Known as the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is a land filled with stunning landscape, rich biodiversity, and serene beauty. However, despite the country’s vast natural wealth, more than half of Ugandan households still experience poverty in the areas of finances, healthcare, and education. Ugandan women, in particular, experience the harsh effects of being ultra-poor. They have less employment and educational opportunities, with the majority having to stop school at an early age. ICM’s Transform program empowers Ugandan women with values, health, and livelihood training so that they can enjoy fulfilling and productive lives. Today, we get to share the story of Joyce, a single mother in Uganda.
“I am the father and mother of my children. After my husband died in 2015, life became hard for me and my children. I always lay on my bed thinking of how we could win in the bad situation we were going through. Problems used to hit my home one after another. As I was answering a problem, another one followed. Just as I was finishing with this one, another one came.”
Like many mothers who are left to raise their children on their own, Joyce is no stranger to worry and hardship. She didn’t have a job and her four children–Nassali, Faiso, Babirye, and Hassan–were depending on her for their daily needs. Despite the challenges, Joyce persevered and found a way to provide for her family.
“Through all that, I gained strength. I believe that I am a hard-working lady, so I shouldn’t give up. That was when I started farming because, before that, it was my husband who would bring bread on the table.”
Thankfully, Joyce didn’t always have to face her struggles alone. She was invited to join the Transform program where she learned new skills, joined a savings group, and gained a community where she felt supported.
“When I joined Transform, I felt so empowered because this was such a great opportunity to learn something new.”
Today, Joyce goes around her community selling samosas (savory pastries) which she learned to make in the Transform livelihood lessons. She gathers the ingredients from her farm, cooks rice and cowpea samosas, and sells them in her community. Business, which she used to dismiss as not a worthwhile endeavor, became her family’s extra source of income, giving her confidence that has overflowed to her neighbors.
“I thought that no one can gain anything from small businesses. But after joining Transform, I now see that something big is coming my way. Through this business, I have started saving. I can buy whatever I want for my home. My neighbors noticed a great change because of my samosa business. They are now my customers. I have even invited two of them to our savings group.”
In the future, Joyce wants to buy a plot of land and construct a new house for her family, a place large enough for both farming and her business. But for now, she finds satisfaction in being able to send her children to school using the money she earns from her business and a small plot of farm land that she sold.
“Through my small business, all of my children have managed to go to school. I have a child who finished a course in engineering. He is working in town, and he is so happy.”
Now, whenever she passes by their houses, Joyce’s neighbors call out to her “samosa!” yearning for a taste of her pastries. Her unexpected success earned Joyce the new nickname and inspired her to dream big. She plans to add more capital to her samosa business and expand it. Since her income from farming is only seasonal, Joyce is grateful for the opportunities her business has given her.
“Transform is more than what I expected. For sure, all the money I have now is from the business I started due to ICM. You people have made me what I am today.”
After a few months of work in Uganda, ICM has successfully run Transform in 45 communities bringing positive impact to 5,000 family members. Within two years, ICM targets to graduate 30,000 Ugandan women and family members from Transform.