In Africa, we have a tendency of mimicking all international slogans of all kinds. We adopted the International Women Year or International Mothers’ Year. What do these celebrations mean to us as Africa and Uganda in particular? Emancipation of women does not mean the number of women in politics, in business etc. what does it mean?
One day, one Esther Nambokka of Gal International Forum an NGO that deals with the emancipation of mothers and Ms. Geraldine Ssali and I were identified as dignitaries who can exchange jobs with an average woman’s job. It sounded like a joke but I remembered that it was not April 1st (fools Day). I enquired of what was required of me and Esther Nambokka mentioned 4 jobs that I had to choose from to exchange with the current occupants;-
- Hairdresser in Katonga market.
- Tomato sellers in Nakawa market.
- Restaurant waitress in Owino market.
- Street vendor.
"Emancipation of women does not mean the number of women in politics, in business etc. What does it mean?"
Street vending was an opportunity for me to reach out to the mothers whom I have always observed with a lot of pain and empathy. Words of caution from concerned citizens fearing criticism, abuses, and misconceptions clogged my cell phone. I ignored them because I really wanted to interact with them amidst public screams on sugar prices and foreign petty traders; I had the temerity to take on this ordeal because they are also traders and are my constituents as a Minister of Trade.
When we gathered at KPC you could have clearly seen the fear in the Officer in-charge of the Uganda Police Force’s eyes. If they had the powers, they could have stopped the venturing into this project. They did not want me to carry the basket of bananas. I instructed them to keep a distance from our group.
We started with 4 mothers carrying baskets of mangoes and bananas. To be honest, I was a bit nervous as to what would happen to us. We proceeded along Kampala Road with our baskets. As soon as we got to the Street, rumour spread like fire that a Minister was vending bananas. Some people showed concern that I had gone berserk and needed help, others were curious; others fled as if they had seen a monster, and some stared in bewilderment while others bought bananas and mangoes from me and even tipped me.
"Street vending was an opportunity for me to reach out to the mothers whom I have always observed with a lot of pain and empathy."
That day, I enjoyed the social media as news of my vending went far with all sorts of comments, abuses; ridicules, criticism, praises etc. Those moments with the vendors (though interrupted by officials) engulfed me with empathy; concern , regret on our roles as politicians and women leaders but exposed me to the cruelty we subject to those under privileged mothers; the vacuum there is between us and them and the deceit in form of emancipation which these mothers have never been incongruous to.
This was an opportunity for all to take advantage of me. The Boda-boda riders in their excitement started ordering me around: Amelia, get us bananas quickly, Leeta Wanno” some was a fleet of motorbikes accompanying me with threats of KCCA arresting me others were throwing money at me while others vendors used this opportunity to brief me on their complaints against KCCA.
I deemed to de-campaign their lifestyle and enterprise and advised them to form groups so that we could get alternative means of earning a hung. I have, therefore, worked with Gal International Forum to register them and form an association to train them in financial literacy, entrepreneurship and other skills. The response was remarkably impressive and they started something in their names. Fortunately, KCCA promised to avail affordable space in the markets.
"This was an opportunity for all to take advantage of me. The Boda-boda riders in their excitement started ordering me around: Amelia, get us bananas quickly, Leeta Wanno” "
Exchange of roles entailed one of the vendors performing role as a Minister. One Rebecca Ampaire, came to my office and usurped my powers. Apparently, she exhibited a lot of potential in the manner she managed the office and carried herself with an aura of confidence and authority. She has leadership qualities that would qualify her as (Coordinator of the group).
Fellow Ugandans, there are many ways you could reach out to underprivileged. These people would have loved to do work in a decent and conducive environment, therefore, let us all contribute to their welfare through our respective offices. Let us empathize with our fellow mothers.
I do have plans to register the vendors; impart skills to them in order to demotivate them from street vending. They deserve a decent and less risky life like all of us! Please empathize with them so that we celebrate the International Mothers Day equitably.