Mouse Turned Market Trader


As the daughter of divorced parents Joanne’s name was tarnished – no one ever thought she would amount to anything. Her confidence was rock bottom when she joined Kira Farm, but over the course of the year her self-esteem soared, her relationship with her mum was restored, and she learnt the skills she needed to be a success in life.

Today Joanne, who was once a quiet little mice, is now a bold market trader, shouting out her wares alongside fierce male-dominated competition! Thanks to her new income she can pay for her little sisters to go to school and support her mother. 

Joanne grew up under a black cloud. Her parents divorced when she was little and in Ugandan culture if a woman gets divorced it reflects badly on her children, particularly the girls.

As a child Joanne was frequently told that she would never be able to have a happy, stable family because her mother’s marriage had failed. ‘This killed my self-esteem,’ explains Joanne. ‘I always hated myself and I never made any friends. I also hated my mum for not staying in her marriage and for giving all of us a bad reputation.’

Finding peace

‘When I was on Kira Farm I didn’t want to talk about my family – until I discovered there were girls with even more complicated family problems than my own,’ says Joanne.

‘I felt at peace on Kira because no one judged me, for the first time in my life I was being treated just like everyone else. I’m so thankful we studied restorative justice because it made me want to understand why my mother got divorced and to see if I could help her.

Mother and daughter reunited

‘When we had our semester break I went to visit my mother for the first time in eight years - not to blame her for what happened, but to listen to her side of the story.

‘It was an emotional time for us both. She was so happy to see me but I was devastated to hear that my father had abused her. She’d missed us terribly ever since they split up.

‘I came back for the second semester happy that my training wasn’t just providing me with new skills, but also the courage to come to terms with my past. My confidence began to improve, I made a lot of friends and began speaking up in the group meetings.

Returning home

After graduating from Kira Farm Joanne used her new confidence, and tailoring skills, to find a job making sports shorts for a school, earning £45. She then went to the main market in Lira town and rented a space where she could sell second hand clothes. Her income increased dramatically and Joanne decided to join the seasonal markets, where traders travel with their goods and make a lot of money.

Joanne’s family were shocked by her decision, she says: ‘The Joanne they knew was scared of her own shadow and would never dream of doing such a thing. But the new ‘me’ thought I could do it,’ she smiles.

The seasonal markets are mainly dominated by men because who load their goods onto trucks and sit on top of them while in the market, shouting out their wares to attract the attention of potential buyers. Joanne is thriving in this environment! She is travelling as far as Gulu selling second hand clothes, as well as some garments she has made herself.

Alongside the markets Joanne is using her new cake-baking skills to earn money – she sells her baked goods into a number of shops at Lira.

With an increase in income Joanne has been able to pay the school fees of her two younger sisters so they can go to school again.

Joanne’s relationship with her mum has been restored, she visits her frequently and helps buy medicine, clothes and food for her. She has employed two people to help growing crops on her mother’s land and is planning to start up a business for her mum.

‘I am so thankful to Amigos for giving me self-confidence - it’s changed my life,’ Joanne smiles.

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