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Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

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ISEE Interview Series: ROVENCE

{Note: The following interview is with Rovence Nakanwaji, one of our first Mama Nguvu candidates and arguably one of the most successful. She has consistently impressed us with both her fierce work ethic and her generous spirit.

The interview was conducted in Lugandan and then translated into English (by Andrew… my Lugandan is not so good). The grammar and rhythms are different than you may be used to but hopefully will serve to give you a taste of true Ugandan speech.

A regular update will return next week. –ed.}

My story: Rovence

My name is Rovence Nakanwaji. I was born in the later parts of the 1960’s in a district called Masaka (Pronounced Mass-sir-car), in a village called “Kaseruka” (Pronounced Car-say-rue-car), to a gentleman called Emmanuel L. and a lady called Angelina N. I have three children of my own, who have since grown into adults now. I lost my second husband who took me up after the first had left me in the village. He loved me and is the one who helped me to move into another house when my landlord asked me to leave his house which we had moved in after my brothers’ death.

I grew up in the village and I went to some of the local schools around the area but unfortunately I got pregnant before I could finish  secondary school. I was only in Senior One. Luckily I stayed in the village for another 9 months and was able to give birth safely, that was probably 1989.

Moving to the city to start living with my brother was not easy because we bounced from one relatives’ house to another for a few months before I finally settled with my brother in his rented single-roomed house. I needed to start earning a living as soon as possible. My brother sold deep-fried snacks for a living and needed me to help care for his newly born son, who was sick at the time. His wife too had gotten birth-related complications so the help was desperately needed that I had no option. Eventually his wife passed on and I became the caretaker of these three children she left behind. 

We lived with him in this single-roomed house for about four years, before they had to move us into a two-roomed house. The  one-roomed house became too small because the kids had grown too. The owner of the house was forced to move into a bigger house because he felt pity on us and for a fact my elder brothers’ lifestyle was not the very best. He moved us to a new house and lived there until 1997. This year was difficult because my brother was ill for about 2 year and he eventually lost his battle in 1997.

I started cooking after my brothers’ death in 1997, I had never worked or gotten any form of employment. My brother loved me and cared for me, everything we ever wanted, he brought to us. It became extremely hard to live by ourselves when he was gone, so I decided to take the children to their grandparents who at least would take care of them easily. At this point I felt like I was between a rock and a hard place. The world is a big place but I felt like the only space I had was where my two feet were standing. The children were eventually brought back to live with me.

My brother used to sell snacks like chapati, mandazi, cassava and other deep-fried snacks for a living. I would eventually learn how to make these because he would let me help out every now and then. I did this for the first year and things started to make sense but eventually I shifted into cooking food because food was my comfort zone. I moved to a bigger space to cook better and surely a few years later into this place I am in today. Someone who used to eat at my small place called me telling me about this busier place where I could make more money.

I met my husband a year later after my brother’s loss when I had just started cooking. A gentleman from the school nearby came asking for a person to open up a canteen in the school. I thought well, since I am cooking snacks just outside here, I would take the opportunity. I started making more snacks and delivering to shops in the community and the rest I would carry it to the school canteen. One day he (my husband then) was building at the school and he came to eat at the canteen. He supported me after the landlord kicked us out of his house after the death of my brother. He helped us rent our first house and he later moved in with us. We had two more kids with him but sadly he died a few years later, this was in 2004. 

A few months after his death, I started falling sick and I thought it was depression because he left the kids really young. I was always worried about school fees and the upkeep all the time, so I was so stressed and depressed. I stopped working and all my customers got concerned. They looked for me at home and took me to the hospital where they actually tried to treat me. They did tests for the usual Malaria and Typhoid but nothing showed. They later did more blood work and found out that I had caught the virus. This stressed me out the more, on the day I was told I went back home, bought a chicken and a big bottle of soda. I cooked the chicken myself but when I started to eat it, I couldn’t finish of course. I thought I was going to die soon so I wanted to eat my favorite meal.

Fast forward, my neighbor knew one of the doctors at the International Hospital Kampala. She took me there and I received treatment for free until I recovered. My family members feared visiting me because they thought the would be arrested because they obviously knew we couldn’t afford it. Anyways, I think there was an HIV/AIDs project at the hospital, so it covered all my medical needs. I was also enrolled into a counseling program and medication unit where I received medication until the program was wound. They also connected me to another organization called Touch Namuwongo. 

Touch Namuwongo became a blessing to me as they trained me as a peer educator in my program. I started to get involved in the programs at the organization and I also got gigs to supply food for the days when they held various training sessions. This helped me make a lot of money to be able to pay my children’s school fees, rent and other things. I started to stabilize, getting my medication but also doing business with them. This was actually organized by Immaculate who was a counselor with Touch Namuwongo. She would check up on me to ensure I was okay and a few years down the road (2014) we met again in the Women Empowerment class and reproductive health clinic that ISEE Solutions was holding at a local primary school in the Namuwongo area.

ISEE Solutions Society in 2014 became a very important part of my life and the many other women who were enrolled with me and the years after. My daughter was in primary school at that time, so the Headteacher at the time contacted some of us women to come attend the workshop. We got reusable sanitary pads. Fast forward weeks later after our initial contact ISEE Solutions Society helped me purchase a fridge to add to my business along with some utensils and eventually about a year later helped me buy food warmers for my catering business.

My business has grown along the years and I have managed to secure myself a small piece of land on which I hope one day, I can build a home for my children. My husband wanted to build us a house but life never gave him the opportunity, so I want to build my children a home in case anything ever happened.

I feel tired a bit and my body is starting to act up on me. I would have wanted to build a restaurant or start up a bigger one than what I have at the moment. This would mean that I will have to hire younger cooks who would do the cooking and I will only manage. I have been cooking for too long in this charcoal and I guess my time is running out. I will focus on trying to build them a home, at least I can go rest there and never worry about rent like I do here every month.

In conclusion, I want to thank the ISEE Solutions Society Family, Erika and Corey who we met in 2014 and years later when they brought teams to visit us. I will not forget Immaculate for the role she played and also Andrew who has always done a great job in visiting us and giving us advice but also motivating us when times are hard. 

In my last words today, I think all women should work hard especially with the kinds of opportunity we have as women. I have advanced in age but every week I have an opportunity to attend a business class offered by some organization here in Namuwongo. Whereas I have been running this business for more than 20yrs, I think I have learned a thing or two that when I put them in action, I will improve my business. For us as Ugandan women, ISEE Solutions has given us an opportunity to change our lives and educate our children but we still have to work hard for it. It is tough but we can’t give up. I was almost done but thanks to my friends who supported me throughout the hard time.

This is my short story. I wish I could share everything but time is limited.

Thank you.

Update April 30, 2021


Greetings to you all,

I am glad we have come to the end of April, I must say it is one of the best months in the year.  Like I narrated last week, surely I had some fun and I concluded the week with something interesting. 

This week started on a good note and I will start with the interesting stories for me. I visited Amina A., Jennifer N., Angel N., Justine N. and Pulakiseda N.

Amina making chapati

My most interesting story or visit was with Amina A., she is doing great. I loved the fact that she has added a new business to the old one. She started a chapati making business for the fasting month for her Moslem counterparts. Her home is located just next to a mosque so on top of her ripe bananas, she added chapati because it is a delicacy enjoyed by the Moslem fraternity here in Uganda. Every afternoon she starts to make her dough then fries the chapati and sells them later that afternoon opposite the entrance of the mosque. This has ensured her sustainability this month of fasting. I was so proud that she was doing this. The banana business is still going on and she got some great bunches of bananas, this is her niche product and I don’t want her to lose it, so I was glad. I hope she can keep up with the pressure. 

Amina with her bananas

Unfortunately she has a very big bump on her hip that has been causing her some considerable pain over the last few weeks since my last visit. I am hoping it’s not a big deal but I asked her to see a doctor about it. Apparently it causes so much pain in her right leg so her mobility has been hindered by this bump.

Jennifer sorting shoes for sale

My next visit was with Jennifer N., who deals in second hand shoes. The business has been growing since the year started majorly because students have been only going back in intervals. The going back to school in phases has helped create somewhat a sustainable market for shoes and she has been doing week and in general the sales have been up there. 

She has been opening up to 15 bales a week which she says is really a great number. She averages 3 bales a day, a great return. I am glad that she is really happy with what is going on in her business. We will keep checking on her. 

Her first born son has successfully finished primary seven which is the lightest class of his grade. We hope that he performs as good as he expects.

Angel in front of her shop

I finally got to meet with Angel N., who I have been searching for all this while. It’s been about 5-6 weeks of looking and this week I managed to meet her after her expedition of helping build her mothers house. It’s always our joy to hear our Mamas doing more than just their business, by adding another element to what they do. This time it was a social involvement with family to help build her mothers house, who underwent surgery a few months ago. Angel spent a lot of her savings trying to treat her mother and provide after care services that cost her a lot more money. She then recently went to help build a house for a mother and according to her, by the time she left the house was almost complete with a ceiling required and some little things. I was honestly happy to meet her and also hear of the development. 

Unfortunately this move set her backwards in my review and assessment that I have since decided to review her boost again. We had made progress in the review but when she got lost, my review got a setback so I have decided to restart the entire process again. I will take another couple of months to review and exam whether the boost will be viable then.


My visit with Asia made me think about a boost for her business. Asia has been trying to make ends meet with her business for a while. She originally started with book making and has added several other efforts like beverage selling and she has done well. During my previous visit before last she had requested to boost her business with sodas, water and juice. I was glad to see progress when I saw her shelves filled with bottles of water. Water is cheaper than juice and soda so I was happy that even without our help she has been able to invest in her business. This is usually one of my pointers to Mamas seeking boosts. I have since decided to push her name forward to try and get her business boost. She needs 200,000/- Uganda shillings to buy sodas for her shop. This will probably help increase her capital and income.

During my visit she was extracting banana juice using grass and banana leaves. This is a type of local juice enjoyed by the population in the market where she dwells. She extracts it by hand, chills it in her fridge and sells it to market dwellers throughout the day. She actually will sell up to 20 litres of this juice a day. 


Business has not been going on well for the last three weeks for Pulakiseda because the market road was under repair. Since her stall is right by the entrance of the market and the road, this eventually slowed down her business because the dirt was a lot so she had to close for a few days. Hence a dip in her sales per day and the week. 

Otherwise she is now well. She is getting back on track and is looking forward to moving on from this road making event.


Finally for today’s edition, I visited Justine N. Justine is our only Mama who deals in saucepan hiring. She will usually rent to anyone who has a congregation of more than 100 people. This includes weddings, funerals and other forms of gatherings. Obviously business has not been going on well for her because of the issue of social gatherings and social distancing. This has reduced demand for her services throughout this time. Times have been hard for most of our Mamas because kids are returning to school every other month and their fees have essentially doubled because they have to now take certain accessories to school in the effort of trying to fight the pandemic. 

Luckily she has a veggie stall that has been her backbone for more than a year now. She sells small things like onions, tomatoes and other veggies. This has sustained her and her family. We can only hope that the season remains good for her to get her veggies for sale. 

Justine serving customers

It was truly an awesome week for me as always, I hope to find more optimism in the following weeks ahead. Thank you for always following what we do weekly, it means a lot to us. The feedback has been positive and is much appreciated. 

Please stay safe, maintain social distancing but remember to remain sociable. The world needs a little more loving in this pain and anguish. Spread the love.

Our Mama Boost of the Week is:

Asia N. has requested boost worth 200,000/- Uganda shillings to help her buy sodas to add into her shop. This will boost her capital and increase her profits eventually.

Yours Sincerely

Andrew Echel 

Director for Programs, Uganda

ISEE Solutions Society