At a glance, Nakulabye is a squalid shack-clogged suburb dotted with dimly-lit bars along the main road, but a peek beyond the walls of the bars, gives a true picture. As Kampalans flock the bars for pork and beer, a typical Nakulabye resident is busy gnashing his teeth pondering where to get the next meal.
Most residents here are stuck in their mud-walled houses, pulling rags over their heads to to beat the merciless cold and snatch a few hours of sleep - self-abasement due to poverty that has stolen their dignity. But somewhere on the horizon, a flicker of a better life is visible - God Loves Women Network (Glow Network) Uganda, a non-profi t organisation, is giving the people of Tree Shadow Zone 9 in Nakulabye some optimism.
The goat scheme:
Agnes Animo, the organisation's managing director, says they support residents who are rearing goats. "In Tree Shadow Zone 9, we gave farmers improved local goat breeds from my husband's farm in Tororo district," she says. Upon receiving the goats, Animo, a graduate of agribusiness management, trains the benefi ciaries on how to make the most out of their agricultural enterprises.
According to her, the goats have transformed the benefi ciaries' lives. "They have sold some of the goats and earned handsomely," she says. And to this, Byron Mutabazi, 48, the LC1 chairman of Tree Shadow Village Zone 9, agrees: "In May 2011 Ireceived two goats from Glow Network.
They have now delivered twice, each giving me three kids. I would be having 20 goats, but I sold off some to get school fees. A goat costs between sh150,000 and sh200,000. I do not sell the young ones because I want them to multiply," he explains. He says he also gets manure from the goats.
"Goats have dry dung, which is ideal for farming. Recently, I packed the dry dung into 20 bags and took it to my garden on Kampala-Hoima road." The wide smile on Madina Mubiru, 48, another benefi ciary, tells it all. "My husband and I had three goats and Glow Network gave us two more last year.
Whenever, we are in a crisis, I sell some and get money to solve the problems," she narrates. Mubiru's only lamentation is that the fi rst lot of kids died. "It was a setback but I am now recovering.
I see great potential in goat rearing." Animo says the network is currently helping farmers to manage the challenges that come with larger goat herds.
"Space is an issue but they are learning to effectively use the small space they have," she explains. "We are also considering other sustainable projects such as poultrykeeping, although it is more labour-intensive and requires more space." The network teaches the benefi ciaries how to take care of the goats and how to prevent diseases.
Animo says the organisation, with the help of local authorities, has also given out personal effects such as clothes and shoes to less-advantaged families in the area. Animo, who is a customer service manager with Barclays Bank, says the items were donated by her colleague at her workplace.
Apart from Zone 9, the organisation markets products made by women in other parts of Uganda. "We have set up a website where we showcase the products. We connect to the interested buyers to the women," Animo explains.
Working with Makerere University Hospital, Glow Network has carried out free HIV/AIDS testing and counselling in Nakulabye and Katanga slums.
With the national HIV/AIDS infection rate lately surging from 6.4% to 7.3%, translating into 130,000 infections and 50,000 deaths annually, Glow Network's contribution in this area cannot be underrated. Statistics show that many of the new infections are in urban areas, mostly in slums where high risk groups like sex workers, long-distance truck drivers, unemployed youth, drug addicts and the impoverished, reside.
"We also intend to focus on maternal health in the north by providing ambulances to transport women in labour. Most districts in the north do not have ambulances and those owned by hospitals have broken down," she says.
As a result, Animo says, mothers are transported to hospital using rudimentary means such as improvised stretchers or bicycles, which are risky. "Owing to long distances, some of them cannot access health centres in time, resulting in complications like fi stula and death," she observes.
With 16 women dying from pregnancy and childbirth related complications every day, Uganda remains one of the countries with the highest maternal mortality ratio.
Most of these deaths could be avoided if mothers had access to well-equipped health facilities manned by skilled health personnel to handle emergencies. Amidst such challenges, Grow Network's intervention of stretching ambulance services to the north, an area that was badly hit by civil unrest for more than two decade, could not have come at a better time.
Free legal services:
The organisation is also planning to offer bursaries to less advantaged children next year. "We have already identifi ed children in Katanga slum to benefi t from the scholarships. We have been monitoring their performance and we believe our support can give them a mileage," Animo says. Partnering with F.X Ogwado and Company Advocates, the network also gives free legal services to the poor.
Animo explains that they are helping two sex workers get redress after the men who made them pregnant denied responsibility.
"The DNA tests were done and the two men turned out to be the true fathers of the children," Animo explains. The organisation is also helping another benefi ciary, Annet Namwanje, 25, a widow, to get legal redress. Namwanje who lost her husband in August 2011, claims her husband's relatives broke into her house and took all her property.
She was then chased away from her home with her child. "Glow Network has intervened to ensure the child gets support and Namwanje gets part of the land for gardening," Animo says.
Glow Network was started in 2006 by Anne Modesta Aguti (RIP), Animo's mother. Aguti reached out to the poor women in her home town in Soroti district, by paying school fees for one child per household.
Aguti also conducted workshops where the children were taught to support their parents and train their siblings to become fi nancially independent. Animo, together with her partners, are now fanning the flames of Aguti's passion - giving hope to the poor through knowledge and empowerment.
And, with this kind of intervention, only God knows how many will emerge with a smile on their faces, courtesy of Glow Network.