Well, at first people in my community didn’t take me seriously, they looked down at me because of my age, young as I was.
I’ve also struggled to secure funding for the organization being a sole founder with very limited funds.
My determination and sincerity strengthened me during those difficult times otherwise I would’ve tumbled under the pressure of having to work doubly hard, taking a stand to convince men, local government and others about my ability as a young woman to start an organization like GIPOMO.At first people in my community didn't take me seriously because of my age Click To Tweet
What gives you strength to do the work that you do every day?
I just focus on my goal and that really encourages me to continue with my work even when things aren’t going so well.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Conversing with my clients (community) and having sessions with the girls where we discuss their challenges and achievements among other issues.
Tell us about the Girl on Skills program and how it’s going so far.
The Girl on Skills program is an additional project specifically rendered for the girl-child drop outs. We came to learn that we have many girls who would have loved to study but because of certain conditions are not in school. We register those girls, take them to vocational training schools and pay their full tuition. Their parents get to pay us back by installments with zero interest.
This can enable a girl to be self-reliant or even take herself back to school with the money she is earning if she is still willing. This program is really going well, however, we do not have enough funds for it so we are just limited to a small number of girls every year. Right now, that number is 10 per year.
What are your future plans for GIPOMO?
We are planning to open up a vocational training institute so as to support the girls on skills program.
Also, we plan to open a Sacco so that we can lend funds to parents who need to urgently clear their child’s school fees and this would then be paid back at a later. We have learnt that it is difficult sometimes for mothers to get immediate cash from their businesses to pay for their child’s schools fees, so this is a way to make that available to them in times of need.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time to unwind?
Write story books.
Sit and share with friends
I love swimming
Singing and playing Keyboard
Wow, what a touching story. You are a remarkably strong woman Best. And we’re truly honoured here to be able to share your story with the world. You are amazing.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.