‘It was very difficult becoming a mother, when I didn’t have a mother of my own,’ says Janet. ‘There was so much I didn’t know. On many occasions I would burst into tears when I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my baby daughter, Catherine.’
Janet used to work in a quarry smashing up stones with a hammer for a living. ‘I used to take Catherine with me, it was very dangerous for her but it was the only way we could survive,’ she explains.
Years earlier Janet’s life had been turned upside down when her village was attacked by a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Her mother was killed and Janet, who was just five-years-old at the time, recalls, ‘after her death my life became a living hell’. Everyone in the region moved to an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp for safety, but the conditions were horrendous.
‘Rape and killings were the order of the day,’ says Janet. ‘I only felt safe when I was with my father. Sometimes we would sleep in shifts so we could make sure no one came into our tent to rape me or my sister.’ After the war Janet fell pregnant with a man she thought she was going to marry, but he abandoned her after the birth.
A rest from life
Janet grabbed the opportunity to join Kira Farm Development Centre. ‘At Kira Farm I finally got a rest from my life,’ she says. ‘Waking up in the morning and simply studying and learning, not breaking stones, was wonderful.’ For the first few months she could not believe it was happening. ‘I felt at peace at Kira, I was energized and made to feel special, to believe in myself. When it was time to go home I was a different person and I understood how to be a good mother.’
From hairdressing to farming
As soon as this determined young woman reached home she spread the news about her newly acquired hairdressing skills. It was nearing Christmas and in five days she managed to make a huge sum - £25. Janet had never earned so much money, in such a short time, in her entire life. She used to earn around 30 pence a day in the quarry. ‘I love the life I am living now,’ beams Janet.
After Christmas she began preparing her garden to put into practise the Farming God’s Way (conservation farming) techniques she had learnt at Kira. She tried to teach the new methods to her extended family but they couldn’t understand what she was doing. Once it was harvest time everything made perfect sense – Janet’s strange new techniques didn’t disappoint! Inspired by the bumper harvest three of Janet’s relatives have now joined the Amigos’ farming group in her village. With both her hairdressing and farming, Janet is over the moon that she can provide for daughter and still manage to set aside some savings each week.
Making it alone
‘One of my neighbour’s saw how hard I was working and told me about a job going in his electricity distribution company - he said I would be able to do it after some short training,’ explains Janet. ‘Kira taught me that there is no such thing as ‘ladies work’ or ‘men’s work’, so I took the job even though it sounded like a man’s job.’
Today Janet is the only woman working in her section surveying where electricity poles need to be placed. She is using the opportunity to pass on what she learnt about gender equality at Kira Farm: ‘I tell the men how special their wives are and that they should treat them well,’ she says. ‘By the end of my six month contract I will have earned enough money to set up a tailoring and hairdressing business of my own. No wonder Janet is smiling!
Amigos Worldwide is a registered Charity/NGO both in the UK and Uganda.
Amigos Worldwide, Registered in England, Company Number 6122350, Registered Charity Number 1119450
Registered Office 7A Beech Grove, Pilton, Barnstaple, Devon. EX31 1PZ
(Amigos International and Amigos are working names of Amigos Worldwide)