A Ugandan Update

Poor internet connectivity is just a way of life in rural Patongo. If you’re lucky enough to have power, then chances are you’ll still only get a signal barely strong enough to load the most ‘light’ of web pages. Forget gmail. Don’t even *think* about Facebook.

And this is why I’ve only just heard about how Mary and Christine are doing. These are just two of the women I worked with closely this past summer. Women who are doing their best to get on with their lives after being abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army aged as young as six.

I’m sorry to report that it’s a mixed bag news-wise.

When I left Patongo in August 2011, I left a small sum of money with Mary to start a restaurant business. Enough to rent out a small space, attain a business licence, buy furniture and utensils, buy enough rice, beans, sugar, matoke to last her for six months.

Aided by a local CBO (community-based organisation), Hope Through Knowledge, Mary has still encountered problems.

Mary paid rent for four months in advance for the restaurant space, but the landlord has since absconded with the money. She had to find another, less-ideal, space with the remaining money.

The good news? The new space is slowly taking shape – and is getting spruced up with a fresh coat of paint. Mary hopes to be selling her first meals next week. However, I am concerned about how the business will fare once Mary gives birth. The photos show that she’s now visibly pregnant – something she denied when we worked together.

Christine has fared worse.

The NGO she was affiliated with pressured Christine to hand over the digital camera I left with her. It was clearly stated to all participating organisations that the cameras were to be the sole property of the women at the end of research. Christine refused, and has now allegedly been ostracized by the NGO as a result. I have contacted one of the board members. Predictably he has denied such a situation exists – curious considering he currently lives in the UK.

Christine was one of the 40 women I interviewed who had something of a success story. She purchased a number of pigs with the amnesty money she received and she made a modest income selling pigs at the market. But in the last month all of her pigs have died. In addition to not now having an income, she is struggling to pay for her children’s school fees, books, food and medical care.