Uganda is among five countries that will benefit from a new fund which will support social entrepreneurs and micro-businesses owned by key populations facing special hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Joto la Jiwe
In addition to Uganda, the other four countries are Brazil, Ghana, India, and Madagascar.
The fund was recently launched by UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.
With an initial US $250,000 budget from UNAIDS, the initiative is expected to scale up with the addition of more countries over the coming months, with a goal of raising an additional US $3 million to US $5 million in 2021–2022.
“Key populations are among those disproportionally impacted by Covid-19,” said Winnie Byanyima, adding that “Covid-19 has highlighted and exacerbated profound and widening economic and social inequalities. We must act to support and protect the people who are most impacted by the pandemic.”
Experience from the COVID-19 and HIV pandemics, and from other diseases, such as Ebola, has shown that key populations most at risk of AIDS are also more likely to be impacted by food insecurity, face barriers to health care and access to medicines, and suffer losses of livelihood, unemployment, homelessness and domestic violence.
The funds will target business initiatives owned by people living with HIV, women, and members of other key populations, including sex workers, transgender people, people who use drugs, gay men and men who have sex with men. All of those are people who often have their human rights violated.
Maite Schneider, the cofounder and chief executive officer of the Brazilian trans business advocacy organization TransEmpregos, stated, “The fund will help bridge the gap between aspirations and opportunities of people from my community. It places trust and gives us a chance to show our innovation and entrepreneurship with no limitations.”
In Uganda, UNAIDS will closely work with community networks, national innovation ecosystems, the private sector and other partners to create tailored support, especially capacity development on social entrepreneurship and mentoring to enhance the sustainability of social ventures and impact for the wider community, with special attention given to young key populations.
The venture development and investment platform Social Alpha has been identified by UNAIDS to provide mentoring and entrepreneur support to the chosen beneficiaries.
“We look forward to partner with communities and UNAIDS on the Solidarity Fund and leverage our experience in working with social entrepreneurs for solving complex social, economic and environmental challenges,” said Manoj Kumar, the chief executive officer and founder of India-based Social Alpha.
Joto La Jiwe, the author of this article, is a Ugandan correspondent for the African Human Rights Media Network and a member of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association. He writes under a pseudonym.