Connecting local responses around the world
This is a story of older women who felt helpless and were looking for support from their own children as well as the government. Read what happened when there is a shift from this deficit-based attitude.
HENU helped set up a group of older persons from different communities in Kitubulu. In 2013, Kabaale women decided to move away from the group and set up a local group as the meeting place was far. Women felt the need to come together for several reasons. The main issue was loneliness and isolation. Many of them are widows who live alone as their children have moved away or unfortunately died due to HIV. Many of them have been left with the responsibility of looking after their grandchildren.
The group provided a space for women to share their problems, what they felt, what they were going through and found solutions together. “Some things I cannot do alone, it helps me to be productive when I am in a group.” – Mama Brenda. Grandma Maria “Most of us have painful memories and can relate to each other. When I lost my fourth child, it is the women who came to provide comfort, companionship and consoled me.”
Cash rounds, one of the main activities of the group, provides financial support to the members. This has been a motivation for others to join. In the meetings, women have acquired skills to make banana juice, mats, baskets, etc and earn for their livelihood. Few younger women have joined to group to learn from the older women. “Older women have more experience and so I consult them”, notes Noeline. She has learned to check blood pressure and this is her task during the meetings. A retired health worker in her late 40s in the group provides health related information. This has strengthened the inter-generational bonding and both generations appreciate each other. In many cases, grand children value the work of the group and encourage their grandmothers to attend the meetings. “Weekly meetings on Wednesdays are like school to me. I remember them and remind others to attend.” says Nalongo, a member.
The group is sensitive to those who are not a part of it. Group members visit homes of those who are not able to attend the meetings and even bathe and feed those who are bed ridden. Though children of some older women do not like the visits from the group, but this group continues to provide support.
What has helped to bring about these changes? In the group’s initial days, we waited and waited for the government to come and fulfill our needs. But no one came. When we joined the group we were asked to contribute based on our strengths. We realized that we could use what we had to solve our problems. For instance, women said that to improve their diet, they now have vegetable gardens for vegetables. The group has clear dreams and knows where it wants to reach based on its own resources. Through periodic visits, HENU volunteers accompany the group and links it with resources. We are also no longer waiting for our children to take care of ourselves. When we broke away from the big group we named it Bakadde Bakkaanya which means that older persons live together in harmony says their head Agnes.
What if HENU shifts its attention to another community we asked them, “We will continue from what we have learned from HENU to be loving, caring and self reliant. We are managing our group on our own and are confident that we can continue to do so.”- Agnes
Message: When groups discover their strengths and do not wait for external help, they are stimulated to take action on their own.
Group members: Agnes, Gloria, Jerome, Liz, Irene, Rituu