ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

Revisiting “old” Mamas

Saturdays and Sundays are quieter days as Andrew has class in the morning so I get some time to catch up with posts (if the internet allows it!) and paperwork. Then in the afternoon, we are off again!

Yesterday and today, we spent the afternoon visiting a few mamas who are beyond their commitment to ISEE (one year) but who Andrew still visits and checks in with. I love seeing how they are doing and how their life is progressing, just as an interested and invested person, not necessarily as ISEE. I have met and spent time with all these women so I am concerned about their wellbeing.

I ordered bags from Lilly in the spring so we went to her new shop first in Namuwongo to see how things were going there. She moved from her home that was tucked away in the housing area to a shop on the outside of a market. While she does get more exposure, she said that it is still hard because she faces the market and not the street so she misses that exposure.

Lilly has two different machines, one for regular sewing and one for embroidery. It is still a regular machine, just stronger with a zigzag stitch so that she can zigzag beautiful designs onto cushion covers and tablecloths. This tablecloth also has knitted flowers that she bought on the market and then hand stitched to the cloth. It was a custom order.

She used her stronger machine to make the bags for me so the feed dogs have dropped and won’t rise. She will get someone to service it so that she can continue with her unique work. As far as she knows, she is the only one in the area that does this type of work.

When I left, she slipped me a paper asking for more support for material and school fees. It’s hard to walk away from such requests as I would love to help everyone more than we do but we want to try to empower them toward independence, not toward dependence on hand-outs. It’s hard.

From there, I wanted to see Rashida with tea as I haven’t seen her since March last year but when we got to her shop, another woman was manning it. Rashida had travelled to a wedding.

We walked up the street to see Aidah, the world famous chip lady, and she was so shocked to see me she gave Andrew heck for bringing me over without calling her first! She wanted to serve me lunch but as we had just eaten, I refused. I did promise to return again as we had to see other ladies in the area and next time, Andrew would call her and I would save space for some of her chips. They looked and smelled delicious.

Aidah is always so positive. I have never seen her down and Andrew says she always seems happy. He would like to see her push herself to grow bigger but apparently she is afraid of getting too big and is satisfied with what she is doing. Better to do something well than grow and be unsuccessful. We are always here to support her if she is ever ready to take the next step.

Our third Mama on Saturday was Semmy, a teacher at Kiwuliriza who we supported with a popcorn machine in 2015. She pops popcorn in the morning before school, packs it and then takes it to school to sell at the canteen. As most teachers are paid a pitance (or often not at all), this really helps her.

This past year, she moved into a safe house as her husband was abusive but she moved back home in May. We spoke briefly about it and she said she felt life was “fair” and that she always drew her strength from her children. She said that she always wanted to do what was best for them.

She teaches top class (kindergarten) and has 47 students. On Friday, she finally was given an aid to help her. The primary classes are all 45+ because the school is growing, There is a new headmaster and Semmy says he is really good. It’s nice to see that the school continues to grow.

Sunday, we visited Anna’s shop. While I have been working with Anna on presentations since 2014, I have never been to see her shop that we invested into in 2015. Her shop is in Karamoja and sells dry goods and basic staples. She started out very strongly but then made a few bad business decisions and now she is struggling to stock her shop. I had a long chat with her about book-keeping and always reinvesting into the shop as that is her source of income.

Andrew and I spoke at length about Anna’s shop. He believes that she has learned from her mistakes and wants to get her business going properly again. We hope she sees growth and success come from the hard work she has put into her shop these past three years.

Sunday ended with a meal with two of my ultimate favourite people – Muhamad and Hanifah. I love their company.

Perfect weekend!

Off to Fort Portal tomorrow so I’m not sure what my internet will be like. I am doing two presentations with Donna on Tuesday at the school she was involved with when it first started. Taking 250 kits so they will big groups!

Have a great Sunday.

Erika

Two days of presentations

It was a very exciting and productive two days! Anna and I presented at 4 schools, completing a total of 5 presentations as one school was primary and secondary so Anna presented on her own.

On Thursday, we headed toward the airport on Entebbe road and presented in two schools in the village of Garuga. We arrived at our first school, Bugabo Lakeview Primary, in the pouring rain and as the school was up a hill, we trudged through the rain to get up to the class where the primary girls were waiting. Teacher Suzan was there to support our program. There were 50 girls in P6 and 7 and they were all very fluent in English which actually surprised me as often in Kampala we need an interpreter.

One of the big issues we discussed was the idea of “pulling” where the girls are being taught that by pulling their inner labial lips, they will have an easier time in childbirth, be more attractive, or even be protected against rape because they won’t part to let the man enter. It is delicate to challenge what their community is teaching them. I did emphasize that if a man wants to rape them, their labial lips would not protect them. I would hate for them to think it was their fault if they got raped because they didn’t “pull” enough. I explained that there is no harm in pulling as long as they don’t do it to hurt themselves because we all modify our bodies to be more beautiful. However, it would not be beneficial for childbirth (unless someone can find me an article that shows otherwise) and that it would never prevent rape. Also, we are all beautiful as we are. We don’t need to modify ourselves in any way.

Our second school was called Airport View and we spoke with the P4-7 girls. It was one of my favourite types of presentations as we were under a tree, just talking. The girls wrote and asked a variety of questions, including ones about pulling. It’s obviously a very important practice in the area. We spoke with 40 girls.

Friday, we headed toward Bombo. Our first school was an orphan school that had all the grades. Uncle Joseph (a reverend) runs the school and was incredibly grateful for the presentation. He says that organizations offer these teaching but there is always a fee so ours being offered for free is very appreciated.

I mentioned that part of the presentation that we offer is family planning including proper condom use and did he want that for the secondary girls. As it was a school run by a church, I wasn’t sure this would be an option. This was his reply:

“A few years ago, proper condom use and free distribution was part of the teaching but then some conservative members of the community said it was promoting sexual relations. So it was banned. And we had more girls fall pregnant. Yes, we teach abstinence as the first choice but girls are playing sex. Please show them.” So I did.

Anna took the primary girls and taught them on her own while I did the secondary presentation. Anna is doing an awesome job… my brain is ticking about getting kits made here fully and having her run this program. Soon I will be redundant!

The last school was waaaaaayyyy along a dirt road in Gombe that took us a few tries back and forth to find. They weren’t aware that we were coming because the head was away but they rounded up the 22 secondary girls and we presented to them. Here we discussed the idea that stretch marks make a woman more attractive and one even said that they are told that stretch marks make a girl taste more sweet.

These girls had seen and done it all. While we always promote abstinence and staying in school, I hope these girls got the message that giving their boyfriends 1000 shillings to buy condoms is a good thing to do. “If you want to be protected, you need to make sure he has condoms.” They are seen as prostitutes if they buy condoms so hopefully they will encourage their boyfriends to buy and use them.

They all know how to use them now. And the boys were waiting for them when we were done.

Interestingly, when I showed the female condom, none had ever seen them, even the teachers. One teacher was incredulous as the size and complexity of it. “My man will refuse this,” she told me.

302 kits distributed in 2 days! A great start to the program.

Have an awesome day.

Erika