Action on Poverty (APT) is our Christmas Charity at SME Strategies this year. We have chosen it because of its work which includes training young people in business skills to help them set up their own businesses, provide a second income stream and escape poverty.

Action on Poverty is a small, dynamic charity working out of the UK to transform the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Africa and South Asia. APT have helped over a million people to escape poverty through a myriad of small enterprises and become self-reliant. Now with dignity and respect, those people are helping their communities to build a brighter future. APT combine practical help with tackling the root causes of poverty and work with diverse partners, making the most of joint expertise collaboration.

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One project, based in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, promotes gender equality and enables domestic workers to access their rights. Through a partner organisation APT are providing legal aid and the means to access education and training, while promoting livelihoods development as a second income stream to domestic work.

Domestic workers in Uganda are among the most vulnerable, marginalised and lowest paid. Recruited from the poorest rural locations to work for families in cities far from home, they lack support networks, education and the means to access their rights. The continuous ‘invisibility and hidden’ nature of their work and cultural biases against women and girls have relegated them to conditions of exploitation. They face long working hours, restricted mobility, lack of privacy and no access to information. They earn low incomes, lack health care, suffer economic, sexual and psychological violence.

One individual is Mahsubuga, whose family due to poverty could not afford to keep her at home or pay her school fees. She left home at a young age to live and work for a family in Kampala, as a domestic worker. Far from friends and relatives, shut indoors and with no contract of employment she was at the mercy of the family whose children she cared for, there was little she could do to ensure she was paid or treated decently.

Mahsubuga was at times abused and punished, and both wages or food were withheld from her. She could do nothing about it. It was impossible to save money to continue her education or training. She felt trapped and saw no future beyond the lowest paid domestic work until she heard about the APT project. Through a door-to-door campaign to seek out domestic workers, she was connected into peer support with mobile phone technology.

Her life has changed, with peer support to build resilience against abusive working conditions she claimed her entitlement to a day off work each week. She was then able to attend a course in business to plan a second income stream alongside domestic work and has begun to save money through schemes APT’s support groups have started. In future, she plans to start a small micro-business to supplement her income.

If your firm would like to get involved with APT, please follow the link: http://aptuk.org.uk/index.php/home/how-you-can-help/how-your-company-can-help/

Happy Christmas.

David, Sean & John

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