A. Janet (age 38) working In quarry for 10 years. Breaking stones to gravel size, filling 10 jerrycans of gravel per day at 1,000 shillings per ($0.32 USD).
A. Innocent (age 19) and her son Michael (age 14 months) have worked in quarry for one year. Breaking stones to gravel size, filling 10 jerrycans of gravel per day at 1,000 shillings per ($0.32 USD).
I am Alice Iacan, and I am 40 years old. I have been hitting stones in the quarry for seven years. Two of my son's wives have left them, so I am taking care of three of their children who are under the age of five. I raise them, along with my five children. My last child is thirteen years old and is in school.
I have no shelter, so I have my makeshift cover, which protects me from sunshine but not heavy rain. Sometimes we run to the shops when the rain starts, sometimes it rains on me. As for the hot sun, I no longer mind it; it's the rains that really makes my work so difficult.
This job isn't easy. You must have serious needs to do it. I have nowhere to turn. This is my job until I find something easier to do. I have been hoping for a long time to save some money so I can start a second-hand clothes business, but the problem of the stomach (hunger) must be solved first, and then there are school fees, and then there are daily needs, and then I just keep working here for years.
My children sometimes come to assist me with my work. They are not allowed here. The rules don't accept that. They come during the holidays, and we work together. It's better when I get some help. I need it. I constantly have chest pains, and each time I explain to the medical personnel, they tell me, "it's the work that I do that causes chest pain," yet no one offers to me long term solutions. I want to heal. I don't want to have any pain, but my work, for now, comes along with bodily harm. A friend of mine, some gravel hit her eye, and she needs surgery, but she doesn't have the money. This is how sometimes it is. You get hit, and you can't find a cure for your pain.
I am Jovia Aber. I am ten years old, and I am in primary four. I am usually second in my class, and my favorite subject is English.
I work in the quarry on Saturday and Sunday. I earn 5,000 shillings per day, and I use that money to pay for my school fees and buy my school supplies.
Sometimes, my mother borrows my money, and she doesn’t payback.
I want to be a doctor so I can help people.
A. Innocent (age 19) and her son Michael (age 14 months) have worked in quarry for one year. Breaking stones to gravel size, filling 10 jerrycans of gravel per day at 1,000 shillings per ($0.32 USD).
My name is Aciro Vicky, and I am 18 years old. I was raised by my maternal aunt because my parents died when I was young. I don’t even remember their faces. I can only imagine stories about them, and sometimes, I wonder if they loved me and how life would have been with them.
I was married off at the age of fifteen, so I never really had much of an education. I dropped out in primary four because of a lack of school fees. I can write my name, count money, but that is basically all I know.
I wanted to be a doctor, but that is not possible now. I can only continue to admire the doctors and enjoy the work that they do.
I dream of a time when I will have my own shop where I can sell whatever I want, and I don’t have to move around or share space with so many people like here in the quarry. I am eighteen, and I hope that I will be able to do this.
My name is Gladys Lakaraber, and I am 22 years old. I have studied up to senior three, and then my father said he didn’t have money to pay my school fees anymore, so I couldn’t study anymore. I stayed home for a while. Then he got some money, and I studied hairdressing, but I don’t have the capital to start a salon. My father is a subsistence farmer.
I came to work here because my mother works here. She showed me what to do and guides me on what to do here. I use her space.
Sometimes, the trucks don’t come to buy the gravel, and that means we don’t earn any money. We get wet every time it rains here because we don’t have any shelter. Sometimes, I try to outrun the rain, so I don’t get so wet.
I want to become a teacher when I get enough money to pay school fees.
My name is Jennifer Abur. I was born in 1983, and I have seven children. Two of my children are now casual labourers, and the rest are in school. My husband was a boda [motorcycle] driver, but he got involved in a boda boda accident two years ago, and his leg was amputated. These days, he mainly sits under a mango tree.
I have now taken the husband role and has to provide everything.
I have been working at the quarry for ten years. I used to assist other women until I managed to save 20,000 shillings, and I bought my rock, and I started crashing. From there, I was able to rent my space, pay for a membership and a license.
I buy food at home, and I pay school fees for my children. But money is never enough to pay for everything. I sell a jerrycan of rocks at 1,000 shillings. Sometimes I am able to make about 20,000 shillings a day, but sometimes the trucks don’t come, and that means there will be no money for food or school fees.
The work here is not as easy as it used to be many years ago. There were rocks everywhere, and we would simply crash them, but now more people have joined, and the rocks have become scarce. The quarry is filled with water, and only strong men can dig them out. And we buy from them.
My dream is to start a second-hand clothes business. I would like to rest from this hard work. I don’t want the hard work anymore. Sometimes I hurt my hand or my fingers and I have to stay home without working. But with selling second-hand clothes, I will not get injuries.
I am now the husband in this home; I have to do whatever I can to keep this house standing.
A. Olga (age 74) working in quarry for 28 years. Breaking stones to gravel size, filling about six jerrycans of gravel per day at 1,000 shillings per ($0.32 USD).
My name is Akello Olga. I am 74 years old. I have worked in the quarry for 28 years now. When I started working here, the rocks were everywhere and we would just pick them and then crush.
Now, it's different, we have to pay young men to dig out the rocks and bring them to us. We have to pay for that, which wasn’t the case when we started. We were few women here. We would take up spaces and work but now we pay rent and pay lots of services that at the end of day, we have so little that can hardly pay school fees, let alone buy enough food.
My husband died a long time ago, he left me with seven children and the last born was just one-week old baby and that is why I had to work harder. I am now getting older and now don’t have much energy. My dream is to get enough money so I can start selling second-hand clothes in the market. There I will sit and wait for customers and I don’t have to crush anything with a heavy hammer.
My name is Adong Agnes. I am 60 years old. I have worked in this quarry for 32 years. I became blind from here. A stone hit my eye, and now they say I have cancer. I have two children who I rely on. I have been going to Lacor Hospital for treatment, but I don’t have much money to get medicine. I need money for treatment because my children cannot afford it.
I no longer have energy to work here.
There are people who I know who got hurt from this place. The dust is too much. It goes in your eyes. Yes, we cover our heads, but our hair isn’t that important.
L. Stella (age 35) working in quarry for 30 years breaking stones to gravel size, filling 13 jerrycans of gravel per day at 1,000 shillings per ($0.32 USD).
Apiyo Kevin. Age 24. Selling sweet potato vines for 2,000 UGX per bundle for 7 years.
My name is Akidi Chrsitine, I am 48 years old. At sixteen, I was married and got pregnant, but my baby did not live. There were concerns that I couldn't have children. It scared me, even though I knew I wasn’t ready yet, the words hurt me. In my second year, I became pregnant. I was happy because it would prove to people that I can actually have children. I now have six children and my mother only had me. I worried that maybe I would only have one child like her.
My husband and I have had an on and off relationship. I let him go wherever he wants to go. I am too tired to fight for him and this has had a great impact on the children. None of my children have reached primary seven because I can’t afford to pay their school fees.
Costs for selling charcoal at this market takes most of the money I have. I have to pay rent, security, month costs, and yet I sell in an open space. When it rains, the charcoal gets wet and customers complain, and some don’t even buy from me anymore. There are people who sell in proper enclosed shops, so the customers buy from them.
I know that this business is not good because charcoal particles enter my mouth and my nose, and this makes me cough but for now, this is what I can do.
My dream is to have a shop where I sell things that are not dangerous to my health and it doesn’t rain on me during the rainy season. I would love that much. I would sit down and serve customers when they come. It would make me an independent woman. I may even afford to pay my children’s school fees.
A. Margaret (age 49) selling Cuava for six years. Selling each for 1,000 UGX.
L. Beatrice (age 28) selling used clothes for two years.
L. Eunice (age 38) selling Avocados for four years.
A. Sarah (age 13) carries a 5-gallon jerrycan of water three times a day for home use .
A. Prossy (age 27) sells Jack Fruit for one year. Selling a whole fruit for 4,000 UGX, or 500 UGX a slice.
My name is Atim Sharon, and I am 22 years old. I am the last born of nine children. I was born in 1994. I studied up to primary six and then had to drop out of school because of lack of school fees. I tried to study tailoring but dropped out after one year due to lack of school fees.
I am not married now but left the father of my two children because he used to drink a lot and we fought a lot. When I had had enough, I told my family that I wanted to leave and needed to start my life all over again.
They agreed because they had seen what I had gone through. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it was a chance I was willing to take.
I am now on my own; I am taking care of my children. I have sold kabalagala (Ugandan kind of pancakes) and nyoi (boiled maize and beans), and I now sell vegetables, which I consider a big transformation.
I have difficulty paying rent, but I am managing fine.
I hope one day, I will be able to buy and sell more vegetables, which I can’t afford at the moment, and then just be able to afford nice things for my children. That would make me happy.
My name is Adeline Tushabe. I am a 29-year-old Video Game Developer with Oyster & Pearls — UG. I design audio games for visually impaired persons and sighted people. I teach game design.
I have always had an interest in IT, but because I didn’t study Math at A levels, that meant I would not be admitted at university to study IT. So I opted for a Bachelor in Business Administration.
My dream for IT came true when I was hired to work with Oyster & Pearls. I feel that I have found what I wanted to do in my life. I can make an impact in people’s lives through game design.
I am creating my own path because there are no companies that employ software engineers to develop games in Uganda.
My dream is to develop games that will be played by more than one million people, and when I get to that goal, I will want ten million people to play my games.
I am Elizabeth Abur, and I am 36 years old. I became blind at the age of fifteen. This is how I became blind; my eyes hurt for a while, and then I couldn’t see anymore. Whatever treatment I received did not revive my eyes. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. Life became very hard for me. I had to learn to navigate my way around places I was familiar with.
I felt worthless. I did not see any reason to live anymore. I wanted to die. I started devising ways to kill myself, but each time a family member found the rope I wanted to hang myself with, and they would counsel me. I didn’t give up my plan. On the third attempt, my grandmother found the rope I had planned to hang myself with.
She counselled me, but what I remember most is, “even if you die now, people will say we are going to the funeral of the blind girl,” she said. This hit me real hard because now it seemed like even if I died, nothing much would change.
My grandmother was a born-again Christian at that time. She also said I wouldn’t see God if I committed suicide. I believe in God, and I couldn’t imagine a life without dreaming of seeing God one day.
Life continued to be hard for me, but I managed to attend blind schools and graduated in 2015, and I found a job at Oysters & Pearls Uganda, an NGO where I train visually impaired people how to use braille and computers.
I am married with four children. I also have another daughter, my niece, who is an orphan. Her father was killed in battle between Lord’s Resistance Army rebels and Ugandan government soldiers. By then, my niece was three years old. My husband makes sweaters on contract in town, and sometimes he doesn’t earn much, so most of the time, I have to pay for everything for my family.
Life has never been easy for me. I struggle with boda-boda to cross the road to come here. Sometimes people help me cross the road; sometimes, they walk away silently when I ask for help.
I love music, some gospel and some not. I have written a number of songs, and when I get money, I hope to pay studio fees to record my music.
A. Alice (age 50) selling Okra for 12 year for 500 UGX per cup.
Adong Daphine (age 20) carries 5-gallon jerrycan of water for home use twice a day.
Simprosa Acayo Okot
I am Simprosa Acayo Okot, and I am 46 years old. I am a mother of three. I am always surrounded by fabrics with beautiful bold colors folded neatly on shelves. We get them from different places.
My father was a teacher, and my mother was a housewife. I have lived in different parts of the country because of my father’s work.
While I was in Sacred Heart School, I narrowly escaped being abducted by rebels. While I was at Gulu Teachers College, students were abducted, and some were killed. I am grateful that I survived all these atrocities while people I knew went through horrific experiences.
I found refuge in Nairobi. That is where I found Amani ya Juu, the organization that taught me how to make these beautiful crafts. I had to give up my job and return to Gulu, a place that I had been away from for ten years, to do what I do now.
I realized that women in Gulu needed more than relief aid. And I could do something that would help their lives.
It wasn’t easy at first, but I persisted with the business. I tailored more bags with different bright fabrics. I made small purses. I was always influenced by the good quality I learnt from Nairobi, so I made sure that my products were of good quality.
I remember the time I stood under a tree in the rain with my products on my head. I cried so much nobody was buying. I didn’t see any progress in the work that I was putting so much into. There were women who were relying on me for their food, and I wasn’t fulfilling their dreams.
I saw a lady with a tree in front of her shop, and I asked her if I could display my products, and she said yes if I would keep her company—something she needed. I displayed my wares on a tree. From a distance, people would see the products, and they would come, asked what was going on, and she would sell to them.
One day, one of my shoppers offered me another space and bought all my products. I began to have hopes now that the future would be bright. And it was brighter. My products found their way in different places; Kabalega Diner, Amani Nairobi. More women joined the team, but some left because they found the work tedious after a few days. I wanted quality products that could be sold in New York and other international markets.
I hope to continue to train more women to sew bags, open a café, maybe have a restaurant that serves local food, and have land where the women can farm. My dreams for Amani are endless, and there are possibilities that all these dreams will come true.
I am Ajok Pauline. I am 35 years old. I was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army
[LRA] rebels when I was fourteen years old on my way to school. That day, the rebels abducted mainly school children, and their aim was to take us to South Sudan. So we swiftly walked into South Sudan, walking day and night.
I was abducted with my sister and six other girls. Two of the girls were killed along the way because they couldn’t walk fast. We later received a message from Joseph Kony, the leader of the rebels, that during this season, there should not be shedding of blood, but we were beaten and forced to carry heavy loads and hardly eat anything.
In South Sudan, everything was forceful. I was given to a man who was older than my father as my husband. We were beaten most of the time, for almost nothing. I had a child with this man, but the child died, and the man also later died in battle.
I was given three months to mourn him and find another husband, but another man started saying that I had a relationship with him, and that was against the law. He was beaten and killed.
I was ordered to be with another man. We had a child. But I faced so much problems in South Sudan, we hardly had food, and sometimes there was no water, and we had to survive on urine.
I started planning on escaping. I knew I couldn’t survive there anymore, and I wanted my son to know a better life. I escaped in 2002 with my son, and at that time, people were living in camps. I found out that my father had been killed. People used to call me names, and they made my life difficult, so I left with my son and studied tailoring at St Monica’s. Then I heard about Amani [a wholesale gift tailoring workshop in Gulu that trains women with HIV/AIDS who had previously been abducted by the LRA], and I came to work here.
I have now met another man, and we have three children.
My firstborn son has now completed senior six and now wants to study for a degree at university, but now I cannot afford university fees. He wants to be a lawyer.
I hope that I can get money to buy for him his land so that he has a home of his own.
A. Jackine (age 26)and her daughter Blessings (age 2) selling charcoal for three years.
I am a mechanic. My name is Charity Akello, and I am 26 years old. I repair boda-boda, generators, cars, mills, concrete mixtures, and anything that needs to be repaired.
My heart has always been keen on mechanics. By the time I completed primary school at twelve, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t know any women mechanics but, in my heart, I knew that is what I wanted to do. I asked my father to take me to mechanic school. I was the only girl among forty men. They were much older than me. They used to call me Nyara; I was their daughter. And I gave them the respect they deserved.
I asked them to show me how to repair this and that. They showed me, and that was all I needed to know. I worked hard. I completed on time, and then I created my clientele in Gulu Town. People know me here. I repair their boda-boda, generators, cars, mills, among others.
It’s not easy being a mechanic here. People say hurtful things, but I don’t listen much to what people say; when I want something, I find it, or I do it. This is my mantra.
At nineteen, I bought this land where my home stands, and I started a piggery project. I wanted something I could do when I wasn’t repairing things. Sometimes, I get hurt, and I don’t have an income, so this project helps me.
I want to train other women to become mechanics, but sometimes they come once, and they never return at all. I never know what goes wrong. I don’t know if this work is too hard for them or they hate the smell of grease. This is the work that keeps me going. This is the work I always wanted to do.
Jennifer Sally Amony
My name is Jennifer Sally Amony, and I am 36 years old. You can find me at Smiling Panda Stage.
I graduated with Bachelors in Arts with Guidance and Counselling from Kampala International University in 2009. I couldn’t find a job related with my profession. I love counselling and guidance but without a job, I couldn’t love it anymore. I needed to find something that could bring me money.
I have two children that I have to feed and clothe and pay school fees. They also need medical attention every now and then. I needed to pay bills, so I started selling produce. With the little money I had, I would buy the produce when food was plentiful and sell when there was scarcity. I made some money. But then I got sick, and I used up all the money I had saved. I was back to worrying. There was no way around it; I needed earn money.
There was a boda [motorcycle] sitting there in my house, looking at me every day. I knew how to ride it, and could earn some money carrying people and their luggage. My father gave it to me during my graduation. I thought about doing a boda business, but the thought scared me since I didn’t know about any boda woman. All I needed was some bravery, fuel and money for service.
I gained some courage, influenced by my lack of money and my zeal to make money. I went to the office of Gulu Boda Association to inquire about becoming a rider. The office was full of men. I told them what I wanted. They thought I wanted to hire a rider. When I corrected them, saying that I wanted to ride it myself, they all burst into laughter. I can still hear their laughter.
Eventually, they agreed. Most stages [motorcycle stands that await customers] didn’t want me, or their membership fee was too expensive for me. For instance, Gulu Main Market Stage [boda stand] is one million shillings [$270] in fees, and I didn’t have that money. The men claimed I will spoil their relationships with their women. I told them I would follow the rules and regulations of the stage. They laughed. There was something in me that spelled danger, and I didn’t know it. I needed money, and I had to persist.
Smiling Panda Stage was different. The management accepted me; perhaps they knew I needed help. I borrowed 100,000 shillings [$27] to pay for the Stage; I would pay the remaining 200,000 shillings [$52] later, when I got it. They accepted, and I had to work hard to get my customers. I was nice, I treated my customers well. I was punctual when they needed me. I reduced prices when I needed to. I gained many customers. The men I worked with call me, Aya – the only woman among men. I have accepted the name. It makes me work harder.
People have negative attitudes towards women boda drivers. I have been harassed, but I ignore or tell people harshly to leave. Not to touch me.
I am Aya. I have to work harder than the people around me.
O. Pamala (age 30), Junior (age 6), Angel (age 12 months) selling G-Nut Paste for four years at 1,000 UGX per bag.
Abeg Susan (age 30) selling plastic buckets & utensils for five years.
A. Mary: Age 18: Selling soft brooms for 2 years for 1,000 UGX each. Earns about 7,000 UGX a day.
I am Andela Christine. I am 43 years old, and I live in Mpumudde in Jinja with my five children. My husband died in 2015. We had been married since 1996. I will not remarry. I am happy as I am. I would like to take good care of my children and my one grandchild, who is one year old.
I dropped out of primary seven due to a lack of school fees. I know the importance of education; that is why I want my children to get all the education they can get. I am sure that if I got more education, I would be able to do more in life. It would have been my bridge to many things that I am unable to achieve now.
My dream is to visit my friends and family in Kenya for a short time, then come back, settle down and take care of my children.
I love this work in fishing, and I hope I can be better at it and be able to earn money that I have never earned in my life. There seem to be opportunities here. I am going to learn whatever I can and do whatever I can to get better and better at it.
I hope that one of my children will become a doctor so that s/he can cure me of my back and knee problems that have constantly forced me to need medical attention.
I am Kandha Mwajubu. I am 48 years old. I have been farming for more than twenty years. I mainly farm maize and groundnuts for family consumptions. We sell when we have extra food. These days the weather is unpredictable so some years I get good yields and then sometimes it’s really bad.
I also keep chicken but that is more expensive in terms of feeds for the chicken and it requires a lot of time.
I keep bulls and to make this easy for my family, I plant elephant grass for the animals to feed on. The leftovers of the ground nuts is also animal feeds.
I have six children and five grandchildren. I take care of all of them. My best moments are when we sit and relax and have conversation while drinking soda, may be eating chapati.
The farm work is tedious, and my dream work is mobile money business so that I don’t have to do much physical work.
My name is Ziriya Musibika, and I am 50 years old. I never went to school because my father had many children, and he didn’t have money to pay school fees for all of us. I wanted to study, but I couldn’t, so I put so much energy into trying to get my children to study. I work hard to get their school fees.
Right now, I am raising bulls, and then I sell later. I buy a bull at 400,000 shillings [$108], then twelve months later, I sell at one million five hundred thousand shillings [$432]. I use the profit to pay school fees, buy some food, and buy clothes.
I also keep chicken. I have been doing this for years, but this requires a lot of work, but I do it anyway.
I love to spend time with my children; laughing and chatting with them makes me appreciate life. It gives me so much happiness.
A. Christine: Age 50. Selling local woven baskets for 20 years.
My name is Clementina Babula, and I am 62 years old.
My grandmothers before me were birth attendants. I learnt from them as they did their work. I saw them help many women give birth, and I wanted to help like they did.
At sixteen, I helped a mother deliver her baby. I was excited and nervous, but I did like I saw my grandmothers do. The baby has now grown. She comes around to say hello.
After completing senior one, I joined a nursing school so that I could learn basic safe delivery skills. This added more information and skills to what I had. I learned names of things I didn’t know.
Two of my daughters are now professional nurses. I am sure they got interested because of the work I do. They help me whenever they come home. They advise and guide me.
Most of the people in the village know me. I have helped many of them. Some people wonder why people come to me instead of the hospital; the women say the hospitals are expensive and that they treat them badly. Here I treat the women well. I accept whatever amount of money they have or anything they bring. Sometimes they promise to bring more. Sometimes they never do, but I continue to help anyway. I have to save lives first.
I get herbs from the bushes around home to help ease the pain and birth for the women. I prepare for them tea to give them strength. I don’t give them sodas because it makes them bleed a lot. I bury the umbilical cord in the pit I have dug for that purpose.
Sometimes the women don’t even say thank you. They even take my stuff like blankets and baby clothes without permission, and I have to buy new ones.
Before we had cellphones and boda boda (motorcycles), I would walk in the village to help women deliver. I also had a network of people, and words would spread through one person to the other.
Now, I get women coming in from all over the country, and I don’t know how they know about me. I help deliver about one hundred babies per month in my cottage. It’s been like that for a long time.
My name is Margaret Acayo. I am 59 years old. I am a retired principal nursing officer. I retired two years ago. I mainly worked in military hospitals around the country.
I have one daughter and four grandchildren, but I take care of ten children whose school fees I pay. They are my nieces, nephews, and cousin’s children.
Of course, my pension is not enough to pay to cover all my costs, so I do a farm as well. There are vegetables around my home which we eat so that I don’t spend much on food.
As a retired nurse, I have opened up a clinic to provide medical assistance in this village. I treat common illnesses here, for example, the common cold, malaria, and pains. I sell my medicine cheaply because I am aware that many people cannot afford to buy medicine. Many of them sometimes can’t even afford full dozes to treat their children.
They come here any time, sometimes in the night, and I advise them accordingly and try to help them deal with whatever emergency they are dealing with.
Sometimes, many people want credits, and they fail to pay the rest of the money.
There is a Health Centre II, which provides free health services, but most times, they don’t have drugs, so people have to find alternative health services.
I am inspired by my father, who also provided health services to this village. He used to treat people from home. And I would help him, and I admired the work he did.
My dreams are to have a laboratory so that I am able to test diseases and hire people to assist me to do my work.
My name is Sarah Aduk, and I am 58 years old. I started brewing waragi at the age of eight. My mother died, and I had to work hard at an early age. I stopped going to school, but I know how to write my name and how to count money.
My husband used to drink alcohol at our home, and that’s how I met him. We have three children whose school fees I have been able to pay because of brewing alcohol. I sell it at home, and everyone in Alokolum comes to buy and drink from here – under the mango tree.
I have now brewed for fifty years. And it’s the best thing I know how to do.
My drinking is not considered drinking because I only taste for my customers whether they will like it, and they always do.
My name is Obol Kevin, and I am 38 years old. I am a mother of two. I used to brew waragi, and when I got 50,000 shillings, I joined a savings group, and after saving for a while, I got a loan. I used the loan to pay my children’s school fees, and the rest of it, I started the shoe business.
I travel to different markets to sell shoes on a daily basis. On a good day, I sell shoes worth 200,000 shillings, and on a bad day, 100,000 shillings. With that money, I am able to pay school fees for my children. I am also a farmer. When I am not in the market, I am home planting crops which I sell to help me raise my children.
One of my major challenges is I don’t have a place to store the shoes. I have to keep them at my home. And rain affects my work so much, sometimes I get rained on, and I can’t sell much since people don’t come to the market. And people bargain so much and sometimes I feel sorry so I sell shoes much lower than I should.
I love sports. I am a footballer, and I also play netball. If there were opportunities, I would like to play further, maybe in the national team. Playing football is my happiest moment.
My dream is to have my own shop where I could sell different types of shoes and not have to risk my life travelling all the time.
My name is Adong Agnes, and I am 27 years old. I was raised by my stepmother. She wasn’t the evil stepmother that most people have. She made sure my school fees were paid, and I studied well. I completed my diploma in accountancy in 2015, and since then, I have been working at Layibi Market as the general manager. I deal with the welfare of the vendors, any disciplinary issues, and mainly collect market dues.
One of the major issues of dealing with the market is witchcraft. Some of the women have evil powers that destroy another vendor’s produce. For instance, a witch may dry up vegetables of another vendor’s for whatever reason for weeks. It’s my duty to resolve that conflict, and sometimes such a vendor is asked to leave the market.
I usually pray before I go to the market because I never know what is awaiting me. Sometimes, I wish I could get another job so that I could leave this position, but I am glad that I am able to help the vendors.
I wish the women could pay off their loans and then survive without borrowing loans because this means they have to live hand to mouth, and sometimes their properties are confiscated because of failure to pay loans.
We always teach the vendors about the love of God so that they can leave witchcraft, but it’s hard; you never know what they are thinking.
My name is Ocwee Pamela, and I am 31 years old. I am a mother of six, and we live in Go Down, Layibi. The father of my children is a farmer, he sells produce, and most of what he harvests is for home consumption, and sometimes I sell some in this market.
When I was ten years, I was abducted by Lord’s Resistance Army rebels. I escaped after one week. From the moment I was abducted, I started planning my escape. I had heard stories of other people escaping, so I knew it was possible to escape. I also knew that if I tried and they caught me, I would get killed, and I was still willing to try.
The moment came when there were gunshots, and people were running in different directions. I run and run until I found a family that hid me for a while then helped me get home.
This experience has toughened me, and this makes me know that as long as I don’t hear any gunshots, life will be better. I will always try to make my life and children’s lives much better. I will work as much as I can.
I enjoy my life and my best moments are when I sit with my children, drinking soda or tea, and we tell stories or just talk. I relax. I appreciate my children. I wish life was much better and I didn’t have to work so hard to get little money to run my family.
I find difficulty in paying school fees for my children, but I know that if I get more food to sell, then I will get more money then, I will comfortably pay school fees for my children.
My name is Acan Rose. I am 51 years old. I was raised by my grandmother, who was too old to pay my school fees. My elder sister took on the responsibility of paying my school fees but had I had to drop out of primary school because my sister started expanding her family, and she had to take care of them. She could no longer afford to pay my school fees. I was disappointed, but I knew that there was nothing I could do about it.
At sixteen, I got married in 1985, and I started having children soon after. When my husband died in 2018, we have five children, including twins.
I hope that my children will have a better life than me because I am taking good care of them. I do whatever I can so that they get a better education. I have done all sorts of businesses to earn some money; I have sold fish, sold clothes, and now vegetables.
It’s also good that they have me around to mother them. I never had a mother to baby me, so I had to mature really fast. I am happy that I am there for my children since I didn’t have a mother around me.
My dream is to have my own shop with lots of foodstuff to sell to my customers.
My name is Adong Sunday. At 24 years, I sold avocado for two months and raised 270,000 shillings. I wasn't sure which business to do so I asked my mother for advice. 'Sell sigiri,' she said, and that is the business I decided to do – to sell charcoal stoves. I did a bit well. I raised more money, and this year, I started selling other things like cups, plates, saucepans, flasks, cutlery, among others.
I am still doing the sigiri business, but this time I have more market. I send some by bus to different locations. The sigiris go for 10,000 to 25,000 shillings.
One of my major challenges is the rain; during the rainy season, I have to gather my merchandise and find space so that they are not destroyed. This is not easy, but I must do it every now and then.
Another problem I have is this sewerage system. It smells especially when the sun is very hot, and during the rainy season, it bursts, and I have to continuously ignore it, but I know that this affects me.
When I was in senior three, I conceived, and I worried about my family's reactions. My family saw to it that I had my baby, and soon after, I went back to school, but when I reached senior four, my father said he couldn't afford to pay my school fees anymore. I was sad, but there was nothing much I could do.
I have always wanted to be a doctor; as soon as I get enough money, I will go back to school. I hope I will eventually become a doctor. That's my mission.
My name is Apio Agnes. I am 27 years old. I studied up to primary seven then had to drop out of school due to lack of school fees. Then, I studied tailoring at St Monica. When I completed, I did my tailoring at home. It was difficult because I only did work for friends and family.
I saved that money and found space on the veranda where I could now tailor for more people. The rent for this space is 100,000 shillings [US$27]. People who came to the market could easily see me, and I began to have more work and more money. I have bought more fabrics, so my customers have a variety of fabrics to choose from. I wear dresses I have made so that many people can ask me who made it and tell them, then they ask me to make for them.
I am now training my niece, Adong Gloria, who I have been taking care of since I was twelve, and she was five years after my sister passed away. She was my protector, and sometimes she acted as my mother, and I thought it was right for me to take care of her daughter after her death.
Each morning, we leave home and come to this veranda and work till evening, when my three children join me, and we go home.
My dream is to have my own shop. Working from a veranda is not easy, especially during the rainy season. When I have my own shop, I would like to get more beautiful fabrics all around me and make clothes for many people.
I was abducted by Lord Resistant Army rebels when I was thirteen years old. I spent one month and three months in captivity. I was saved by government soldiers who were chasing after the rebels, and I was carrying a heavy load. I had swollen feet because we had walked a very long distance. I was so relieved that after I returned, I made sure I never got abducted again. I saw things I don’t think I was ready to see at the age of thirteen.
The rebels were inhuman. They killed so many people and made me carrying luggage that exhausted my body and still expected me to walk. I still get nightmares from my experiences. I hope none of my children goes through such a life.
I dropped out of primary seven because I was much older than the rest of the children, who were about eleven or twelve, and there I was at fourteen. The children would call me names. They would bully me, so I thought it was much better not to continue with education, but I am glad I know how to read and count money. I would have loved to become a nurse. I admire the work they do, saving people’s lives. I would have been a beautiful nurse, wearing those blue dresses with a cap on my head. For now, I have to sell fish in the market. I am not sure there is any work out there for me.
I got married when I was seventeen years, but my husband was sick frequently. It took me long to know that he had AIDS and that I had it too. I am now on medication, and three of my children are HIV positive, but the younger ones are not because I went to hospital and followed the instructions. He died and left me when I was pregnant with my last born. He is now three and a half years, and he doesn’t have HIV.
My biggest challenge is paying bank loans and school fees for my children. I will be a happy woman when I don’t have to pay any loan and just focus on paying school fees for my children. I will be a happy woman.
Aisha Mukyala Nyisha
My name is Aisha Mukyala Nyisha, and I am 35 years old. I had my first child when I was about twelve years. I was pregnant for twelve months. I didn’t know much about pregnancy, but I learnt a lot during my pregnancy. I now have seven children.
I use this tailoring machine when my sister-in-law isn’t around. It’s hers. Her father bought it for her.
Sometimes, I fry cassava and sell it here. I get a profit of about 10,000 to 15,000 shillings per day. I use this money to pay school fees and buy food for my family.
If I had money, I would start a charcoal business. I would sell to villagers because most people buy from far. This is a great business opportunity because everybody needs charcoal. They will buy from me. I will have a business, and I will have some money.
I just want to make enough money for school fees for my children and food for my family; then I will be a happy woman.
BIO: Beatrice Lamwaka
Beatrice Lamwaka is an independent journalist, writer, researcher, literary activist, mentor, and editor. Born and raised in Gulu, Uganda, she was shortlisted for the 2015 Morland Writing Scholarship and in 2011 for the Caine Prize for her short story, “Butterfly Dreams,” which was later published as a book of short fiction.
Lamwaka has worked with an international humanitarian agency in Italy and Sudan. She is also the Vice President of PEN Uganda Chapter and has served on the Executive Board of the Uganda Women Writers Association (FEMRITE). A recipient of numerous awards and grants, including as a Finalist for the PEN/Studzinski Literary Award, she has been a Fellow at Stiftung Kunsteldorf Schoppingen (Germany). Lamwaka has been a writer in residence at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center(Italy), Chateau de Lavingny International Writers’ Residence (Switzerland), Femrite’s Regional Writers’ Residences (Jinja, Kampala, and Entebbe), Caine Prize writer’s workshops (Cameroon and South Africa), and Miles Morland Foundation’s workshop in Zanzibar (Tanzania).
Her short stories and poetry have been published in numerous anthologies, including To See the Mountain and Other Stories and African Violet and Other Stories. In 2019, she was a contributor to New Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.