Memoirs of a Ugandan Slum Dweller: Part XIV
*Cross-posted from The Age of Zinc*
Age of Zinc is proud to present the final instalment in a memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back soon for our next memoir!
I was always thinking that if I get married I have to get a man who will always take care of me and that is also what I tell my daughter. She is just 18 so she is still innocent and I thank god for that because it is hard.
My first daughter is targeting right and has some things she wants. I promised her, I’d work nail and tooth to see that she achieves whatever she wants. I told her, “You are not going to get married tomorrow before you have your own job. You have to be working and then you can get a man. If you want to get married before you have a job, you’re going to end up suffering. And when you start suffering, don’t think of me suffering for you, that is your own problem. But I’m ready to support you until you get what you want.” I don’t have to baby feed her. She is a good girl. When she returns from school you give her wax and tell her that this is your capital. I tell her she can make some candles and sell them and then she shows me the sales. I tell her that you have to work for this money so when you go back to school you will have some money with you. She will never sit still. She spares some time for her books and does housework and then goes to work on the project.
I think each child should at least show what they are able to do to. You need to know your children: who is ready to work, who doesn’t want to work, and who is trust worthy. If you are open with them you know what they are thinking and know if they are going in a certain direction.
Some others maybe think that they will be supported, but I grew up knowing that I need to support myself. I don’t think I need someone to wake me up because if I know what I want, I have to do it myself. Why wait for someone? Let me fail and someone can come in.
To Slum Dwellers International of thinking to mobilize women and empower them to a higher level of leadership which gives them strength to face their challenges and target development. Today we have empowered slum dweller women for development.
To note Kiberu Hasan (Uganda), Rose Molokoane (South Africa), Joseph Muturi (Kenya), Jockin Arputham (India), Abasi (Uganda), and the ACTogether staff.
Memoirs of a Ugandan Slum Dweller: Part XIII
*Cross posted from the Age of Zinc*
Age of Zinc is proud to present the thirteenth instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!
When we work as a team we are able to get many things. We can’t sit back and say: “I’m poor, I can’t do anything.” No, you have to start small and then you can grow.
The federation saved my life. I was almost gone and had a lot of stress. I had three children at that time. I was finding life hard with these children because I was not working much and the money was not supporting us. I had my shop but we still couldn’t save money. All the expenditures were going to pay off the loans and trying to survive. When I went to Owino I was able to start a new business and then with the federation I was new person. I was free.
With the federation women we are thinking big – we want businesses. We are also planning – we can buy a piece of land and we can acquire a loan. We can become a society and do things for ourselves. We do not have to sit and wait or beg.
We focus on improving our lives and changing the image of the slums. Instead of thinking that slums are places of useless people, we want the government to think that slums are part of development. This is what they have to focus on how we develop. Slums have always been around and are growing everyday. They need to understand how we can find a solution – together with the slum dwellers.
Today people are informed. Even if I’m gone there are thousands of other people who know what they want and they can get it. So for me, I’m satisfied that I’ve at least worked. I’ve done something. So even if I leave now, tomorrow my children who are still slum dwellers will find the movement moving on.
Memoirs of a Uganda Slum Dweller: Part XII
**Cross-posted from The Age of Zinc**
Age of Zinc is proud to present the twelfth installment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!
The first time I left Uganda was in 2010. I went to Nairobi for a savings meeting. It was my first time to go on a plane. Eh, it was not easy! My child was one month old so I had to move with him. When I reached the airport with the team I was told I needed documents for the child. It was time for the plane to leave, so the team told me that we are going and you will come by yourself once you get the documents. I said, “I can!” They said, “Will you come?” And I said, “I will come and I CAN!”
I went to the office where I was told to go for the documents and they directed me on what I had to do. I went to the nearby area to get photos of my child taken and then I filled out and submitted all the forms. I did everything quickly and I made it in time for the next flight! I went andI reached there by myself! Yes I did it! When I reached, I found the team and they were all surprised. They thought that maybe I couldn’t do it.
This had been my second chance. My first chance I was supposed to go to India but my passport was not ready. I said to myself it is not my time. My time was coming and now this was my time! When it came it had challenges, but I said, “No, today I can do this!”
The next trip was for federation strengthening in Ghana. We went to see how the Ghana federation was working – the structure, the projects, the saving groups, and the community. It was a good exchange. We learned a lot from Ghana and it helped us with our federation.At that time our structure was still new so the leaders went to see what they were doing in Ghana. We saw the Ashaiman housing project where the federation negotiated with the chiefs, whom had been on an exposure exchange to India, which learned how the Indian federation worked with its government to get land. We also took a tour in Old Fadama, a big settlement, and saw how the slums are set up and how they managed the eviction threat. All of this was to strengthen the leaders, because in Uganda we never had that structure before. We wanted to see what the role of the leaders is and how do they work.
From Ghana we went to Malawi. That exchange was also about federation leadership. We went to see the different projects and we visited different groups to learn what they were doing. We learned how their saving schemes operate and how their projects work. With these projects they would agree that when they made clothes (it was a tailoring group) one person would take them to the market and sell and then bring back all sales. They were doing it to revolve funds. Everyone would go to the market and report. Another team sold vegetables. They would all agree and sell them as a team in the market. Their work was really teamwork in the saving schemes and their savings were always good. After selling they would each get some money and everyone could save. After that we came back to Uganda and had learned what to do to.
Memoirs of a Ugandan Slum Dweller: Part XI
**Cross-posted from The Age of Zinc**
My husband happened to be in one meeting and saw what I was doing. I didn’t know he was there because I was really busy, moving up and down, coordinating this and that. When I saw him later, he said, “Ah! That’s why you have become very tired. You are working so hard, now I understand.” Now when I go back home I will find that he has prepared food and he does not complain. If I tell him that I didn’t eat lunch or don’t have money for transport, he will give me something. Then tomorrow when I get money I show him what I made and we plan together. We agreed to share and know show much we are spending and what we have left. That is the only way it will change us. Initially, he would get his money from his houses and I wouldn’t even know how he was spending it. But after joining the federation we are like twins. We are one. We think the same and we work together. We even share the same challenges. If I’m hurt he feels that I’m hurt because he knows that we have the same responsibilities.
One of the things I learned from the federation was to understand how to manage my home and my husband. I had almost lost him before I joined the federation, because we were not moving in the same line. After I joined the federation, he was the one looking for me then. I was not around. I was so busy and I would go back home occupied thinking about more things. I was thinking about what we were going to do next. I was not thinking about him leaving me or doing whatever – I was busy, I got another husband, the federation! He was even scared that I found another man. I told him the federation is my husband and I’m going to be with them for the rest of my life! He asked me who this federation was and I told him it’s the savings that we had started – that is the federation. He was also scared because I never complained and was always satisfied with what I had. I knew that what I had was what I needed to fit into my life and I didn’t have to look for anything else then.
I’m used to not eating money, so I could never eat it. Whatever money I was given I was saving it. Our house was in a swamp area and whenever it rained water was always coming in our house. I thought two of my children were going to die in the house because of the weather – it was so cold. The first money I saved was for improving the house. I told my husband that I have saved this amount of money and I beg you to add in more money. So we improved the house. We had to buy cement and sand to lift the house up because it was sinking. When it rains in the swamps people have to pile up more soil to bring the level up. When you bring the soil level up though the houses go down more. So we had to bring the house up too. You change one part today and another tomorrow – that’s how you fix it. So it wasn’t breaking down the house. We had two rooms. After finishing one room, we did the other room, and then we did the floor. It was perfect! It changed our lives. It took time for the children to get well but today they are well. I also suffered from asthma with the weather; it was very tough for me. But I succeeded in changing it! Even women were wondering how I managed, but I did. And now my husband was also talking and telling people that when your woman joins that federation it changes them, they start thinking. He was the one then mobilising the men. He also joined and was saving. He knew that what I was targeting was big so he had to work with me. I was also helping him to plan. He used to get money and just spend it like that – on pleasure and going out alone. I grew up without those luxuries so I didn’t mind them, all I want to be alive and make sure my children are alive. That’s what I want.
Memoirs of a Ugandan Slum Dweller: Part X
**Cross posted from The Age of Zinc**
Age of Zinc is proud to present the tenth instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!
In 2005 I started working in Owino Market. I worked there for two years. In 2007 I joined the federation. When I joined the federation I lost the time to be in the market. I would move around in the communities in the evening for the federation and I also had to work in the market evenings. So I had to sacrifice some time and also cover the other side of being in the market.
When I was unable to go for the daily collections the women started loosing. So I said to myself that I couldn’t let this die because I felt it like it was part of me. I liked it and had mobilized over 300 people who were saving. I could move door to door and they were saving. After I had mobilize all these people I requested to get someone to assist me because I could not be moving around as much; I was losing my job at Owino. But the federation agreed that instead of getting another person to help me, they would pay me a little so I could continue. It was a challenge because they could not pay me what I was making in the market. Because they trusted me, I chose to continue. Trust is something you can’t just get. If people trust you that means you are an asset to them and you can’t lose. So I agreed and continued it for four consecutive months – I collected the savings. We then were able to start loaning.
Some people from ACTogether (the local support NGO) came to Kamwoyka and called a big meeting for all leaders in Kamwoyka settlement. I went because I was a local leader. At this meeting they introduced us to the savings culture and informed us what was involved. Afterwards, some of the leaders said, “No, these ones will eat your money!” Because a Dutch team and about three other organizations had come before and done something similar but had just eaten our money. But I stood up and said “Me, I’ll try this!” But my chairman said no and I told him “I will mobilize the women and they will come, I have them.” So we set up another meeting and I got thirteen women to come on the first day. These thirteen women started saving that day! We saved 13,000 shillings total. Each one saved 1,000 shillings. Those women also nominated me to be their collector at the beginning. So I was the secretary for the group and then they also asked me to be the collector. They had other leaders as well: the chairperson of the group, the treasurer, and the mobiliser. Committees were formed and each one of us had a role.
After that, we started mobilising. We mobilised our community and then our community mobilised another community. After we mobilising our community that’s when I started to go to different areas because I now knew what I was doing. I knew the challenges and the achievements. I could talk about something that I’m a part of and understood. Some of the challenges we faced were that when you started mobilizing the community some leaders would think you want to overtake them – we were a threat to them. They thought if this thing is successful, people would think that this is the person doing good work and when the elections come they will nominate this person instead. But after people see the benefits of their savings it’s up to them to decide. With us, we did not forced them to save. It is your own will and you were free to withdraw. We would also advise people that it is better to save for something big, not for daily food. If you’re saving for daily food you cannot save because you have to withdraw money everyday. It worked well and we were successful.
Soon after we started going for big meetings at the regional level. At that time we were still just in Kampala Central. We would go for meetings and that is where they recognized that I could maybe be put in a leadership position. They formed a profiling team and I was part of that team. In 2009 we moved into new areas. We visited Mbale to meet the municipality. At these meetings it was my job to record the minutes. This gave me a lot of strength because I had a lot of information and knew everything that was going on. It was during that period that the National Slum Dwellers decided that we needed a leadership structure. We set up a lot of meetings to discuss leadership structure and it took us almost two years to agree on the type of structure.
Once we had agreed on the structure we decided to have a meeting with all the different cities. By then we had mobilised the five regions of Kampala and the five secondary cities of Mbale, Arua, Jinja, Kabale, and Mbarara and each city was given the chance to elect one leader to the national team. Each city decided the person who they thought was good. For example, if we are looking at savings and Kampala Central was good at savings we would have Kampala Central give us someone who can oversee the savings committee. Jinja was very good at reports and auditing, so we looked for someone from Jinja who was doing audits to be on the national leadership team. This was the process we used for all the cities.
We agreed that we should have another national council meeting in a different area to inform all the leaders of the new executive team. All the regional leaders needed to be there to agree with the committee that had been nominated. In this meeting we agreed that we all would work with the team that has been nominated. This was 2011.
Memoirs of a Ugandan Slum Dweller: Part IX
**Cross posted from The Age of Zinc**
Age of Zinc is proud to present the ninth instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!
I’m trying to teach my kids and make sure that each one is doing something for himself. If one is looking after the poultry and chicks we agree that you have to take your time and make sure everything is done right. We are also making candles at home. Whoever helps make our candles at home also has to then take them to the shops and sell them. When we are making our briquettes, one kid has to take care of the whole process. So each one of them is trying. They are at least trying, and they really want it.
The oldest is about to be 18, a girl. She is in a boarding school. The boys are staying at home with us. Sometimes when I’m not at home I need someone to stay with the young one. I have one that is 17, another that is 14, one is 10, one is 7, and then the young one is 2 years. I have two girls and the rest boys. Their father is supportive; he is also working so hard.
The father is always moving with his son, he takes care of his children; let me say it like that. He is always responsible for his children. He is perfect, because I don’t even get a headache or worry or lose any track of my children. If a child is sick, he is there 24 hours.
Most of my time I’m with the federation so I cannot support them much because its voluntary work. But we earn and save our money from our projects. My husband is a carpenter and he also has some small houses for rent. At the end of three months we save 300 shillings for each child’s school fees. For us, we are looking at how we can survive. It’s a family effort to survive.
I don’t have much time for sleeping because I wake up at five, I do housework, and I leave for federation work. I get back at six or seven and I prepare food and then I have to make my candles. I make them at night. When I’m at home I usually don’t sleep until late because I have to make sure I can some have capital with me the next day.
Memoirs of a Ugandan Slum Dweller: Part VIII
**Cross-posted from The Age of Zinc**
Age of Zinc is proud to present the eighth instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!
I’ve lived in Kamwoyka since 1992. I left school in 1994, I was home from 1995 to 1996 and that is when I met my husband. He was the one supporting me for two years paying my school fees after I stopped working. He supported me. He would give me some money and my mother and father would also give me some money. He told me he would support me, but I told him I was not yet ready for men. So he agreed and gave me space for three years. He still supported me without making me be with him everyday.
After three years, I agreed to be with him. I took him to my father and my father agreed, so we then stayed together. Within no time I was pregnant! We had our first child in 1996. We then had a second and then a third. During those years having young children was very difficult. At that time, I was with FIDA and since it was voluntary work I could do it in my free time with my child. I would move around with the first born during that time.
1997 to 1998 was not a good time for me. I had many challenges in marriage and had lost my thinking. I could not even work. Then in 1999 my mother said to me “No! You have worked for so long, even when you had no responsibility you were working. Now how can you sit at home and suffer when you still have your hands? Come back to the market and start working!” So I went back to the market and I started selling sweet potatoes. They would give me a loan of one sack and I would sell it for two days. I would pay them back and they would give me another one. That business also grew.
After having three children and getting some money I decided to start a shop. I had a shop so I could stay near the children but also have a business. I started operating a shop of my own and I worked in that shop for a period of six years everyday by myself. When operating a shop you are working 24 hours. You have to wake up and open early, around 5am and you don’t close until around midnight. You cannot leave your shop to go for other things. There are always customers, especially when the shop is located in the settlement. I got the loan for the shop through Microfinance Uganda. The loan was for 6 months. I would pay it back and take another. I took 3 loans for the capital for the shop, so for a total of one and a half years. Those loans helped me a lot.
Memoirs of a Ugandan Slum Dweller: Part VII
**Cross-posted from The Age of Zinc**
Age of Zinc is proud to present the seventh instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!
When our community began forming local village committees, the women in the settlement said I could become their secretary at the settlement level. I was recording their minutes and when visitors came to explain to the community what they were planning to do I would always invite them and we would sit and discuss.
After some time, Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA) came and was looking for someone who can be trained to help the children in this settlement. The committee gave them my name and I went for the training. I started to work with them, not as an employee, but someone working for the community – volunteering. Our role was to talk to parents about not violating children’s rights and understand how report those that have violated the rights of the women and children? This position was perfect for me!
Another program organized by FIDA was concerning the Land Act of 1995. There were a lot of evictions at the time. I was trained and moved settlement-to-settlement sensitising the communities on how to handle evictions, land ownership, and land negotiations. This helped me to learn how to work with communities and big congregations, especially with women who were suffering after evictions. The men would sell off the land/house without the women’s consent.
We had another organization come to our settlement, Concern Worldwide. They were focusing on the youth, women, and how to help youth in vocational training. When Concern Worldwide requested a community focal person, I was nominated to work with them. I mobilised the women and the youth groups who were going for the vocational trainings.
The community would tell me what they want and what they want to do, such as adult literacy, women’s rights, youth employment, and skill development. So my job was to inform those organizations what the community wanted most. I would then move door-to-door mobilizing people. I would explain to the community the purpose of the visitors and request them to attend meetings in person. I had to write down all the different teams and by that time I had become the secretary of the area. The women’s team said we need a secretary for the whole zone and that I should take it on. I had recorded all the people in this area and I knew them face to face, by their name, and what each person could do. If we needed someone I would know who to bring for the team and who could assist me to look for those people.
I liked being on the women’s team more than the youth team. I had mobilized 50 youth, 30 girls and 20 boys. For the women’s team, we were 60 total. I felt that the women’s team still needed me. They needed me to push them. Some people can’t push themselves and need someone to always push them. For the youth team, I had my two young brothers who had not gone to school completely so I also put them in the youth team. One was going for mechanics and one for carpentry. After seeing that they could benefit from the group, I decided that they should stay with the youth group and myself with the women’s group. Mobilization always needs to start from your own house.
In the women’s group we were just learning to share the challenges and experiences we were facing. In the women’s group the older women were advising the younger women and teaching them how to knit mats, baskets, and table clothes to sell for income. It was in this meeting that the women noted a challenge of poor sanitation and reported it to Concern Worldwide. Concern responded by providing the community with 10 public toilets.
The FIDA training was about law. But law is not only about children’s rights. We learned about the broader picture. We talked about land, about women, and about children’s rights – so I had a big package. This was a chance to implement what I learned, because I had a lot of connections. If a woman was violated, I knew how to assist and how to report it.
You know, I was dreaming about becoming a lawyer, or an accountant, or a nurse. I wanted those three things, but I did not get any of them. At least now just when talking I do a little of each of those things. The way I’m doing this, it’s natural, it’s just natural, it’s a part of me. No one is paying me, but I feel that I just have to do it. By the end when I see the fruits of what I’ve done I at least feel encouraged and think I need to do more.
Memoirs of a Ugandan Slum Dweller: Part VI
Age of Zinc is proud to present the sixth instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!
After two years life had at least changed for my mother. She had left the toilet. She was now moving up very quickly. All the farmers in the area would come to her. They would give her goods that she would sell. She was like a business owner. They trusted her. She would never eat your payment. She records all the transactions and expenditures. Even if she uses 100 shillings, she will them that she used 100 shillings for water, this is how much I sold, and this is what you told me you wanted to sell. She gives you back what is yours and also keeps what is hers. So life was very easy. She would also get free food, free vegetables, and in the market people liked her.
Even up to today someone is giving her 3 kilograms of sugar every week for free. This woman says she’ll give her sugar, soap, cooking oil, every week. As friends, my mother will also do some shopping and take things to that family because they don’t go down to the market. When she’s in the market she sees different things and takes to them.
Currently, she is the elected elder leader of Nakawa market. She has organized the market vendors into teams, which are now doing different sports. They have a netball team, a football team, and also a music team. They have set days in which they play, such as Monday and Wednesday afternoons, because at those times there are not many customers in the market. Organizing the vendors has helped create more attachment to each other. Today the vendors recognize her work and they appreciate her efforts to make the elderly more active.
Memoirs of a Ugandan Slum Dweller: Part V
**Cross-posted from The Age of Zinc**
Age of Zinc is proud to present the fifth instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!
I was sixteen when I moved to Kamwoyka. Life was very different. Most of the children were staying with their parents and everything was given to them. Everything they wanted was always there. Before I was living in a toilet, but at least we were all together so we could share everything. But I had left my family to stay with my uncle and his wife and their children. It was a hard time, harder than living in the toilet, because sometimes I could not eat. I would have to run back to my mother to get food and then come back to Kamwoyka to stay. My uncle would have liked to give me food but my auntie did not like people coming to stay with them. I didn’t mind though because at least at school they would give us posho. When I would eat lunch it was enough for me until I got back to school the next day. Then on the weekends, I would go to my mother’s for food.
My aim was to complete secondary school and get some education so I did not mind a thing. But I passed through some very hard times. Even women in the area were sympathizing and asking me, “Why I don’t go back to my parents?” But I always knew this situation was temporary and would come to an end. I also wanted to see how this world is when you are not with your father or mother. How are you treated? That’s what I was asking myself and others, “If I am alone tomorrow, how does the world treat me?” I realized that it was not about food, but about tomorrow. What I wanted was education. That was my target.