Greetings to you all,
I hope you have been well.
I will start with the good news of the week: Betty N. one of our Mamas who does tailoring, and also teaches it to students, just gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She called me on 4th June 2021 telling me that she had been admitted in the maternity ward at her local hospital. She had gone for her regular visits but the doctor insisted she stayed because he felt she was due. He admitted her for 2 days and scheduled a C-section for her the next day. Betty has had two children already and both of them came through C-section, so the doctor advised Betty to deliver on time because of the nature of birth she has been undertaking. I am glad that all went well; she called me a day after to let me know that she is okay. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t go to visit her because of the pandemic. We wish her the best.
The pandemic has gotten worse here and the President has readjusted the way of life again because the numbers have really shot up in the last few weeks. The President delivered a state of the nation address on 6/05/2021 issuing lockdowns on schools, transport, social events and gatherings. Many other businesses, like bars, have been completely closed, and even churches are now off limits.
They have limited all social gatherings, including weddings and funerals, to 20 people. Private transport has been restricted to only 3 people maximum per car and public transport has been limited to district level. We can’t move from one district to another. This is going to hinder a lot of business and movement especially for me when it comes to the few Mamas that are outside Kampala in places like Mukono and Wakiso districts.
This week I traveled to Njeru to see Peter of React Now, Rehema N, Rashida S, Rovence N, Gertrude N, Sarah N, Francoise L, Irene Lamaro and Jennifer N.
I will start with Sarah N who keeps goats. It was unfortunate that we could not meet in person because she had gone for mass prayers at her local church. This week commemorates Martyrs Day Celebrations and as Catholics, this is one of their major events every year. Between 1885 to about 1887 the Kabaka (King) of the Buganda Kingdom, Kabaka Mwanga II, ordered the killing of 45 people in religious and political conflicts as missionaries tried to spread Christianity. These 45 people included both Anglican and Catholic converts. Sarah went to pay her tribute to her faith.
Anyways I still managed to visit her house and see the goats with the company of her kids. Most of her kids had returned home because they had just gotten holidays. When the kids get holidays they are in charge of taking care of the goats and are assigned chores like cutting grass for the goats, cleaning the goat house and gardening. This helps Sarah especially because of her mobility issues as her legs and back have not fully recovered from a previous illness. The goats and the house really look nice. The goats have recovered from a previous disease outbreak and have not fallen sick again.
I like traveling to see Sarah because I get the opportunity to buy cocoa pods from an elderly couple that sells them by the road side. For the last several visits, I have stopped at a local wooden stall and have had lovely chats with them as they picked out the best pods for me.
My search for Getrude N. became successful this week and I managed to meet her at her home. She told me that the reason that she was lost was her brother asked her to get better furniture for her section. Being a salon the brother was worried about her dilapidated furniture from her previous shop making the salon look disorganized. Gertrude had to look for money to make a new glass and metal table to display and store her stationeries plus hold her computer.
At the time of my visit she was seated home with her daughter, cleaning and preparing dinner for the kids. The kids are not in school because their section of school is not yet open. They stay home and look after each other as she goes daily to work.
Rashida S. is doing well. I found her in her stall resting while her eldest daughter worked. She had returned home from school break and it is usually Rashida’s way of teaching her children to work because for her it is important for her kids to learn how to work. Rashida usually goes to the market very early in the morning to buy vegetables for her stall. She sometimes carries all the merchandise in a basket on top of her head walking about 5-7kms to her home but sometimes she hires a motorcycle to transport the goods. This particular day of my visit, she had carried the goods on her head so she had taken a nap to refresh.
She said the business is doing well although the sun has affected supply of vegetables and caused a lot of scarcity especially things like tomatoes and onions. This scarcity has caused an increase in prices for most vegetables so she has been trying to balance her demand and supply. I told her this was a very good practice for her business to know how to balance and manage these two forces. It is unfortunate that Rashida almost has no education at all but she has taken on the important task of relentlessly educating all her children — especially her girls. She has sent all the boys to vocations because they seem to have been more interested. She is one of the many Mamas who have continued to fight and put their kids in school against all odds. Their zeal and passion for education inspire me every day.
Rehema N. is also doing well. Rehema is one of our snack-making Mamas and she lost her first business due to a dispute between her landlords who eventually evicted all the tenants on their property. One of the tenants was Rehema who was renting rooms for both her home and business. She had to move to another district and was lucky to eventually get a housekeeping job where she does not have to pay rent. The problem is that since the move she has not been able to get a business started. All the attempts have been disastrous on all occasions.
Fortunately, she recently started doing laundry for people around her community and it seems that it is working out well for her. She goes door-to-door asking if anyone needs her services and if so she will either wash them at the clients home or take them to hers. Usually it is easier for her to take them to her house because then she can cook for her kids and grandchildren. There is something about this Mama that bothers me or concerns me a lot, I surely don’t know which is more appropriate to use but a lot concerns me. She has so much on her plate as a mother and a woman at large, to feed more than 7 kids without any form of income. This compels me to check up on her every now and then to see how she is doing. I am glad she has figured out something for herself and I hope it works out for the family too.
I met her with one of her sons called Reagan who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Business at one of the local Universities in Kampala. He is doing well so far for the semester and he seems to enjoy the course. I wished him well in his studies because he really loves his mother and wants to graduate to be able to help her and the family. This is the spirit I would love to see the kids of our Mamas have because I see what these incredible women go through every single day to raise the school fees.
Irene L. the salonist is doing well. She was happy during my visit as she was having a meal. It is unfortunate that schools closed again just after parents had sent the kids back to school so they had to pick them up in just under a week. People like Irene who took loans to supplement fees, it becomes a bit difficult for them because they don’t get value for money. Educating children for people like Irene is very hard because it is almost impossible for them to send their kids to school without loans. Most of them depend on these loans to educate their children and also depend on their business to service the loans. This is why for me also it is important that their businesses survive and function because a lot depends on this.
Otherwise she is really doing well and she is happy with her business so far. I am delighted when I see a Mama happy with her business, it gives me a sense that the business will be given enough attention to thrive. If the business fails, at least it is not due to lack of passion or drive from the Mama.
Now the other interesting story from this visit came from a meal she was eating during my visit. Irene was eating chicken feet. She told me it is called “coco finger” because coco is another term used to refer to chicken and then fingers is used because they look like fingers. Many families here especially in the slums eat this because they can not afford real chicken.
Rovence N. is doing wonderful. She got her power connection back so the fridge is working again. The connection faulted because the line that feeds her restaurant broke at one of the points in the ceiling. She has been managing her consumption by switching off the power during the night and having it run during the day when her customers are around.
Her tables and benches are holding up and also looking good at the moment. She keeps them clean and organized all the time. I really like it when Mamas take care of the stuff they have. It ensures that the business looks good and attractive to their clients, another way to sustain a business.
Jennifer the second-hand shoe dealer has been enjoying good business these last few months, especially because the school-going students are going back in intervals. This ensures that her customers are spread round the year instead of having them flock in only three times a year. Here the different classes of students come at intervals to when they are expected to report. They have been smaller batches but this is effective for the business. She is opening between 10-15 bales of shoes twice per week. This a very large number of shoes. She has also been lucky that the shipment has been coming at all because the government has been prioritizing these imports and also helping sellers clear taxes easily.
She is happy that her son finished primary seven and will soon join secondary school. Her middle daughter has also since joined primary seven and this makes her really excited.
Jennifer’s husband died almost 7-8 years ago when these kids had not even started school. I think only the boy had started school. Jennifer had no form of employment at that time but she had to step up because now the whole responsibility was resting on her shoulder. Fortunately she stepped up to the and has done well. She started selling shoes from outside the shop she is in now and within a few months she became a co-renter of the shop. Yes the business has been hard sometimes but she has been determined to keep it afloat. It is therefore worth celebrating and being happy for how much she has achieved given her story. Well done Jennifer.
Francoise L. has been really ill the last few days. It was unfortunate that she tested positive for TB but has been undergoing treatment. She must have contracted it from one of her nieces that caught it a few months ago. It seems that her body tried to fight it for a long time but eventually failed.
It all started with a slight headache and then a slight cough. She left her food stall and asked her daughter to continue with the sales. She went to rest and a few minutes later she started coughing blood so she asked her daughter Jolly to get her medication but this did not work. She was taken to the hospital and tested but they only found a heavy infection of malaria of which she was treated but she got worse. Jolly decided to call Francoise’s doctor who advised them to rush her to the hospital where she gets her medication. Francoise was tested and they found out that she also had TB.
She was given medication to help her treat the TB. She was advised to also wear a mask at all times to protect the children. The challenge is that her children had not been working for days and after buying the medication she had no money left for food and so she was not eating well. I decided that I would give them money to buy food for the following few days as they figured out something for themselves. It was important for her to eat as she was taking very strong medication. I will keep calling and checking on how she is doing.
Her business has picked up but now she is back at square one again. She had bought herself an umbrella, table and bench for the business. She had been struggling a lot with space for her customers to sit. She had also bought a kettle to make tea for her customers but all her savings are now all gone because the treatment is expensive. I encouraged her to always save something and advised her to imagine if she hadn’t saved and what would have happened in this case.
My last story comes from my long trip to see Peter K of React Now Save Young Mothers. I needed to find out some information from him so I had to take a long trip to Eastern Uganda to see him. Peter heads a wonderful local organization that started out as a women empowerment organization but has since evolved to include boys too. Peter was requesting financial help and we needed more information about his sustainability so the visit was imminent.
The visit went well and I found out some good details from my visit including their cattle project that is dedicated towards helping them create sustainability for the school. Peter’s vocational school was closed during lockdown and they have never been able to reopen so they have been strategizing to come back and serve the unending need of educating teenage girls and mothers. We will have more to come on his issues and challenges in a future post.
Thank you for following our endeavors this week. We are always excited to post you these blogs and reports so that we all stay in touch with you. The next few weeks will be hard because of the new regulations at hand but we will do our best to keep you all posted. It is important to remember that we should always keep safe, remember to sanitize and continuously wear your mask. I have since bought myself another box of masks to ensure that I stay protected but also protect our Mamas too.
Director of Programs, Uganda
ISEE Solutions Society