I joined the federation on the 22nd of September 2008. First of all we had a meeting at Mpummudde Division, whereby the Director of ACTogether had invited some technical staff from ACTogether. They started talking of savings and the groups which were saving with the federation. They talked about the groups in Soweto and Kamuli Rd. When we were discussing at the Division we got interested and the Chairman told them to work in the parish he worked in. One was Kimaka Parish. In Kimaka Parish there was a founding group called Kimaka Kwenula. But for us we were in Amber Court so we invited them to come to us.
So me, being a local leader, I had to mobilize the people to come and hear what they were talking about. It was there that we decided to start a savings scheme, which is called BAMU (Bringing Amber Court Members to Unite.) When we started we had 9 people and on that first day we contributed 7,300 shillings. The 9 members were: Samia Edith, Ojala Sam, Masakwa Mohammed, Mbabazi Jolly, Wango Sam, Kalulu Moses, Waira Joan, Batwala Moses, and Nandudu Sarah.
Then we had to select a day to have meetings. We had to invite more members, and we had to open a bank account. We can’t keep the money where it is not safe. The NGO continued to sensitize us on the committees to mobilize in the group and they told us to mobilize more members to join the movement. And now, in BAMU, there are more than 300 members. Every day people are joining. Most of our members are women. As we stay in a market, most of the members are women market vendors who save every day. Sometimes we lose members if they move from the market, but otherwise members save daily.
In our group we have all the committees in existence. Because of the group we have many more friends and have a voice. Everywhere we go people say “Okwegatta! Gemaanyi!” Now in Amber Court there are another 3 groups, Mukene, Green Farmers, and Tulwanise Obwavu.
Ever since we started this federation we’ve got so many friends and so many visitors. Our members don’t have trouble with school fees, some have bought land, some have constructed houses, and others have improved their income. We got a loan, which we already repaid, from Suubi for our business (supplying vegetables to Crested Crane Hotel) and we can get funds from outside. We are ready and able to get more contracts of this nature. The municipality is with us. The Division is with us. Because now we have a voice. As we are together and we have a voice.
Again, another thing is we have been exposed to so many different areas in Uganda and outside. Even the leadership of the Jinja region, many of them come from BAMU. Many of our members are also on the NEC. In BAMU our members have come out with a motion to buy their own land. Our savings have enabled us to get loans from outside, so they found a piece of land and are working out how to buy it. We estimate that between 2-4 years we can pay back a loan for that land.
Me, personally, I have managed to pay school fees for my children. I now have so many friends inside and outside of Uganda. And, as I am in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation, I have been able to know and advise others in so many areas. This has helped so many other groups to grow. When we share our reports others learn and are encouraged. Members have really improved in reporting systems. This one has enabled us to assess our inputs and outputs. Now we can track our impact. Membership has grown, members are savings, members have projects. We have our own office and sanitation unit at the region. We are uniting the people of Uganda in many regions through our work. When we talk of savings and coming together with our NGO and leaders we really encourage them. We have so many exchanges where other members come to learn from us and the work we do.
I have also been on the enumeration team. That report has enabled us to come up with many projects: a sanitation unit in Masese, street lighting in Masese, a sanitation unit at Ripon, a stone-pitched drain in Rubaga, street lighting in Mpumudde, and electricity extension to Kawama. It has also helped us to make other proposals which are there. It has also enabled me to partner with our municipality and sit on the Municipal Development Forum executive committee. Here we can encourage even other communities to come up with projects and proposals. Our enumerations have also helped us to fight eviction in Kikaramoja. Through our efforts, we have also managed to move from the municipality to go to the neighboring town councils. We want to preach the gospel of our savings there as they are also facing the same challenges as us.
The challenge we have is to secure land for our upgrading projects. We have worked with our municipal council to secure land for housing and sanitation, but we need to keep working with them. We also need to attract more funds into Suubi (Urban Poor Fund) so that we can achieve more of the projects that came out of the enumeration. Sometimes we have a challenge when politics comes into our communities. We need to find ways of handling this so it doesn’t hurt the federation.
We thank SDI and ACTogether for all the support they have given the federation. My hope for the federation is that it continues being together and fighting for our rights. Owegatta. Gemaanyi!!!
My story is that I joined the Federation in 2011 on March 4th. We had a team as Mbale which came to mobilize us. Before reaching the community they first went to the municipality. The municipality summoned all municipal technical and political leaders and all the divisions. They gathered a meeting and the information was shared. Then a team came from Kampala to Nabuyonga Ward, Northern Division. The team from Kampala was Hassan Kiberu, Katana Goretti, Waiswa Kakaire, and Medie Lutwama. I was among the first members to be mobilized on that very day.
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 grand 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.