Women of Akola — Jewelry Production

Hi, I'm
Irene Gombe


Irene Gombe used to farm with her husband to provide for their seven children. Unfortunately, when the harvest arrived her husband would leave with the money—only to return once it was gone. Irene overcame this by working hard farming for daily wages to feed her children. As a jewelry artisan with Akola Project, Irene now has a stable income that she can send all her children to school on. To manage the challenges in her personal life, she has drawn on the support of the counseling services at Akola Academy.

In her grass roofed mud hut, Irene Gombe has seven children that all stayed with her. For work, she and her husband would rent land to grow maize on to sell at market. Each time the harvest was ready and they sold their crops, her husband would disappear for weeks at a time only to return when the money was gone. To provide for her children, Irene would find work on large farms where she could earn a daily wage. Since there was just enough money to feed the family, none of the kids were in school. Irene dreamed of the day when she could find a job that paid enough to educate her children. One tangible step she took to improve her family’s situation was to start saving to buy her own piece of land—where she would have control o the sale from the harvest.

"Irene has also become a leader in her community — encouraging other women to participate in savings groups so they can support one another." In 2011, she found a job with Akola Project which immediately provided the consistent income and financial security to send all her children to school. Her social capital also increased within the community. Others that used to only pity her started seeing her value to the community. She was even elected as a woman counselor (local leader) of the village.

The word of her success in the community eventually made its way to her estranged husband and he quickly returned to the family. As part of welcoming him back, Irene told him he needed to start supporting the family. She even lent him 300,000 UGX ($81) from her savings to help him start a business. The following day, he left for good. To manage these personal challenges in her life, Irene has drawn on the counseling services from Akola Academy. She appreciates having two counselors at her disposal when problems become too overwhelming to manage alone.

Irene has been making strides to support her community as a counselor and community change officer within Akola. One of her main goals is to improve a community school and provide it with scholastic materials. She has also been sharing her experience savings at her Akola Academy savings group. By accessing savings and credit, Irene has been able to successfully care for and educate her children.
"I wasn’t other women in community to start saving so that we can help one another."

Dive Deeper:

Akola’s Design Philosophy