I must preface my blog posts to this page. Although this blog is generally based on travel, the content I post on the mission to Uganda may not fit the normal profile you have been used to reading on this site. I assure you there is a reason. This and pending posts regarding the IFAPI project describe what are important conclusions from my perspective. I also feel strongly they are stories that deserve to be shared.
So onward I go.
We all know just how difficult it is to change attitudes. It can be harder still to change habit. Generally changes in habit occur when someone has become enlightened or has experienced a paradigm shift. The difference in how one approaches life after such revelations can often bring on positive change to themselves, their environment and others.
I was fortunate to hear a story of a man who experienced such a shift he attributes to an educational experience. Deo, a farmer with the Bomido SACCO received various training sessions run by the Uganda Co-operative Alliance (UCA). One such session he shared had a significant impact on a very important relationship in his life; the one with his wife.
After receiving gender equality training by the UCA Deo realized that there would be more to gain in life if he took a different approach to this important relationship.
He said that “after 30 years of marriage I have now learned to respect her, we now have peace, we now work together.”
Wow. That was powerful.
As a woman who has experience a relationship with mutual respect; had the opportunity to educate myself; and the ability to exhibit and be proud of my independence and freedom, it made me think a lot. In fact, it has been four days since we spoke with Deo and now I sit thinking of our conversation while I type this post from a van that is travelling through the rural parts of northern Uganda.
Admittedly, I was truly taken aback when Deo cited this training and his change of habit as the biggest and most important life changer. It wasn’t only because he was so honest but rather it was because I haven’t had concerns about gender equality as it relates to me in terms of a relationship.
My following thoughts were that gosh, his wife must be so happy and now feel so empowered. To be considered a partner and be provided with the much-needed level of respect, having accessed her independence must be life changing for her.
In Uganda, women do not always have the same rights or access to the same opportunities that men do. However, through the co-operative movement, lives are changing and the role women are playing is evolving. This has become clear to me on this journey as I continue to meet enlightened men and incredible women who now, through education and a more level playing field are doing amazing things.
Women, given the chance to excel and doing just that is not shocking to me.
It is also not shocking to me to learn the women who are involved as members in the SACCOs are more successful with saving. Additionally, once given the opportunity to work and make their own money they then have the ability to change the quality of lives for their entire family, no longer dependent on one income.
This means the basics can now be covered: food, water, shelter, clothing and education for their children are now not such a struggle.
Deo and his wife continue to work together and their success together is noteworthy. Of all the farms we have visited, their expansive property, which included an astounding nine cash crops, was one of the most diversified and sustainable.
We can sometimes take for granted the education we have access to but we also sometimes forget that once you have it, its what you do with it that matters.
In a country where access to life’s general basics is hard to achieve for most, knowledge is light.
Below you will find a video of Baptise, Chair of the Panyango SACCO speaking specifically to the reasons why gender equality makes sense and helps achieve sustainability for the entire community and the commodities they produce.