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#WCW Victoria Byoma, using banana fibre to change lives

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Our WCW this week is Victoria Byoma, a Ugandan lawyer with a passion for arts and craft. She was recently recognised for her contribution to changing the lives of women in Uganda thanks to her business of making products from banana fibre.

Uganda is the world’s second exporter of banana after India. While more than 75 per cent of Ugandans produce bananas, a significant percentage still goes to waste, and that’s where Victoria Byoma comes in.

Although she is known for her work as a lawyer, Byoma is a leather expert who makes products out of banana fibre. She then sells these products in and out of Uganda.

Calling it her side business, Byoma saw it as an opportunity to tap into the potential in Uganda’s art and craft sector besides earning an income from it.

She decided to use banana fibre as way to make her leather products unique and to make her business stand out.

“I wanted to focus on something specific – that’s how I chose leather, however, I also thought something that would be easier to get and that is how I got the option of mats,” the Makerere graduate told Uganda’s Daily Monitor.

Byoma combines hand knitting and machine use, with hand knitting used for 80 percent of the products.  The products range from décor for the home and office to corporate gifts.

One of the easiest things with using banana, according to Byoma, is its availability. However, she has faced a number of challenges including poor interest in developing the leather industry, which leads to the importation of leather from other countries resulting to high production costs.

Away from her business, Byoma has used her success to inspire women and young girls in Uganda. Earlier in the year, she took part in the Mentoring Walk, an initiative that seeks to raise awareness on mentoring as a tool for personal, professional and business development.

She shared her story on how she became a fashion designer who makes and exports arts and craft to the world.

As the chairperson of the Footwear and Leather Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Byoma has overseen the capacity building initiatives for Small and Mid-Size Enterprises (SMEs) in the leather and leather goods sector.

With all the feathers in her cap, she has shown that you can still pursue your passion even as you hold your day job.

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