Anna Margaret Ateka, Uganda

“I have reached a level at which I look at my children and I no longer see them as orphans.”

As an HIV-positive widow with 10 children, Anna Margaret faces many obstacles to attaining 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.

As HIV weakened her body, local doctors instructed her to stick to light work. She tried to follow the doctors’ orders but had trouble making a living without the brewing business. To keep her children in school, she had to sell her cows.

Anna Margaret’s troubles didn’t stop there. Her in-laws harassed her, illegally pressuring her to leave the village and making it difficult for her to cultivate the family land. Although as a widow she has the legal right to the land her husband inherited, she stopped fighting her in-laws and decided to keep only the small plot of land her husband bought before he passed away.

Since Anna Margaret has frequently had to move locations within the village, Village Enterprise’s initial targeting process almost missed her. That’s where her Business Mentor Esther Apolot enters the story.

Business Mentors have unique knowledge of the communities that Village Enterprise operates in. One day, Esther was walking through the village, meeting people along the way, when she came across Anna Margaret. After learning of her situation, Esther quickly realized that Anna Margaret qualified for the program.

After joining, Anna Margaret started a goat-rearing business with two other participants. The three goats have now multiplied to 11. Through the trainings, she learned about borrowing, investing, generating profits, paying back loans, saving and taking care of livestock.

“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 no longer 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 at a missionary school, is helping to pay for tuition to send the other children to school.

Anna Margaret exemplifies the power of resilience and how it is never too late to create a better tomorrow.