Meet Josephine, Deki’s oldest entrepreneur!

When you think of a Deki entrepreneur, you often picture a young person needing a hand up to get their businesses started. But we do much more here at Deki. We work with a wide range of marginalised communities so they can be financially included. This includes women, people with disabilities and of course elders of the community, who play a vital role in making the village community thrive.

Josephine Atoo Otema at 73 years is one of Deki’s oldest entrepreneurs and has lived through hard times – she is undoubtedly an amazing woman. She fled the brutal civil war in South Sudan as a refugee over 20 years ago and settled in Palabek Kal in Northern Uganda, a hot and arid, sparsely populated place. Josephine has seven children, one of whom has sadly died, and 10 grandchildren. Eight of Josephine’s grandchildren still live with her, and she helps support them.

Being a strong and much respected character in her local tightly knit community of Palabek, she has been a group leader for her community savings group. The love and respect the people of the village have for her is clear – many women speak to her about their businesses, their homes, children, husbands, crops and every other aspect of life which she may be able to advise on.

As part of her job as a group leader, Josephine supervised the implementation of Deki loans when Deki’s then Field Partner started working with the group. She made sure their loan was the correct amount for their business and checked they knew how to invest it properly. Josephine’s help and guidance has been invaluable and in the absence of traditional banks and community business training programmes at the time, many relied upon her.

Josephine was also able to apply for her own small loan of £130 to expand her market business. She trades mainly in maize sprouts that is used for local brewing, silver fish and beans. With her loan she was able to buy increased stock at lower prices. Josephine’s business is doing well, and her income has dramatically increased since taking out her loan.

With the extra income Josephine has been able to send her youngest daughter to university in Gulu to study agriculture. This is especially important, as no one in the family has been to university before, especially a woman. She hopes in the future that she will be able to help all 10 grandchildren to follow in her daughter’s footsteps…