‘JUST A KIKOMANDO’

“Will you buy for me kikomando? I am very hungry.”

This was my take home from an evaluation exercise of a tailoring project that my organization implemented for a year, in Katwe, a Kampala suburb.

Just as expected of a slum, Katwe is highly congested, the odor speaks for the hygiene before it meets the eye. Dirty saucepans of boiled beans lie at the front of a tattered door curtain. Little naked children with pot bellies play about in a drainage. Young expectant mothers awaiting delivery in subsequent days, weeks and months sway through the little pathways to add to the already overpopulated slum. Flies hovered around and over us, as we waited for the participants of the Women’s club project to gather for the exercise. One after the other, they came through.

The Karamojong women, with decorated faces, sat and drunk their lives away with the men, some of whom smoked and sniffed substance in the process. A photo would only be stealthily taken.

The purpose of the exercise was to gauge the performance of the tailoring project, and also find out what other economic activities the women could be empowered to engage themselves in.

A few minutes into the interactions, I was approached by this lean little lady, whose legs could pass for toothpicks and barely carried her around.  With a piece of skirt hanging around her waist. Her face presented a dire need for rescue, rescue from Katwe. Out of concern, we had a chat, from which I would later discover that she was 18 years old, a mother of 2 children, the youngest of whom is only 3 months.  Abong (not real names) was sharing a shack structure with a friend she revealed as, Winnie. She narrated that the father of her children abandoned her after the birth of the second child, and moved on with another woman within the slum. With a 3 year old, and 3 month old, begging for a kikomando, my heart bled for her.

“What do you people do,” she asked. And I explained to her that we reached out to vulnerable children and women in different communities. We especially empowered the mothers to have a sustainable livelihood and better standards of living.

Just as I turned to my colleague who coordinates the Women’s club to ask her to register Abong, I saw her back. I called her back, and in an irritable tone, she asked “will you buy for me kikomando? I am hungry.” I explained to her, that I intended to give her something more than kikomando, and that if she would give me just a few seconds, I would act accordingly. That was the last I saw of Abong.

The women in Katwe need empowerment to realize their self-worth. This effort will not be realized in a day or two. It takes a process.  The women do not have a voice. They have no control over their sexuality. Even in the gravity of the living conditions, they continue to give birth, others out of rape, others willingly. However this leads to a breed of children that they cannot take care of, yet the fathers also do not take responsibility.

The good news is that among these women, there are agents of change who would like to have the situation changed. There are those crying out for opportunities of better health, for skills empowerment, and for better sexual and reproductive health knowledge.

The women in Katwe are just a representation of what the feminine gender goes through. Cases of Gender Based violence, forced marriages and lack of equal opportunities are evidenced in our communities and the nation over.

Women’s rights, are human rights and every woman deserves to have them respected. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. The women in Katwe are not exempted from these rights either.

A woman deserves more than just a kikomando.

 

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