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Word from the Founder

A journey coupled with mentorship, grooming and preparing my next step of fulfilment working in a commercial bank for 13 years until 2017 September when I voluntarily resigned my job in the leading and the biggest national bank in Uganda, Centenary Bank. A moment I began a new career in my life away from the usual cooperate dynamics to a much more complex, but rewarding driven by passion and childhood memories.

I had a great passion for the unbanked, the poor women especially who not only are the bread winners for their families but who contribute more than 76% of the labour force in Uganda’s agricultural sector the back bone of our country and Africa as a whole. These I would not serve in the bank due to institutional regulations that govern commercial banks and other banking institutions.

My upbringing and childhood memories had everything to do with the birth of ZOORA Vision. Zoora means to discover and it came from my father’s name Kazoora. He was a trained teacher by profession having trained by missionaries. He had passion for children and wished everyone would go to school. By the time he passed on, he had about 15 children he was supporting in primary schools, 4 in secondary schools, and two in higher institutions of learning. He had already supported many that were already working as police men, teachers like himself and church catechists and reverends.

Taata Wilson Baryaija Kazoora the source of ZOORA

He often encouraged families to educate their children telling them it’s the only way to attain equity with children who came from well to do families. This inspired many especially women, the mothers of these children. My mother a primary teacher too would support these women and their children in our village especially at the beginning of school.

Born of two trained primary teachers’, school was a must. Very passion and experimental in regard to education; my brother and I have tested all systems of education, from Informal to Home schooling to Main Stream education. If my father was still alive today, home-schooling for my children during this Covid-19 period would have been a walk over!!

I grew up in a typical village, faced a few challenges like my other schoolmates of my days but was a little privileged because I was a child of a teacher. I was very curious and observant.

When I started work after my university as a banker, I knew I had to contribute some money every school holiday for school fees for more than 10 children. My dad later started a first saving group at home under our mango tree (still exists). This comprised of 98% women in the village of Rwamuganga.

It grew in numbers, and in less than six months, two more other groups had started. I don’t remember him telling me where he got the idea from. He used to move to different parts of the country and was fond of listening to news, national and international, his favourite being CNN. He had passion for the refugees, as well and I think if he had much, he would just give it to the refugees. I pray that his dream come to pass through ZOORA.

Together with his wife Enid Ihoora, they joined and hosted these saving groups, saw them grow from one level to another. I later joined the groups in 2012 and became a member of the two groups which I still subscribe todate. During my holidays, I would take keen interest to study the model, this enabled me understand the working of the groups better, and learned and observed their challenges and limitations. One of the observations was that, their savings would not increase from one level to another leading to low productivity then  low savings and lack of awareness that led to limited access to different opportunities.

In 2017, I resigned my job and started thinking towards TURUDE NYUMBANI like my uncle, my role model Dr. Reuben Musiime normally puts it. I was further encouraged by two wonderful people from Belgium that not only helped me; Eugenie Nijhuis drafted the concept note but also inspired me, Frans Verschelden created for me the first partnership to support the rural women. We were able to get support from Gilles foundation for the project Community development by empowering grassroot women making good use of VSLAs.

Quoting the words of Eugenie, ‘like you quoted in your presentation Sarah, empowering women will not only diminish the number of children per woman and that alone improves the quality of life per child, but women also tend to reinvest their money directly in the societal advancement of their children schooling, nourishment, which benefits the whole community’’.

ZOORA born out of a belief in the power of women with support from their male counterparts to build a kinder, a more passionate world in a more productive holistic transformation of communities.

By Sarah Atuhaire Baryaija