This is Rose – she has 7 children, is HIV+ and is the most beautiful, hardworking, inspiring woman I know! Since joining the Shanti Uganda Women’s Income Generating Group, her life has changed and the impact of those changes will be passed down to her 7 children – most of them girls. The impact will continue in this way from generation to generation.
She also makes beautiful multi colour long beaded necklaces. Here in Uganda, they are known as ‘bubblegum’ – The women in our group have named it katogo (which means mixture in luganda). Katogo is also known as breakfast matoke (a mixture of bananas, gound nuts and veggies eaten for breakfast). They all think that this is very funny and roar in laughter at the thought of calling a beautiful beaded necklace ‘katogo’. If you are wearing your long multicoulour necklance, there’s a good chance it was made by Rose. During her jewellery and business training she learned the value of focusing on what she does well. We love her ‘katogo’ necklaces and she can ALWAYS be found down at the hut working away at cutting paper, rolling beads and then stringing different shapes, sizes and colours to make the ‘katogo’ necklace.
Rose and I have a special relationship, because she knows that the multi colour necklace just happens to be my favourite necklace. Each buying day, she carefully unrolls her fabric pouch to reveal a new pile of beautiful, colourful paper beaded ‘katogo’ necklaces. I have seen them a thousand times, but each time she does this its as though I have never in my life seen a multi colour necklace. My eyes widen and a smile creeps over my face – she thinks that this is hilarious because she knows the same thing happens EVERY time! It always causes her to laugh and the two of us giggle over the ‘predictability’ of the whole situation!
The day before I was scheduled to leave Uganda this time, I walked out of the volunteer house to go talk to the sisters and found Rose, rolling away on our porch! The women don’t often come to the volunteer house unless they have something to ask or share with us, but there she was- content – sitting there, rolling her beads. As soon as she saw me, we exchanged the typical series of greetings in Luganda, but she continued chatting away – intent on communicating to me something that seemed very important. This was well beyond my comprehension and I went to get Maria to translate.
Rose began to share with me all of the ways the project has changed her life, her new-found sense of empowerment, her ability to feel proud of who she is and her faith in the future and the future of her children. By now, she had a huge smile on her face and tears began to well up in her eyes as she reached into her fabric pouch to reveal a beautiful, colourful ‘katogo’ necklace. She carefully placed the necklace into my hand and we sat there with tears rolling down our cheeks holding hands on the porch. A gift. Webale (thankyou) she repeated over and over, turning her face to hide her tears. And then she left. I wore the necklace on the plane ride home – a reminder of Rose and all of the women who inspire us to trust, to have faith, to carry on.