Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Women's Group

Warning: This post will not do justice to the beauty that is this women's group. They are the strongest, most hard working, dedicated, beautiful group of women I have EVER seen, and I almost feel like I am doing them a disservice by not putting up a SERIOUS, well thought out post. But ALAS: Time is not my friend (that, and the power in Kyenjojo has been scream-inducing chaotic recently, so better to get the post up than to have everything cut out right in the middle...).

A quick overview: I met this group through Moses, my friend who started a small NGO called UTOPIA along with a group of neighbors in the village of Kyongera (pronounced: "Chone-gera"). Before I even met them, the women had a savings scheme in which they pooled their money every week or two that they all met and one lucky women would get a loan on medicine or a business related expense. She would then pay it back at a later date. Since meeting them, I've introduced the concept of a Village Savings and Loan Association, and their savings has increased from around 60 thousand shillings to around 750 thousand! They are ON IT.

In addition to the concepts they borrowed from the savings and loan setup, they also get together to make arts and crafts. When my Dad and sister Catherine came to Uganda, we all got together for a big day-o-fun, and when Dad and Cat left Uganda, they had a large supply of baskets, necklaces and other craft work from this group. So: If you are interested in getting a piece of BEAUTIFUL Ugandan craft-work and you are fortunate enough to know my father, contact him and, if available, he can show you what he's got [In fact, the women are holding each piece that they made and sent with my Dad! So you'll actually know the women (somehow) who made your craft!]. We're in the process of setting up a supply line where the women ship more products to us by Air-Mail, we sell it in The States, and 100% of the proceeds (less shipping) goes back to the women.

Ok, without further ado... the women of the Kyongera women's group. (Note: I intend to interview all the women, but at the time I only have three. I've included excerpts from the interviews (quite short), put them more into a statement form and attached them to the pictures).

Beatrice Mbabazi, “Adyeeri”

[This is Moses' mother!] My name is Beatrice Mbabazi, and my empaako [nickname] is “Adyeri” [Pronounced: Aw-dyeh-ree]. I am 42 years old, and I have eight children.

Education is very important to me. I completed Primary 2 [The US equivalent of 1st grade], and there are many things I would be doing today if I had a better education. It is very important that my children receive one.

To help support my family, I used to make money by making crafts such as sweaters and baskets. If I have a surplus of food from digging, I will also sell that. When the yield is poor, it is only for the family. I can earn ten-thousand shillings [bout 3.33 USD] in a month. This money is not enough. There are times when I get sick and must use the money for sick affairs [hospital bills], and what I had intended for the money to go to is diverted to the sickness.
When it doesn't go towards medical expenses, I spend the money I earn on materials for arts and crafts for the women’s group. I also buy scholastic materials for my kids, and some of the money is a contribution for school fees.

It is the lack of income generating activities that is preventing the development of Uganda today. If we have something to do [i.e. work], we can do these things and make money. And by hard work we can have a better life. There are some jobs in Uganda, but often they are only for educated people. That means that uneducated people don’t get jobs or are paid very little.

With the money made by selling my baskets in The United States, I hope to invest in making a clinic so that that money goes on generating. Or I would buy a certain place or area where we can continue making crafts so that we can act as an example to others so that they too make crafts, sell them and make an income for themselves.

The final interview question: "Tell me about the happiest moment in your life."

Her answer: What made me happiest in life was when I got a home and got married, [Baptist, her husband, clarifies here: “That is a home,” he says, “when a man and a woman get married. It is a home, not a house.”] and had children. In the future, I want peace and a source of income so that my home stands.

Maurene Tusiime, "Abwooli"

Edrona Kabahindi, "Atwooki"

[Didn't get the name...]

Mary Balyebwoha, "Akiiki"

Beatrice Tibanjurra, "Amooti"

Victoria Timbigamba, "Abwooli"

Violet Banura, "Ateenyi"

My name is Violet Banura, my empaako is “Ateenyi”, and I am 20 years old. I have one parent, my dad who is a peasant farmer, and my mother is dead. I also have one brother and five sisters.

[When I asked about her occupation, I got this response]:

[Baptist says: “That is a completely dead question for her, she is finding it hard for her to answer.” He said this after Violet answered, “Tinsubura.” which in Rutooro means, “I am not able.”]

“Oli mulimi?” I ask (You are a farmer?). “Ehhh.” (Yes.) “Olima ki?” (What do you grow?) “Ebitakuuli, ebijimba, ebilaaya…” (Sweet potatoes, beans and irish potatoes.) “Nootunda ebijumaa?” (Do you sell those vegetables?) “Tintunda.” (I don’t sell them) [meaning she is a subsistence farmer.]

I am helping Uganda's development by digging and making crafts. I will consider myself developed when I buy a cow. For now, my goals are to continue raising my babies [in addition to her three children, she is also raising a child of her deceased sister. The father wasn't taking care of the child and neither was her (Violet's) dad. So Violet took the child into her house to raise it.]

The final interview question: "Tell me about the happiest moment in your life."

Her answer: Having the babies were the happiest moments in my life.

Consolant Kirungi, "Atwooki"

Stanley Rubaire, "Apuuli"

Clophas Kasangaki, "Ateenyi"

Oliver Kakulilemu, "Abwooli"

Anna Akimugabo, "Abwooli"

Sylvia Natugonza, "Adyeeri"

My name is Sylvia Natugonza, and my empaako is "Adyeri". I am thirteen years old, and I am in Primary 7 [the US equivalent of 6th grade]. I have five sisters and two brothers.

The problem in Uganda today is there is not enough education. When I am not in school, I like to make crafts to sell. With the money I earn from the crafts sold in The United States, I will create progress in my life. With it, I will buy more material for crafts and will make them over the holidays.

The final interview question: "Tell me about the happiest moment in your life."

Her answer: [Before giving her answer, I must state this: After hearing the question and giving it POSSIBLY two seconds of thought, her face erupted into a brilliant smile… the girl was literally beaming, and she gave me this answer.] The day when you came with Catherine and your Dad… that was the happiest day of my life.

The most beautiful women I've ever met.

Thanks for reading!

I love you all (but especially you, Michelle!)


1 comment:

  1. Phenomenal!!! Beautiful artwork and the women are indeed beautiful. Their comments are so touching.