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. Okwegata. Gemaanyi