From land disputes to chronic illness, business owner Adap Anna Margaret shares her journey towards health, education, and hope for her family. Field interns Sarah Ackerley and Anna deSocio journey to the village of Ateka in the Katakwi district of Uganda to gain a glimpse into Anna’s life as a result of her participation in the Village Enterprise program.
It is a on a hot, sunny day that Adep Anna Margaret welcomes visitors from Village Enterprise who have come to Aketa to hear her story and learn about some of the ways the program has impacted her life. We find some shade, a couple of wooden chairs and a log, and get started with our interview. A few of Anna Margaret’s friends, as well as a few chickens, have joined to hear the interview as well.
As her story unfolds, she gestures passionately, and speaks for a long time before we ask any questions. She pauses only so that our translator and field coordinator, Isaac, can interpret. She is revealing several hardships in her past and present that make her climb out of extreme poverty truly impressive.
An HIV-Positive widow with 10 children, Anna Margaret deals with many obstacles to financial independence. Her only source of income prior to her involvement with Village Enterprise was a physically demanding business of making and selling the local alcoholic brew waraji. The HIV weakened her, and doctors instructed her to stick to light work and stop drinking. She tried to follow the doctor’s orders, but had trouble making a living without the brewing business. She had to sell five cows in order to educate her children.
What is more, her in-laws have harassed her, illegally pressuring her to leave the village and making it difficult for her to cultivate on the family land. Although as a widow she has legal rights to the land her husband inherited, she has stopped fighting them and has decided to keep only a small plot of land her husband bought before he died.
Thanks to the kindness of her neighbors who have supported her and allowed her to cultivate on sections of their land, she has stood her ground and refused to leave the village. However, because she has had to move around a lot within the village, she was almost missed by Village Enterprise’s initial targeting process. That’s where her Business Mentor Esther comes in.
The Village Enterprise Business Mentors have unique knowledge of the communities in which the organization operates, and they spend a lot of time there. One day, Esther happened to be walking through the village, meeting people along the way, when she came across Anna Margaret. Learning of her situation, Esther realized that she qualified for the program.
Since joining, Anna Margaret started a goat-rearing business with two other participants, and soon three goats multiplied to 11. Through the training, she learned about borrowing, investing, generating profits, paying back loans, saving, and, she adds, taking good care of animals.
“All of the trainings have had an impact,” she says. “Life is easy now that I am in the business savings group, because I am able to pay for school fees or whatever else I need. Although I am HIV positive, I feel that I still have life ahead of me, because I am able to access medication.
“I have reached a level at which I look at my children and I do not see them as orphans. I am relieved of a lot of my worries, because I am able to go to the business savings group. When I think of all my problems, I am consoled thinking of the group and of my children who are in school. With time, I will not have any burdens, because my children will care for me.” Already, one of her daughters, who has completed teacher training and teaches in a missionary school, is helping to pay for tuition to send the other children to school.
Because my name is also Anna, we have achieved a small connection despite our many differences (not least the fact that we do not even speak the same language). After the interview, she holds my hands, touches her forehead to mine, and tells me to thank my mother for giving me such a good name.
Narrative by Anna deSocio
Photo credit: Sarah Ackerley