Habari gani! (Herb-ari gun-ey)
This is Swahili, one of the most commonly spoken languages in East Africa at large. It’s origin came from the coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania during the African-Arab trade age. It was commonly used by traders and soldiers who later adopted it as a formal language during parades and training. It has become part of the commonly spoken languages and is documented as the official language of the East African Community. The East Africa Community comprises the nations of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and now South Sudan as the latest addition since their independence in 2011.
This week has been okay except that, during the week I had a challenge with one of our Mama’s husbands. We started dealing with Christine about two years ago and I had never seen this gentleman before but he called me during one of the nights and rudely wanted to interrogate me about the relationship I had with Christine. He claims to have seen me a few times visiting this home. Due to the nature of the conversation and accusations I decided to hang up on him. I have tried to contact Maria, another Mama Nguvu partner and friend of Christine in the same area, but her phone is not available so I will keep trying. I don’t want to go by myself so I have also tried to call Anna my fellow counterpart but also her phone was not available the whole day.
In a world where there is a lot of insecurity and men being abusive due to economic differences, I fear for women like Christine who have worked tirelessly to become the people they are today. Christine is a retired teacher who left the teaching profession to do farming because of financial challenges. She has since built an agricultural legacy of poultry and now piggery farming. Her business has grown during the course of the year and is still growing without limitations. Such success threatens some men and oftentimes will lead to violence and to be honest this is my scare for sure.
I am personally attached to what we do as ISEE Solutions because at a time when my father had no work, my mother through her entrepreneurial mind started a snack business that helped to keep our home afloat almost until my father transcended into the next life. I look at these Mamas in the image of my mother and I understand what they do because I am a product of the same.
When incidents like this happen to Mamas, or any woman for that matter, it breaks my heart. I don’t know the exact story but I hope whatever is happening, I can get a chance to get the full story and I promise to share the same.
The last week of September had me see Francoise, Annet, Lorna, Amina, Prossy, Christine, and Jane. I also spoke to Dorah, Irene and Lilly on the phone.
Things have not changed much for Francoise over the past many months. She is now left with one business which is dying too. The charcoal business went on hold a few weeks ago because she was not getting any return on capital. She has stopped the business for a while as she looks for an alternative course of action.
On a sad note just over a week ago prior to my visit she received a visitor from Congo, who is like an auntie to her. She succumbed a few days later to a ruptured tonsil that suffocated her. During the time of my visit they were still shaken by the events and the burial costs entirely depleted their finances.
Annet N., is still doing well at her stall. She has been lucky so far that the supermarket owner hasn’t thrown her out of the place she has been currently working. She credits it to the fact that on all occasions of this owner’s visit, she has found Annet tiding the area which left a good impression on the supermarket owner’s mind.
Annet says, “Business has been very good recently, because of the rains that have been falling.” These rains bring cold weather and this increases the level of demand of the tea and porridge that Annet sells.
Things are going to change hopefully for Lorna K over the next few weeks because she requested us to buy her sheets of fabric to make baby sheets. Lorna is a volunteer at a local clinic that supports people living positively and helps to support expecting mothers. She thought about an idea of making these sheets and overall clothes for babies which she can market and sell to the expecting mothers.
Lorna believes that by sewing these baby merchandise maybe she can earn some money. She has been struggling to put food on the table for the last few months because the business was not earning anything. She proposed that if we could help her buy a few sheets, she can start with this and build on because they usually encourage the mothers to buy cotton sheets for the baby. The good thing is that she has been in the business of tailoring and knows a few places she can buy these cheaply and remodel them into smaller sheets and sell them for a profit. I sent her some money the next day and she called me to thank me before she could go and get the sheets. I wished her well and hopefully this will work out well for her.
I was super impressed by Amina A., who has been doing an incredible job to sustain her business. It has been almost two months now since we helped her start this. I am happy so far about how things are moving. She is not getting a lot of profits but she told me. “I usually at least get back the capital I invested in the bananas.”
This was a good sign to me that she is keeping some kind of records on how much she keeps buying. This is very fundamental for good business practice. She lamented that, “Maybe because we use some of the money to buy food, this is why I don’t see a lot of profit.” I told her yes. But in the whole story I was happy they were able to get something to feed on daily.
The only sad part is that she is experiencing a very bad toothache and she said,
“It is hard to sleep sometimes…”
I told her yes it should be hard because I know and also because I have had toothaches before. I told her they are also tricky to most times show up at night. I asked her to gargle with warm and salty water. I will contact one of my dentist friends to see how we can help her maybe. Otherwise she was saying that the pain sometimes is unbearable.
The return of the rainy season has improved the well-being of Prossy’s pigs. They look very good and their coats are shiny and silky almost. During my visit I noticed a few green leaves and grasses that had been cut to help feed the pigs unlike the last time where there was hardly anything to feed them with.
Prossy and her husband who live also with a granddaughter looked happy and were also excited that I had visited them. I usually like to visit people more than twice a month especially in the cases where we have had an intervention, basically to assess the impact or the progress of what we have done. I must say that I was happy to see that the situation was getting better for these animals too.
Majority of our agricultural practicing Mamas are passionate farmers and they love to do what they are doing. It encourages me when we find them happy and not burdened by what they thought would change their lives.
As for Christine, except from that incident I had with her husband. I would like to say that her project has been accomplished in terms of setting up. A few months ago, we started working on the construction of her animal house and it would house both chicken and pigs. This week I was really excited to deliver the 3 pigs we wanted to offer her. She called me and told me that she was expecting over 450 chicks from the hatchery in about two weeks.
The fact that I had played my part in preparation and helping to deliver the pigs, I was happy to see this project come to fulfillment. I really hope that nothing jeopardizes this project because we have put a lot of effort into it, just like all other projects we have handled in the past few years.
Jane N., is having a mixed feeling towards the water business because of the inconsistency of the sun. The rains surely seem to have come back so often people will collect water and keep it in their reserves. This impacts Jane’s business negatively but otherwise she is doing okay. The paper bag making is going on and good also at the moment so she is surviving majorly on this.
The only challenge was that her grandson has surely missed a lot of physiotherapy and I was thinking that maybe this month like we used to before the pandemic, maybe sponsor him to one clinic.
Like always, I like to follow up on a few of the mamas on the telephone and the following are some of the updates on what is happening.
Dorah A., had been searching for a house until she found one that she could rent to start her restaurant again. The only challenge is that the last time we spoke the house was not yet finished, so when I called her this week, there was not much progress on the construction process. I encouraged her to stay positive and that we are ready to assist when the time is right.
Irene L., the hairstylist is doing okay. The salon is picking up better and better lately as her customers have been getting word of the new hair dryer she got. This is encouraging because she has a few loans that she has to pay that accrued from school fees debts at school. She desires to include selling beverages like soda, water and juice because she works in a busy market and not many people have an opportunity to sell drinks. The opportunity is that her salon is strong and good to house a fridge but she doesn’t have one. She is trying to save for one, so I told her to continue because the opportunity is there.
Finally, I spoke to Lilly A. She is a wonderful tailor who has sold a number of bags to our visitors over the last few years. She is still surely struggling to get back on her feet but unlike Lorna who has discovered a new alternative, Lilly hasn’t seen a new road yet. I will keep checking on her to see what she can do over the next few weeks. Her need is fabric but the challenge is she needs a lot of fabric at the moment and yet the market is not yet certain.
As always, working with our Mamas surely graces my heart with so much joy because serving them gives me a great humbling. It enriches my soul and life because of the appreciation for what they do.
I will never stop thanking you for your support that always brings hope to these families and children.
I send you all positive thoughts in whatever things you are dealing with, that you will surely find some peace and joy not only for supporting the people you care about also to a world that needs kindness now, more than ever.
We wish you good health, please stay safe and keep social distance but also stay sociable.
Let’s end period poverty together.
Director of Programs, Uganda
ISEE Solutions Society