Monthly Archives: February 2014

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Age of Zinc is proud to present the third instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!

When I was 15 years old I decided to look for ways to survive with my mother. So I started to sell milk and bread to earn some money. I would go to the milk factory, buy some milk and bread and then sell them to get a little money for my school fees. This way I could at least help her out with the younger brothers. She was a single mother at that time looking after all of us – six of us – and taking care of us. I decided that I should also start to work. I just felt I had to work, so I was working while also going to school.

I decided to talk to some girls about this small business of selling milk and bread and they liked the idea. We all agreed and formed a group. There were five of us. So we started buying and selling milk and bread. It was a good business because we could  pay our school fees and also save a little money. We had to travel far distances and sometimes we would move at night and the places were not safe. We were selling at night, which was also dangerous, so you could not be alone; you needed someone who could move with you. We would leave very early at around five in the morning to go and buy bread from the bakery, which was in a different area, and then from the bakery go to the dairy corporation in Namuwongo in Kampala.

It was quite far between the two different areas, from Ntinda to Namuwongo, so we had to team up. One girl would wake all of us up in the morning and we would leave to go and buy the bread and then travel to buy the milk. Once we bought our commodities we would keep it while we went off to school. After school in the evening, we would come back and sell it. If we sold off everything we purchased in the morning we would go back to the factory around seven in the evening to get some more milk. We could sell up until ten in the evening. The balance we made we would hold onto and use for start up costs the next morning.

I had to do housework because I was the eldest but I also had to sell to make some money. I would go to sleep at around midnight and wake up at four in the morning. That was my resting time. I did my schoolwork at school. At school, I concentrated very hard in class and was a good student. I also did many school activities. When you’re active in school there was a way in which the school could give you some [monetary] assistance. So I was engaged in many things. I was a good long distance runner, I was a good music dancer and drummer, and I was a good actor. Whenever the headmaster would move around, I was there! Whenever we would win, I was a part of that team! Being active in school also helped me.

I also had no time to rest because I was trying to enjoy everything. I was not feeling a lot of stress because I was young and not thinking about so many things. It was not about the money, but to see how I could help my mother not to suffer. How I could work with her to see that we all survive.

Our neighbor was working in a bank and her children were all in boarding schools, good schools. I would always ask her to take me to the school but she could not afford to look after me as well. Then one day I happened to asked her: “let me fetch water for you and you could give me a little money that will help me pay my school fees.” She said it would not be enough, but I told her I would save and keep it because then at least I had something to start with. I was in form 1 in secondary school at the time. When she gave me money for fetching water, I used it to purchase one loaf of bread and two liters of milk. By the end of the day I had three loaves of bread and five liters of milk. That is how I started my business to earn money to pay for my school fees. Being able to earn money made me feel like I was in my own world, I was a free person. 

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Age of Zinc is proud to present an audio excerpt from the third instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back this Friday for the rest of this week’s instalment!

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Age of Zinc is proud to present the second instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!

I was born in the central part of Uganda in Bweyogerere, which is in Wakiso district outside of Kampala. I grew up in Naguru, which is in Nakawa Municipality. I grew up with my mother and father but when I turned ten my mother separated from my father. My father was working on long distance business so most of my time I spent with my mother.

My father was working with the Uganda Post Office, working at the post plant that is located in Bweyogerere, but moving around a lot to different areas. I knew him well, he used to come back and then we would be together. He was providing for us because he had a good salary. But he then went bankrupt after being falsely arrested when a generator was stolen from his workplace. He spent time in Luzira Prison until the real thief was discovered. The incident took a heavy toll on my family. My father, who had also been a storekeeper and bookkeeper, took to farming when he was released from prison and found it difficult to make a living.

I have two brothers and one sister – we are four. I’m the first of the four children of my father and fourth of the twelve children of my mother. I grew up with very many siblings but my first three siblings we are from different fathers so they stayed at their own father’s home. When my mother separated from my father, I stayed with a total of six.

Where I was born is not a slum but a semi rural area. But when I was growing up, after the separation, we moved around and at one time lived in government quarters. After a period of time we were evicted and went to the slum areas in Naguru Go Down, which is also in Nakawa. We lived here for some time. When I grew up I got married in the slum of Kamwoyka. I’ve lived in Kamwoyka for 17 years now.

In the settlement there are many different people. Some people are civil workers who could go and work to help their families. Initially my mother was working with the Ministry of Sports but because she had a lot of responsibility with all of us children she could no longer work. So she started her own business – she’s a market vendor in Nakawa. When she started, she couldn’t support us much because she was just learning the business. She was cut off (from the civil sector) so she had to look for a solution for herself. She had to find out how she can survive.

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Age of Zinc is proud to present the first instalment in a new memoir from the slums of Kampala, Uganda. Check back every week to catch the next part of the story!

I never wanted to suffer like my mother had suffered.

Life in the slums is hard, especially when your parents are poor. There are so many people in these communities and being together with those your same age you find that the groups can influence your decisions. Seeing people with different things you would also like you try to see how to get what they have. This can change your mindset and girls start to go for men when they are still young – that is the main challenge.

Slums are open places so anyone can enter from anywhere and at anytime and there are so many different corners. So when children are moving someone can easily pull the child in and use the child. It happens in many areas, but sometimes it is kept secret. The child may be going to fetch water and someone will grab them. They put the child in the house and rape them and then let them go after threatening them not to tell anyone. They can be young, like 5 or 6 years old. You may not see the child for 3 days and by then the evidence is washed away. But you can tell something has happened. For instance they are walking funny. It’s rare a child will tell you so you just have to take note of your child and see how they are acting. In slums you find that boys always use the girls. Girl’s lives are spoiled at an early age. You find young single mothers suffering with their mothers. The mother is a single mother and her mother is also a single mother with many children. It becomes a hard life. I would say that I was lucky; I didn’t look for problems early. At least my mind was targeting at the right time and I was focused on getting my education not men.