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During a recent trip to the Twezimbe Integrated Development Centre, Mbikko, Uganda, part-funded by Trócaire, Lisa Byrne from Trócaire Uganda visited our partner’s projects in the area of literacy, community-based health and education.
Caption: Women from ‘The Widows’ Programme’ making crafts at the Twezimbe Development Centre, Mbikko, Uganda. Photo: Lisa Byrne.
One project that really captured my imagination was ‘The Widows’ Programme’, which helps women of all ages who have been shunned by their communities to organise support groups, share their experiences, and to develop new skills and new forms of income to support themselves.
The women involved have faced a great deal of social stigma after the deaths of their husbands.
Unfortunately, this is common in parts of Uganda and can leave women vulnerable and isolated, in addition to the burden of raising a family alone with little financial support. Sadly, these widows are shunned by their communities because of a frequently held view that they have done something to cause their husbands’ deaths.
After her husband died in 1985, Bibianna (70) was stigmatised in her community and left to grieve by herself. In addition to this, she had the added stress of raising her six children with little help.
“People did not want to associate with me,” she said.
One day, years later, another widow in the community told Bibianna about a Widows’ Programme that the Twezimbe Centre was running. Bibianna joined the programme and since then, being a part of the group has transformed her life.
Bibianna explained to me that the skills and knowledge that she has acquired have provided the roots for a better life for her and her family: “I can now sustain myself by being creative”.
Caption: Bibianna in front of her craft shop in Mbikko. Photo: Lisa Byrne
Bibianna was taught how to make crafts which she would sell at the Centre and at the church but her crafts were so much in demand that her customers suggested she open a small shop. She set up a display at the entrance of her home. She says she is much happier now and can provide for her children and grandchildren.
“I have made friends and we all share our experiences. I live in the present and look forward to a great future”.
Damali Kasunsu (57) too was stigmatised in her community following the death of her husband. “They hated me and mistreated me and they thought I was a burden”, she explained.
Her in-laws also tried to take the land that she had cultivated with her husband.
Damali has been part of the Widows’ Programme for some time now. She participated in income-generating activities and was given a small loan with which she bought ten pigs and was given training on organic farming.
Caption: Damali Kasunsu (57) with her daughter Brenda (18) in their home in Mbikko. Photo: Lisa Byrne
She used the additional income to build her own house which she explained was a huge achievement for her and she was also able to support her daughter’s education.
“The group helps to bond us together and to have friends. We work together and we support each other. We laugh, dance and sing together and I feel loved. Everything is offered wholeheartedly”.