The women began to gather into the round hut we had cleared as the training space – many of them were late; apologetic, they explained that a girl had been raped and killed in Kasana last night and they had been in town trying to find out what had happened.
They brought with them an excitement guarded with a bit of apprehension – I don’t blame them. As is so often the case, many of them had been promised exiting new initiatives in the past and were hesitant to trust this wasn’t one of those ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ projects. Julius introduced Topista, our trainer and she suggested we begin our training with a prayer. Ivon, the woman who had been elected as the group leader offered thanks and asked that the women be blessed – It was a beautiful way to start the week.
Quite soon into the training it began very clear that with a group of 30 women, the entire step of drawing the lines on the paper and cutting each strip of jewellery was one that could be eliminated. Many ‘beading women’ take their paper to a paper cutter in kampala after purchasing their paper. You either do this, or cut it yourself. Julius and I realized how much easier it would be for the women if they had a paper cutter and were able to cut their paper as a group whenever they needed to. We decided that some of the grant money should go towards this so that the women have their own machine.
So off we went! Once the women were well into their first training day, Julius and I took off for Kampala in search of one LARGE paper-cutting machine! It had been raining that day, so by the time we were finally able to catch a matatu and make the journey to Kampala, the roads in Kampala were a muddy mess. My flip flops splashed mud up the back of my legs – I was trying to walk as careful as one can in these conditions, because mud in Uganda has been known to steal flip flops and suck them apart. We finally found the street where all of the stationary stores are and Julius went in to see what he could find. I stayed outside so that he could negotiate a Ugandan price that didn’t double when they saw me. I was happy when I finally saw Julius coming towards me carrying a huge box – not only because I knew the women would be so happy to have a break from using scissors, but also because I was able to escape the conversation that was ensuing with a security guard who was trying to convince me to sit on a chair with his friend.
Because of the rain, this all took far longer than it usually would have. By the time we got back, the women were nearing the end of their first training day.