We were sensitized. Chairman told us to come up with two members to hold the group. Our group had 30 members at that time. I was elected as a collector for the group and the treasurer was elected – Hadija. From there we continued our savings and our meetings. We discussed issues of the community. From there we had to move to other settlements to spread the thing. We mobilized many other groups. After mobilizing those groups we had another very big meeting at the municipal council and the team from Kampala came back. At this meeting we had to select the regional leaders.
After that we had to sensitize more people to come on board. People’s lives really started to change because before that they did not have any savings culture in their communities. In our savings groups we started many committees. We started a H&H (Health and Hygiene) committee and members started working to improve the health of people in our communities. At that time we used to have so many visitors coming to see us. University students came from America to learn from us and we learned from them. As community we had to make exchanges, whereby we would learn from other communities. We never had this idea before, but now we can exchange ideas with others and we can change our behaviors.
As for me, I have really, really gained from the system. First of all, I have acquired a lot of knowledge. For example I had an exchange. I didn’t know that I, as a community person, could learn and then teach others. As I talk, I am an engineer from the community! I didn’t expect to have that idea. I went to Tanzania in 2011 on an exchange on July 12th. The exchange was for 2 weeks. We met with the National Housing from Tanzania. We found our friends from Arusha, Dodoma, and Dar es Salaam [federation members]. For communities we believe that we learn by doing, practically. We learned how to make tiles, interlocking bricks, and building. I myself had a chance to learn all those things and then we showed the housing officials what we had learned. I was selected to do the demonstration in front of the officials. I was very much pleased that what I have learned I have put it practice and done it successfully.
When we came back we had to bring the idea back to our country. We had to call for a meeting and explain to our people and then we went to Jinja to teach practically. As I talk now we are using interlocking bricks now on our own housing project. The technology is very very good and now it is working for us and we hope it will help us in all the regions. We have a task to take people to each region and train them practically.
At the savings scheme I started as a collector. At the region I became a facilitator for enumeration and profiling. At the regional level we had a city-wide enumeration and I lead the process. We did that very well because we had sensitized the community very well. We saw that the data we gathered would help us as the community and also the authorities. The census the government carries does not cover all the things we need to cover. For example, the land tenure information is a very useful thing. We managed to collect all the data and after collecting we had to verify it in the community and then enter it into the computer ourselves and now we can update it.
As a community we had to know our data so we could fight for the issues important to us and we can plan with the information. In federation we say that “Information is Power.” We have to have that information on our fingertips so we can lobby and advocate for our services. We had to come up with a concrete report of our data, which can assist all of us – communities and municipalities – to assist us in planning and budgeting. We came up with the report and we asked the municipality to authorize it and say it is correct and that it will be used. From there council accepted and we have been working together to use the information. Council started recognizing the community as a key stakeholder in planning systems.
In collecting all this data we all had to do mapping which shows structures on the ground. We also did numbering of all structures. When you come to our office now you can come and get information on a person and his house number and it is an address system. After doing that all we came to know our challenges as a community and we began to negotiate better. Now we make proposals for our own projects and we take then to the Municipal Forum. We have a Community Upgrading Fund (CUF) at the municipality so then the proposals can go to the CUF Board for approval.
For me as a federation member I have to see that this process goes on to benefit more people. As I see, the federation has come to stay. For me, I am not working for just me but for my kids and even my great grand kids. I have to treat the thing carefully and teach others so that when I am not there people can teach for me. I have to make sure that from where I come from, where the slums are, people have to know the benefits of this process. They have to know that it can assist the poor of the poorest so they can benefit and achieve what they want.