On behalf of the Zambian Federation and People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia (PPHPZ) – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 across Zambia.The following is an account directly from the SDI affiliate in Zambia, alongside updates on the current work of the Zambian Federation & PPHPZ.
Approximately 40% (6 million) Zambians live in urban areas and 70% (4.2 million) of those living in urban areas live in the slums known as “compounds.” The spread of COVID-19 across the globe has been through human to human transmission of individuals traveling from country to country, thus, the misconception is that it is a disease that affects the ‘rich and privileged’. On the contrary, comparatively informal settlement dwellers face a much greater risk to Covid-19. Life in the slums (compounds) is characterized by poor quality housing and inadequate access to clean water and sanitation. If water is available, its either intermittent or of compromised quality. Streets are characterized by overcrowding, and poor planning, with electricity intermittently provided. Another obstacle is limited access to household and public sanitation – this service is crucial in combating the spread of disease such as COVID-19 pandemic. The absence of public toilets curtails and hinders efforts of fighting pandemics as fecal matter can spread diseases in the community.
In Zambia, cases of cholera outbreaks in informal settlements have ceased in the headlines with seasonal outbreaks on yearly basis becoming the norm. During epidemics, slum residents are more vulnerable to respiratory infections owing to the fact that people are overcrowded and congested in their communities & houses without proper ventilation fueling mass spreading of COVID-19. Poverty levels are exceptionally with cases of malnutrition exacerbating chronic infections despite widespread vaccinations and social sensitization programmes. The number of infections in these communities are always double than those in planned, affluent suburbs.
COVID-19 is an exceptionally dangerous due to the fact that it is highly infectious even in asymptomatic patients with no current vaccine or cure. While current statistics demonstrate that confirmed cases are low, with none confirmed cases in the compounds, the ravaging effect the virus would have in the slums would be devastating.
The global community of health experts have recommended three simple yet fundamental effective tools to combat the spread of the virus and these strategies need to be critically examined to check their efficacy. The Zambian government, in line with the advice from both local and international health experts have recommended the following:
Hand Washing and Sanitizing:
In the context of slums, hand washing can significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19; however, under the current circumstances, this tool will not work unless access to affordable or free water is provided in the informal settlements. In most settlements like Kanyama, the biggest settlement in Zambia, water is still intermittent, inadequate and expensive for the average employed resident. Currently a 20 litre container is pegged at 50 ngwee and on average a family needs at least 200 litres translating to 5 kwacha every day or 150 kwacha per month, a figure which is unaffordable by most residents, where water is also rationed. In George compound, water kiosks are opened at 6.00 – 10.00 and 17.00 to 18.00. To avoid any escalation, taps need to be opened at all times until the virus is defeated.
The situation is worsened by electricity cuts due to maintenance and load shedding and will further deteriorate due to loss of supply from independent suppliers for the next two weeks. Electricity is needed to pump water by water trusts who are charged with the supply of water as well as private borehole owners in most settlements. Without water, curbing the spread of the COVID-19 through hand washing is impossible. It is time that the Zambian government provides free water in each and every compound.
This strategy will save our government millions of kwachas while saving many lives. It is a travesty that utility companies like Lusaka Water & Sewerage have not yet been directed or capacitated to provide this essential service to the most vulnerable settlements. In the absence of free or affordable clean water, communities will either resort to shallow wells that are heavily contaminated or will opt to use water sparingly thereby not washing hands frequently.
Coupled with provision of free water, should be the provision of hand-washing stations at all public toilets, bus stations, and markets in congested homesteads. The biggest markets like Old Soweto in Lusaka, Masala Market in Ndola, and Chisokone Market in Kitwe should be immediately provided with hand washing facilities and sanitizing agents. Distribution of hand washing stations, sanitisers, soaps needs to be broad based and not simply through locally recognized structures like the Councilor’s Office and the Ward Development Committees. The challenge is bigger than these local structures, grassroots community associations, and savings schemes the likes of the Zambia Homeless and Poor People‘s, but the responsibility of the state. Federations and Cooperatives need to be engaged – involving grassroots associations and savings schemes at the local level is crucial.
Hand washing has been a privilege of medium to high income residents. To exacerbate the exclusion of the poor, almost every shop has quadrupled the price of hand sanitizers owing to the huge demand by those who can afford them. Efforts should be targeted at subsidizing the prices through the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. There is an opportunity to start working with community-based groups to make homemade sanitizers supporting livelihood initiatives in these troubled times.
Social distancing i.e. staying at home, closing schools, isolating the sick, keeping at least 1 meter apart, and avoiding hugging and shaking hands:
Social distancing is currently the least expensive and the most affordable tool to each and every individual; however, in mostly densely populated communities, it is almost unavoidable. Closing the markets and the shops could trigger serious financial security issues as people are likely to starve due to food shortages. Most residents cannot afford to buy food in advance, as they live hand to mouth. A lock down without the possibility of working will cause serious resistance from these vulnerable communities. This demands that people should continue trading but alongside serious protective mechanisms.
Wearing Protective Gear:
Face masks can assist in reducing infection rates of COVID-19 if they are available and affordable. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, face masks have significantly increased in price with poor people have been cut out off completely in accessing masks. An opportunity exists to work with grassroots community groups, savings schemes and cooperatives in the mass production of masks produced with chitenge materials. Government and cooperating partners should channel support to the grassroots to produce masks, as this will inevitably drastically reduce and eliminate the exaggerated prices currently prevailing in the market. A chitenge made mask can be washed and disinfected everyday ensuring that they are accessible to the masses, while providing a sustainable solution.
Overall, it can be seen that efforts to combat the virus should be broad based and all inclusive; organized grassroots associations & savings schemes ought to be at the center of fighting the pandemic, not just health workers or government alone. Any solution being proffered has to be within the reach of the most vulnerable. Water, as a matter of urgency needs to be provided for free by state, private sector and individuals who have their own boreholes. Let’s not make a mistake mistake of making community members mere beneficiaries and health workers and government are seen as the only actors in the fight.
Currently the Zambian Federation & PPHPZ is working closely with the Lusaka City Council & Ministry of Health. They have mobilised sed youth teams in creating COVID-19 related content (videos, posters, jingles, etc.) translated into local languages circulated on social media platforms, local radio stations to sensitize communities. Federation savings & youth members have been trained as hygiene stewards to champion community-led initiatives to educate and distribute hand sanitizers, masks, gloves and liquid soap. PPHPZ has identified local schools, churches and community halls as potential warehouses, distribution centers and spaces to accommodate infected people. The Lusaka Federation will use its Resource Centre in George Township for warehousing food and other essential materials.
A community-led management and response to the COVID-19 pandemic (CLeMRoC) is being actioned in collaboration with Accra Municipal Assembly, and other civil society organisations has been launched in Accra. The response team consists of community leaders, environmental health officers of Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA). Led by the Federation in Ghana, they are supported by People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements.
The aim of CLeMRoC is is to enhance sensitization, education and behavior change in people living in informal settlements and to influence the community response of the pandemic. The target communities within Accra include: Old Fadama, Osu Alata, Sabon Zongo, Agbogbloshie, Madina, Sukura, Ashaiman, Nungua, Teshie with ongoing work in several other communities.
Farouk Braimah, Executive Director at People’s Dialogue, reflects on the dire impacts that COVID-19 will have on informal settlements, shedding light on the ongoing pervasive issues of a severe lack of service delivery to the most vulnerable.
“When it comes to hygiene protection, why do we think this time it will work? It is about hygiene, washing hands, eating well, resting – these are the protocols, and there is nothing new about this. They have never worked in slums//informal settlements. How do we find solutions that respond to our unusual circumstances, that work in the informal settlements?”
CLeMRoC has formed an interim Community Coordination Centre (CCC) where all issues against the fight of COVID-19 will be anchored. These include: external relations, messaging via various formats, knowledge management, documentation, dissemination of learning & lessons, and interfacing with officials collaborating on efforts to support communities through participatory planning & advocacy. Also coordinating supplies, resource mobilization and media work.
The priority needs emerge as pre-existing challenges that are further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are limited existing health facilities and resources to manage and care for affected patients. As of 24th March 2020, when CLeMRoC was launched, the following items were of urgent need in relation to health (PPE) such as: masks and gloves, tissues, tippy taps, veronica buckets, soap & hand sanitizers. With the need to improve PPE on all levels, especially personal hygiene protection, hand washing training on developing tippy taps and veronica bucket with taps. Ongoing needs for food assistance to those whose livelihoods are impacted and funds for volunteers who are working on trainings in the community remain fundamental to the Federation’s response.
Community members being sensitized on Tippy Taps.
Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.
Jockin Arputham has been fighting for the rights of slum dwellers for nearly 50 years. This blog is drawn from an interview by IIED’s David Satterthwaite ahead of World Habitat Day about what the Sustainable Development Goals could mean for slum dwellers.
Jockin Arputham founded the first national slum dweller federation in India in 1976 and went on to ally this with Mahila Milan, the Indian federation of women slum and pavement dweller savers. He has spent over 20 years encouraging and supporting slum and shack dwellers federations in many other countries – and he is President of Slum/Shack Dwellers International.
Making the SDGs action oriented
The SDGs promise so much but they are not action oriented. Many countries do not have the capacity to act. We see dreams of a slum-free world or a slum-free country or slum-free cities. But that is an ideal that needs strong political will, a strong and stable economy, and a conducive environment for the community. In Europe you might expect UN promises that everyone has a decent home to be met – but is this realistic for India?
Ambitions must be achievable
My ambition for the SDGs is limited to what we can do – what is meaningful, useful and sustainable – and implementable. So our goal is not slum-free cities but slum-friendly cities. Not a slum-free India but a slum-friendly India.
What does slum-friendly mean? That the SDG promises like clean water and good sanitation for all, land tenure for people, incremental housing and basic employment are met for all slum dwellers. If these five mandates are accepted, how can we set standards and measure what is or is not happening in each city? If there is also a mandate for people to participate, and take part, then set dates by which to achieve each of these. Even to achieve the more modest goals for slum-friendly cities means that governments have to do three times what they are doing now
Will action on the SDGs be any better than the Millennium Development Goals? So much high talk of all the goals in last 15 years but where are we in the goals and in their measurement? Are we setting unattainable goals with the SDGs?
We have seen government commitments made at Habitat I (the first UN Conference on Human Settlements) in Vancouver in 1976; then at Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996. At Habitat 1, there were commitments and targets for 1990 and these were not met. There have been very few tangible achievements. I was invited to go to speak at Habitat I in 1976 but the government was bulldozing the settlement where I lived, so I stayed in Mumbai where I had fought this threat for 10 years.
Habitat III is approaching (in 2016). Will this bring more unrealistic commitments? Or will it truly be a “new urban agenda” with a clear strategy for achieving the goals with new measures? New locally-generated metrics that everyone can follow. Everyone’s participation including slum dwellers. All the UN documents and processes claim they have people’s participation but usually this is just a grand talk show.
Looking back – what was the world’s urban population at the time of Habitat 1? Just 1.6 billion people. At Habitat II there were 2.6 billion. And now 4 billion.
We have seen the growth of NGOs and big donors and their budgets but for slum dwellers, where has all this money gone? NGOs and big donors are sharing a platform in the name of the poor and the poor are left out. Local governments and slum dweller organisations are the ones working on achieving the goals but these are usually left out of these new platforms.
No forced evictions
And the threat of eviction for slum dwellers still remains. After Habitat I, we had many sister city programmes – beautiful red wine talk – but this did not deliver land tenure. There should be a commitment at Habitat III – no forced evictions. No evictions without relocations that are acceptable to those who are relocated. After 40 years we still have not cracked this. Now the pressures of forced eviction will grow as cities invest more in infrastructure.
The cost of decent relocation is peanuts compared to infrastructure budgets. It should be part of the cost of all projects that require relocation. But this needs political will and administrative skill to work with the people and design with the communities. The huge costs of forced evictions are not counted – for the residents, the lost homes, possessions, assets, livelihoods, access to schools….
Where people are moved, we need a package of meaningful rehousing through which the quality of life of the people moved also improves.
What new urban agenda?
Now, with Habitat III, either you close the dialogue that has produced so little or you come forward with what we can realistically achieve in the next 15 years and set up a system of measurement that involves and is accountable to slum dwellers. From this, we learn about what works and from our mistakes.
We need to learn how to find solutions for renters too; so often, relocation programmes only benefit those who ‘own’ their home and can prove they have lived there for many years.
Slum dwellers must become a central part of slum friendly cities especially the women savings groups who are the foundation of the slum dweller federations around the world. But how? We need community participation with a strong focus on women. Full involvement of women in developing slum friendly cities gives a clear change of life for millions of people. As the women say, I work with my sisters, my federation, my family. Women’s savings groups can manage money and this is a big change. It helps them learn to budget, and they bring their knowledge of the local situation. Then as they join together they work at city scale and interact with city government and city politicians
For each of the SDGs, you need to connect them to the ground. Create a mechanism to achieve each target. You do not set up targets without setting out system of delivery – and this system has to involve community groups and local governments. And with progress monitored locally and openly – so these are accountable for all.
Jockin Arputham was regarded for decades in India as a public enemy as he fought against evictions (and imprisoned dozens of times). Latterly his incredible contribution to how to address slums (and work with their inhabitants) has been recognised in India where he was awarded the Padma Shri award and internationally.
David Satterthwaite is a Senior Fellow in IIED’s Human Settlements Group.
*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.
*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.
**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.
**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.
**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.
**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.
**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.