I put my head around the door of the church and said hi to the small group of women gathered there. Rasmus had gone back to the house to rest, and Rob was in a meeting so he suggested I come in here and meet the women involved in the church’s Women’s Ministry.
Six women sat around a small table, two with young babies that variously slept or breastfed. They welcomed me in, found me another plastic garden chair to sit in and looked at me expectantly.
I just want to find out who you are, I said. I want to hear what you’re doing together.
And so they told me about their group, about the savings initiative they’d started, where they each bought some shillings every week from their work to save together. Even the women who couldn’t come today sent their money for the savings, they told me.
What work do you do? I asked them.
The first lady had over a hundred hens, she told me, and sold the eggs and sometimes the chickens.
The second was a housekeeper, cooking and cleaning each day.
The third said quietly, oh I just stay at home. I smiled at her and nodded and then looked towards the next woman. No shame in staying at home, I thought. I know many mamas back home who’ve chosen that option.
But Emily, their fearless leader, jumped in and voiced her disapproval. That’s not all you do! she claimed. Ask her what she does at home!
My curiosity sparked, I asked her. Well, yes, she kept some chickens too and sold the eggs. Wonderful! I said.
There’s more, said the others.
– Ok, and I also have a matoke plantation so I have to dig there many days.
– That’s impressive. Is there more?
– Yes, I have pigs too.
– Pigs?! How many?
– Six. And I sell the piglets at the market.
– Do you have children?
– Yes, I have five children.
– So let me get this straight. You keep chickens and pigs, you have a matoke plantation that you tend, and five children to take care of, and you told me that you “just stay at home”?!
She smiled and the other women laughed.
Here, my friends, is the future of Uganda. Women who are hard working and entrepreneurial. Women who care for their husbands and children by growing and earning their food as well as cooking it.
And they’re not stopping there. The next afternoon, the church building filled with the passionate sounds of women discussing child protection in their community, how to protect the most vulnerable, the most innocent. How to make sure violence against girls becomes a thing of the past. How to make sure domestic violence and corporal punishment are no longer a part of home or school life.
My short half an hour sitting with these women was one of the most inspiring moments of my whole trip. We talked and shared, and when I told them something that I struggled with, they reached out their hands and prayed for me with the warmth of lifelong friends.
Their faces and their stories gave me hope for their community.
This story is part of my series remembering our trip to Uganda and Burundi in June 2013.
The Women’s Ministry is part of the work of River of Life church in Masaka, Uganda. You can read more about the amazing outreach work this church is doing in it’s community on their website or facebook page. Rasmus and I have supported this organisation for a number of years and can wholeheartedly recommend them to you if you would like to become a supporter yourself.