Dear Friend of WOMA
Five months ago we were standing in a Ugandan village with WOMA trainees, documenting their first steps in embarking on a path towards becoming fashion entrepreneurs, as part of a new project targeting women living outside of the cities. We were hugely impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment shown by the women, who were prepared to temporarily leave their homes and families to take part in the course. We returned home inspired by what we’d seen and full of plans for the future.
IMPACT OF COVID-19
Unfortunately, since then the world has changed beyond recognition. Uganda like most countries around the world has been in lockdown for several weeks with schools and colleges closed and public transport banned. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that our training programme has been temporarily suspended. We are however, pleased and relieved to report that all the trainees that we met in January are safe and well and back in their homes.
Uganda is just starting the process of gradually easing some of the restrictions. We are closely monitoring the situation and are in touch with the Namasuba College of Commerce where our recruits undergo their training. The principal and his staff are busy making plans to resume training and make up for lost time. As soon as the government regulations allow colleges to re-open we will be liaising with the staff in order to get our current students back into training, but our priority is to ensure the safety of the women.
We have little doubt that our new rural recruits will be able to complete their training given the commitment that we witnessed with two of the recruits Vicky and Bridget (pictured below), who we visited at their homes just outside of Jinja back in January. Both live in crowded accommodation with their children, where social distancing is an impossibility, but they told us how already their tailoring training was giving them a sense of renewed purpose and self-confidence with the prospect of being able to earn an independent income once their studies are complete. We are very grateful to the Canning Trust for giving us a grant to enable this project to go ahead.
We made separate visits to some of the women who had already graduated and found a set of determined entrepreneurs. Among them were Zahara, Rehema and Wanzu. They were already running successful businesses. You can get a glimpse of their stories on our official WOMA Channel which has just been launched on Youtube.
Before her training Zahara (picture above left) earned a very basic living by taking in washing and struggled to make ends meet. She started her business by making clothes for her children and despite living in a house without electricity has built her business up piece by piece. She now makes a wide range of clothes including school uniforms and choir gowns. She also designs bags and belts, and is passing on her skills to her daughter.
After their training Wanzu and Rehema (pictured above right) formed an association of fifteen women in their local area. One of their most recent contracts was to make a hundred aprons for the Department of Education. They have already taken on four young women as trainees and hope to continue to grow their association.
RECRUITMENT FOR NEXT INTAKE
Our field trip to Uganda earlier this year, enabled us to interview prospective WOMA trainees, who will embark on their course once COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted and it is safe to do so. It also provided us with an opportunity to deepen our ties with key partners such as Mildmay Uganda and The Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) who assist with carefully identifying single mothers who might benefit from WOMA training. It’s enabled us to refine our recruitment strategy and learn from people on the ground.
Another exciting development we are delighted to report is the relationship being developed with another respected NGO, Reach a Hand Uganda (RAHU), which works with younger people living with or affected by HIV/Aids. We spent time monitoring the work Humphrey Nabimanya and his team of young mentors are doing with the charity and realised that there is huge potential for working together to help identify women in need and channel recruits to RAHU’s services if there is further psychosocial or practical support that is needed. What has become abundantly clear since we established WOMA fifteen years ago is that the age of women estranged or widowed as a result of HIV/Aids is getting younger.
WOMA aims to leverage the relationship with RAHU and other grassroots NGOs to assist us in ensuring that we offer training to those most in need, and are able to adapt and learn from changing conditions. We are especially grateful to our Ugandan friend Jessica Rwami for helping us to understand some of the emerging challenges that young women face in Uganda. “That was me when I was 18” was one of the profound insights Jessica shared with us, when she joined us on the recruitment panel searching for prospective trainees. We found some of the women deeply distressed when they described the everyday challenges they face with HIV/Aids and Jessica was able to gently coax out their stories and provide reassurance that WOMA was committed to trying to help. That memory has served to deepen our resolve to eventually scale up the work we do if we are able to increase financial support.
Back at home in the UK we are also delighted to announce that our former BBC colleague and a veteran Africa watcher, Mike Wooldridge, has agreed to join WOMA as a trustee. Mike brings a wealth of experience, given his work in other areas of development across Africa and he and his wife Ruth have been committed friends and supporters of WOMA since it’s launch in 2005. Indeed, Mike has a particular interest and expertise in Uganda having initially served as a volunteer in 1968 with VSO then returned in 1982 to become the BBC’s East Africa Correspondent. He subsequently held a number of other correspondent posts, before leaving the staff of the BBC in 2015 to continue a lifelong interest in development. Mike joins the board of trustees following the untimely death of our friend and co-founder Debbie Dickinson and is committed to ensuring WOMA remains true to its vision.
FUNDRAISING & TRIBUTE GIG FOR DEBBIE
For those of you who remember Debbie, who we miss terribly, there had been plans to hold a tribute for Debbie and WOMA fundraising gig in London towards the end of the year. Plans were falling into place, but then the Coronavirus came along and so those have been put on hold for the time being. However, we will hold a major WOMA music event in Debbie’s honour when it is safe to do so and the teams we have been working with are as determined as we are to make it happen. So please do watch this space. Once social distancing becomes a thing of the past, we guarantee a memorable night!
Whilst we are very grateful to the Canning Trust for generously sponsoring our WOMA rural women’s project, we are still very dependent on personal donations or fundraising events to enable our core-training programme to function.
Unfortunately the Round the Isle of Wight Randonnee, which, has become a key part of our annual fundraising was cancelled this year due to COVID-19, but we hope our keen cyclists will be back next year.
In the meantime, we have identified a number of women based in or near Kampala able to commence training once it is safe and practical to do so, but we do need your help in covering the costs of training, materials, food and transport for the five-month duration of the course.
At the moment it costs in the region of £800 to train one woman. But the impact by investing in training Ugandan women as fashion entrepreneurs is impossible to overstate. So if you are in a position to make a monthly donation please know that it is a truly transformative gesture. On each occasion Nora and I have visited past trainees, we have been told from the women themselves that the grassroots approach that WOMA adopts, really does ensure that the most needy, but also the most motivated women have a sense of purpose. What is also clear is that your support is not only impacting on the women, but their children as well. Many of whom, now have the prospect of going to school.
HOW TO DONATE
You can make a one off donation or set up a standing order by either:
Or directly into the WOMA bank account
WOMA (World of Music & Arts Assists)
Sort code 20-44-86
Account number 50128678
Please note that the Vodafone JustTextGiving Scheme has now been discontinued so please don’t try to donate that way.
GIVE AS YOU LIVE
Another great way to raise funds for WOMA that won’t cost you a penny is to use the Give as You Live website when you are shopping online.
It’s linked to most of the major household brands such as M&S, Boots, Waitrose, John Lewis, and many more.
If you register with Give as You Live on their website and nominate WOMA as your chosen charity, every time you shop online WOMA will get a percentage of the money you spend. The amount varies from 1.5% to 7%.
The most important thing to remember when you are shopping online is to access your chosen retailer via the Give as You Live website.
It’s a great way for a small charity like WOMA to raise funds without costing you anything, so please consider registering.
We would like to give our website a new look, but our attempts at finding someone to help us with this have so far been unsuccessful. We are continuing our search but if you know of anyone who might be able to help, we’d love to hear from you.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope to get the website updated before too long, but in the meantime you can follow our activities on Facebook.
So it leaves us to wish you health and happiness and once again please accept our heartfelt thanks for your support.
Karen, Nora and now Mike!