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Uganda – home to some remarkable women

With International Women’s Day fast approaching, we’re taking the opportunity to introduce some women who have inspired us here in Trócaire.

Esther Oluk  is quiet and softspoken – but when she starts talking you find yourself captivated.

Esther Oluk from Uganda
Photos of Esther by Jeannie O’Brien for Trócaire.

Trying to grow enough food to feed 5 children; care for them  and keep them in school is a big job. But on top of all that Esther is trying to help her family to cope with the aftermath of a bloody and brutal 20 year war that forced them out of their home leaving them with nothing but hunger and fear.

Esther is very honest – she talks openly about how she struggled to cope with her own trauma and the anger she felt after the war. Anger and aggression were common within families and Esther’s was no different. She also struggled to cope with her angry, scared children. Then she joined a women’s group, supported by Trócaire, which was made up of other women and neighbours from her community. There she got training on everything from farming to family communications. Quote: My priority for my girls is to get an education not a husband

What makes Esther so remarkable isn’t all that she has endured, but how she has overcome her past and how she has turned her family’s life around. Esther soaked up the training like a sponge and it shows. She grips her training notebook tightly, “I am on my own so I need a record of everything.”

“Now I feel secure, almost like I have a husband.” Although Esther is alone her farm is one of the strongest in the community. She’s focused and for her the farm is the key to her children’s future. If she works hard and can get enough food and income from her land she will be able to afford to keep her children in school. “My priority for my girls is to get an education not a husband. The most important thing is to finish their education before they do anything else. I am certain of their education because of the farm and animals. What will be different for kids with education is that they will own their own land, have money and be more secure.”

As I watched Esther walk across her land I was inspired by her determination and humility. My only regret is that she will never know how remarkable she is.

Aged 83, Silvenia is the oldest member of Bar Kawach community, the focus of this year’s Lenten campaign.

83 year old Silvenia from the Bar Kawach community

Photos of Silvenia by Jeannie O’Brien (left) and Alan Whelan.

Silvenia is curious and chatty with a great sense of humour. She takes part in the community training Trócaire’s partner provides “I come to the training everytime. I am so old I have forgotten it all by tomorrow. But I still come to class” she joked. Considering how old Silvenia was when the war broke out 20 years ago you begin to realise appearances can be deceiving; she looks like a little old dear- but in reality she’s an iron lady!

Betty Alum is mother to Daniel, the boy on our Trócaire box this year. While Betty has 6 children including Daniel she has had to endure the pain of losing 6 children throughout her life.

Betty Alum from Uganda
Photos of Betty by Jeannie O’Brien for Trócaire.

She tells a moving story about how Daniel was named after a biblical story of a man called Daniel who survives a night in a lions Den thanks to his faith in God. “When I was pregnant with Daniel I was nursing my youngest daughter Tamali, who was chronically sick. Tamili died around the time Daniel was born. “I was in so much pain when I was carrying Dan that coming from my womb was  like coming out of the lion’s Den, that’s why I named him Dan” she says.

Despite all the odds Betty managed to keep her remaining children alive during the war. She protected them and kept them safe. She has more courage than an army of soldiers.

 To mark International Women’s Day, the Joint Consortium on Gender Based Violence are holding an event on Thurs March 8th, 2pm, Chester Beatty Library on  The Health and Social Consequences of Violence Against Women and Girls’.

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