of Purpose is a Community Based Organisation working with the rural
communities in Pallisa District. Our goal is to empower women and
communities to live purposeful and purpose driven lives. Our work
is mainly with the rural women. We are focusing on the total person;
we respond to the physical, material and psychological needs of
the poor. We therefore hope that by meeting these needs, we may
help some of them find purpose for living.
We have set up an office in Pallisa town (has
electricity power supply) and another base in Agule Trading Centre;
(one of the remotest places in the District with no electricity).
Our focus is on women and at the moment we are putting emphasis
on widows and orphans. We use a holistic approach to problem solving.
We provide basic counselling, including HIV/AIDS on a small scale,
material support and emotional support. In fact, the rainy season
sometimes comes on us with a bang, so we get involved in repairing
leaking roofs for some of these widows who have no husbands or immediate
family to help with the repair of the grass thatches. We help by
buying the spear grass and getting manual labour to do the needful.
We are also helping the poor with accessing healthcare services.
With the liberalization of the economy and introduction of cost
sharing even in government hospitals, many of the absolute poor
cannot even afford medical treatment nor buy the drugs that are
prescribed at the Health centre, so we help them meet their medical
bills. We also hold seminars and workshops - teach them about hygiene
and income generating activities so that they can learn to do something
to earn a living. In fact we did this in our last December workshop,
which was largely sponsored by friends and well wishers. From the
above, you can see that we are a jack-of-all-trades and a mistress
of non. But by the grace of God we are managing.
Woman of Purpose receives support from my personal
friends and well wishers. For example, I regularly collect items
such as old clothes and household items that almost seem useless
in the city yet they change lives here in Pallisa! We are also involved
in HIV/AIDS counselling and home care but yet again on a small scale
due to limited resources. We have volunteers whom we provide with
first aid kits and they go out and attend to the helpless and do
counselling to the sick and the attendants as well. The AIDS reality
is just hitting Pallisa District, especially the rural areas. In
August 2005, I lost an adult brother and an infant nephew to AIDS;
they passed away on the same day. Their families too are infected.
Almost every homestead is now affected with the reality of AIDS.
Thus, we are coming out to answer this call in the community.
HOPE FOR WIDOWS
Most of the rural widows are illiterate and believe that they are
what the community says they are i.e. carriers of bad luck, witches,
unfortunate, etc. When the Pallisa widows learned that Woman Of
Purpose had initiated Hope for Widows Project to address the issue
of widows’ rights, they viewed the organization with mixed
feelings. “Why talk of rights? What we need is financial assistance,”
some said. “Educate us on our rights,” others said.
When Hope for Widows carried out small-scale
sensitisation, beginning with the civic, religious and clan leaders,
the widows got excited. Most of them had never imagined that
they had any rights at all! They had believed all along that they
have to live under the mercy of the clan and more so of the relatives
of their deceased husbands. It is quite exciting though challenging,
to know that the widows are coming up, not only for financial assistance
but seeking how they can come out of the cultural prison regarding
Over 60% of the widows are illiterate. Their
source of income is casual labour i.e. working in the gardens of
the more privileged in order to earn some income to support their
children. Some of these children are recalled from school in order
to help the mothers earn a living. Those who do subsistence agriculture
are limited by lack of land because once the husband dies, the land
goes into the control of the heir who has the right to apportion
it between himself and the widow, or widows, in the case of a polygamist.
Most widows are forcefully inherited and for the sake of having
land to grow crops and to keep their children, they have to give
in. A widow who refuses to be inherited is sent away from the deceased
husband’s compound and the children grabbed from her.
On a small scale, we try to mediate between the
widow and her in-laws. We are also doing sensitization at funerals
– encouraging the in-laws and the relatives to respect the
rights of the widows and to give them the support they so badly
need. In the African culture, almost a whole village turns out for
a funeral and this is a good opportunity to talk to them. Of course
we try our best to contribute some little money for burial expenses
so as to have grounds to say something. Woman of Purpose was able
to protect one of the wells at least to make the water a bit safe
and there was great rejoicing in that particular community. We are
hoping to protect more wells in future as funds become available;
water borne diseases are quite common.
We hope that with time we shall be able to expand
our operations and reach a bigger number of people and cover more
communities. At the moment our activities only cover two sub-counties
(that is Agule and Kameke). We hope to get more partners to support
our work so that we can be more stable and also hope that time will
come when the work will become self-sustaining and stop being solely
dependent on donations.
Here are some of the stories the Hope for Widows
project has encountered as narrated by the concerned parties: