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The Pursuit of Happiness

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She smiles because she has known and felt the pain. She laughs a hearty laugh because she’s not new to sorrow. She is a champion ready to narrate the story of her life. This is a tale of a secondary school teacher who has lived amidst alcoholism for over three decades but made it out smiling with the love of her five children.

Suzan (not real name) was born in Kabale in 1963 as the last child of eight children. Despite his illiteracy, Susan’s father was one of the richest men in a 100 ft radius. He owned forests, land, plantations and the biggest asset of them all, an industrious mind which he fortunately transferred onto his children, one of the lucky ones being Suzan.

“It was a family of hard workers” she says. From her tone, you can tell her journey has been full of trials and tribulations. “In a time where female education was not as prioritized as male education, few of my sisters managed to go make it to school”. Her other sisters, she says lived the cliché that was a 16th century African woman.

Bare children, grow them and wait on their husbands. Suzan wanted none of this. She craved an independence that this life couldn’t offer her. She wanted to be educated and to bring her parents much joy and happiness. Only her father didn’t see it that way. School wasn’t her priority.

Through hardship and strain, she eventually made it to Makerere University, at a time of prestige and graduated with a degree of education in the year 1988. She left with her transcript and two babies. A boy and a girl. The joys of her life. She loved her man and above all, she loved her children.

She loved her job and her life was good. Despite having such, The world wasn’t. It was just all about being the target of so much hatred, jealousy and antagonism from relatives. For most did not appreciate the man she had brought home, and most of the others were jealous that she had not lived down to their expectations. . She was living the Kampala dream.

“I met Jim when i was eighteen years old in my final year of secondary school”. Susan narrates like a young lady in love.  “He taught literature and English. A very handsome man, brilliant, well-spoken and extremely chivalrous. Unlike the rest of the arrogant and intimidating teaching staff, Jim was kind, patient and excellent at his job which he executed with utmost passion”. Soon after she had finished her secondary education, their affair ensued. He was loving, he was kind and generous.

The most amazing person she had ever known. When she had their first child two years later, he was more hands on than even she was. He was perfect. He had no flaw… oh she was enchanted! Three years later she had another child, a boy. He was elated and life was beautiful. She worked hard, voluntarily counselling with TASO at Rubaga Hospital and at the same time, teaching Geography and History at Mengo Secondary School trying to make the perfect home for her husband and her two little angels. He worked even harder teaching and pursuing his higher education. They were not rich. Not even close. But they were happy.

“What began as an outburst of anger turned into a pattern of abuse”. She recalls. Suzan cannot clearly point out the day the sun set on her marital bliss, but the details are vivid in her mind. Sometime in the late 1990’s, all hell broke loose. What started out as a little insult and rude answer to an honest question turned to huge fight that lasted hours and sometimes days, to physical violence that involved shoving, hitting and more hitting. That wasn’t enough. Emotional violence ensued. Insults on her, insults on her fidelity. Torments on her background, her education, her physical appearance and everything she was. There were those days.

Where her precious Jim had been taken over by something else. She did not know what it was. She was in shock. After almost a decade of happiness, she had forgotten what it meant to be sad. She wept. Now she knew. And she was scared. Jim had developed an alter ego. Alcohol was the catalyst for his alter ego. And he was losing control over it.

Charming and angelic by day, violent, abusive and bitter by night. He would apologize. Make up for it. After all, even Paul was once Saul. She was quick to forgive. She knew the man she had married. He wasn’t this monster that would come out at night. She wept. She forgave. She forgot. Until the next time. He was sorry. She wept. She forgave She forgot. Until the next time.

Ten years later, several fights later, several threats of divorce later, several jobs, moves, embarrassments and tears, 3 children later, Suzan worked hard, she prided herself in being the best mother for her children, and even better wife for her husband. Jim worked hard too.

He was a perfect father. But that wasn’t enough for alcohol still had control of his mind. He drunk and lost his mind. He had good and bad days. His children, 3 daughters and 2 sons adored him. He adored them. He adored the bottle too. Suzan still wept.

Cause alcohol derailed each and every aspect of their lives. For a man of his means, they lacked development, they were merely getting by. But she couldn’t live like that. She made the decision to focus on her children and their livelihood. She wouldn’t let her husband’s inadequacies control their lives. She would live.

Loan after loan, she paid school fees, paid tuition and gave her children the best life she could. Jim worked hard, he provided as much as he was able to. And as far as the bottle took him. Suzan diligently created friendships with heads of schools, matrons and teachers so her children could live comfortably at school as she fought the battles at home. She supplemented their school education with her own. Coached in algebra and geography. Did homework and made sure her children were never lazy.

“Jim gave into alcohol completely and his body became a host of so many illnesses and he ailed so much that work became an option to him”. Suzan stated in a melancholic tone. But never once did she complain or pawn her children on other relatives like she had seen several people do over the years. On the few occasions that she felt defeated, she turned to God. Ignored the village gossip, the bitterness that years of verbal and emotional abuse had created and chose to live happily and raise happy children, despite the scars from their father.

Now she sits at home on her freshly mowed lawn, surrounded by books and papers to grade, with nothing in the air but the sound of birds, content and elated. Blissful like she was 30 years ago. Her children, all graduated, some married and some parents too. She spends her days mostly alone, in her vegetable garden looking forward to those days her children come around to visit.

“I have no regrets in life because am now a victor”. Susan says with a smile of a champion. “My beautiful babies have all grown into respectable men and women. Even when i was down, i never gave up because i knew suffering was temporary. I  go to church every Sunday to thank the good Lord for how far he He has brought me. I still work hard teaching thrice a week at Kitante Hill School and keeping my home as homely and comfortable for me and my children when they do come back home to visit me.”

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Meet DJ Rachael East Africa’s first female DJ

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Daniel Ecwalu-25

Photo Credit: Daniel Ecwalu-25

Dj Rachael is a trail blazer in her field, she is the first East African female Dj, who started out at a tender age and grew into one of the best DJs on the African continent; also a Rapper, Producer & business guru, she runs an Audio Production Studio “Scraych Rekordz” and a Mobile Events Company called “Raybon”. Her big heart, charm, dedication  has seen her sail through the Dj’ying  profession for  close to 20 yrs.

Right now she is into  music production more than ever  because she  thinks it’s becoming a basic in the life of a Dj. “It’s what makes superstar Djs. I’m glad I was welcomed into the Santuri family which has taught me a lot more than I knew before. ” she says

How did you start?

It was just a fun thing as a kid picking up a Mic and doing some covers as an MC and Rapper in the early days but then I joined Dj-ing out of curiosity because the Djs where I Mced picked interest in me  gave me the necessary basics to head start DJing. This profession picked me up and we’ve been cuddling ever since. It is something you just stay in love with. I didn’t go to any school for Djing, I picked up all that I learned from the Djs I started out with at Club Pulsations and then made it an issue to be better than them. I used to tease them about me having a crazier crowd than they did after I became good at it.

Are you genre sensitive? Which is it and why?

I do not center on a particular genre because my clients are much diversified. In the beginning I loved hip-hop and gangsta music. Now I love more Dance, EDM, Afro house, deep house, Alternative, Rock and Hip hop still. It goes with the territory and to me these genres move floors, though it helps that it’s my kind of music.

What is the Dj-ying landscape like for a woman in Uganda?

I softened the landscape and landing for female Djs in Uganda and East Africa. But then again I didn’t have as much a hard time as I expected though they treated me like an amateur rider. It was topsy-turvy at times where some people would cover me with blankets, others with helmets and yet others with spiky eyes! I guess it still is like that in some parts of the country though it’s no big deal in Kampala.

Any occupational hazards?

Djs especially female ones get short changed by some employers, others get rough experiences through coarse sexual advances from male employers. Its rough terrain if you don’t own a car and have to move in the late hours of the night with your equipment; you could get into all sorts of danger like robberies or worse.

Were you supported by family (parents) when you started?   

Actually I didn’t tell anybody I was going out to DJ. My mum heard about it, was probably flabbergasted and one time she surprised me with a cameo at the Club. I almost broke the record I was playing. She made a lot of fuss to the owners of the club because I was so young. They later resolved it, she got herself some drinks and later even danced while I played. You should have seen the grin on my face!

Do they support you now?

Now everybody loves Dj Rachael, okay not everybody. Most of my family does. Though my mum didn’t live on to see me become the Dj that I am today because she passed on in 1999 barely a few years after I begun. Bless her soul. Then there is an uncle who still insists I should have pursued my pilot project because that’s what I wanted to be as a child! A PILOT! I was actually good at math and sciences.

How long do you plan to Dj?

I told my family I would go on till I’m 75yrs old and they laughed. But it is very possible in this industry. There was an old lady Dj in the USA who was 94 years old and another from Poland who is 77yrs. I’m still a baby!

What are the future prospects for Ugandan women on the world market like?

I think the market is very broad-based right now and the future looks pretty good though the competition will get even tighter out there in the world. There’s so much high tech going on and if you don’t follow you can get left behind in a flash, so you need to be very tech savvy. Old school works pretty fine but if you want to be a household name you got to keep up and get on top, literally. And yes a solo concert has been on my mind like forever now and I know its getting pretty close. Since I’m making 20yrs in the business I think there is my catch. The fans should watch this space and wish me luck on this huge milestone coming up.

Do you think a solo concert would work for you?

I think it would work out very well and people will realize a DJ is big business these days. The Dj industry has grown in leaps and bounds and Djs can now hold huge concerts all on their own.

Are Djs appreciated in Uganda? Why?

The appreciation is only visible in a few sectors, from a few employers. The fans are really all the way behind Djs because they see what they offer. Some employers or event organisers don’t give the Djs enough appreciation. They see what you do and reap the benefits from your talent but they don’t show it in the way they pay. Some Djs themselves don’t rate themselves highly and thus they create a devaluation of DJS.

What are your thoughts at the realization that Djs can headline at festivals now?

It is way overdue. It makes me feel real proud and ecstatic to see this new development and especially seeing that some international superstar DJS are making more money than musicians. Who ever saw that coming?! I Hope it also starts happening in Africa.

Would you help someone (a girl) start Dj-ing? Word of advice to interested girls.

Yes of course, I would love to help girls get into Djing. BUT words of caution: It’s not a matter of looking pretty you got to work hard to perfect your art. AND be who you want to be don’t follow what others are doing, identify with your inner self.

How much do you earn?

I can not put a real figure to the earnings though I can say it’s worth it if you are dedicated to what you do and if you get the right gigs. At the same time in Uganda you need a supplementary salary or business because of some reasons mentioned above.

Where have you played?

Club Silk for 7yrs or more. Club Pulsations, Club Rogue, Club Volts, Steak Out, Sombreros(part time), Cayenne, Big Mikes, OS Club, Florida 2000(guest Nairobi), Stone Club (Mwanza), Via Via (Arusha), Happy People (Kigali), Heineken Capital Fm Parties, Bambucha Launch party, Irish Ball, Italian Day, USA Independence Day ball, Mama Akina Wa Africa Festival, Bayimba Festivals, Sondeka Festivals, Club Silk Street Jams, Wayne Wonder & Demarco concert and so many more corporate and private events and parties.

I was the only Dj chosen by BBC in East Africa to pick the best nightclubs in Africa 2015. I won the Alliance Francaise World Music Day Dj Battle in 2013. We are going to change the face of East African music with the Santuri Safari programming and remixing. It’s going to be a tsunami. Catch me at the Sondeka Festival September 10th 2015 and Bayimba Festival September 18th.

You can follow Dj Racheal on Twitter @DjRachael256, Instagram LilSniper04,  Facebook Dj Rachael, Soundcloud DJRachael4Raynsom

Daniel Ecwalu-24Daniel Ecwalu-27

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From Blogging to empowering girls, this Ugandan woman is changing her world

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Ida Horner

When she is not blogging, her mind is preoccupied with creating community transformation, enabling girls to understand menstrual hygiene and being able to offer people other options of life other than the exam passing skills imparted by schools is what she is doing in  Ruhanga,  South Western Uganda. Her Name is Ida Horner Bayiga.

Her Passion led  her to start the  Africa On The Blog, run the Let Them Help Themselves (TLHT)  foundation and  Ethnic Supplies these are are all peieces that fit in her dream of changing her world.

This is Uganda caught up with Ida, to share with us her passions, dreams and what she is doing to make her world a better place.

How did you start all this?

It’s that sort of realization that you can do something, I  felt that I could reach out to those that were less fortunate, so I started by exporting handcrafts and textiles made by women and all was going well until the recession hit.

A friend of mine, Ann McCarthy on knowing what I was doing invited me to have a look at something she had started in Ruhanga, so I came back to see her project, she was out of her depth, I mean it’s a remote village, no water, no medical center, no school, no means of money generation and whatnot. So, I setup a charity Let Them Help Themselves out of poverty (LTHT) and over the years, we have accomplished a lot. Now we have a school for 500 pupils, running water etc and right now, we are focusing on skills development like tailoring skills, computing, menstrual hygiene and one of the reasons I am here this time is to review this project, where do we go from here, did it actually help, is there any one particular activity that they really really want us to develop further and to see what works and what doesn’t.

So, what is Let Them Help Themselves really about?

Our core value is community regeneration, so we speak to the community to try and understand what there issues are, to try and understand why those issues have not been addressed, whose role it is to address them and where the blockages are and those are the things that prevent people from becoming economically active because, if a woman is spending most of her time of the day collecting water and making sure that that water is safe, she doesn’t have time to go and earn an income.

If a young girl is spending a week or so without going to school because of lack of menstrual hygiene, it impacts her negatively, so we try and have such conversations with the communities so we can forge a way to try and help.

We see our role as people who want to remove blockages at prevent them from becoming economically active, we also look at transformation using the skills development initiative where if a young girl learns a skill, it becomes handy even if she dropouts at age 15 or 16, wherever they land, they can easily find employment or create a job for themselves because people have to have options.

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 What else are you involved in?

We are also involved in Humanitarian causes/emergencies, here in Uganda we were involved in the Bududa Landslides and also in some slum project in Kireka where were helping women refugees at a quary to sell their handcrafts. Also during the Ebola Outbreak In Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone diaspora came to us and we helped to provide people food in the treatment centres as their families neglected them because they were suffering from Ebola.

How do the people of Ruhanga take it in, that an outsider, a stranger is trying to help them?

It’s not easy, and it hasn’t been easy since 2008. It’s about negotiating and building relationships because we are all about transformation and giving communities other options, so having those conversations and knowing the power structures in the community, has been a bonus for us, It has helped us help them. it’s actually a privilege that they allow us to help them, but if you come with an “I know best” point of view or from an imperialistic stance, then forget it. The people of Ruhanga have learnt to accept us in and we respect that.

LTHT is mainly based in Ruhanga but, do you have any plans of widening/spreading this campaign to other places?

It’s possible, I mean, Yes we can do it but honestly, it all comes down to finance, if you dont have the funds to travel around, to pay your employees, you can dream and dream and nothing happens. And also we don’t get any funding from the UK government or the Ugandan government so we rely on individual donations, that’s how we have and are still doing it But also there is still a lot of work to do in Ruhanga, were trying to build a model and a blue print that someone can look at and take away and also replicate because it’s basically developed organically. So for now, widening and spreading is just in the pipe line.

What is ethnic supplies?

Ethnic supplies is about helping people who make handcrafts and textiles to access the market in Europe, before the recession, it was turning a small profit but after the recession it isn’t easy anymore, people priotise where and on what they are spending their money on.

How does ethnic supplies work, I mean If I wanted in, how would I go about it?

The basic principle is that we don’t work with any one group that we haven’t met, so part of my role is to travel and meet these groups and the idea behind that is to check out their employment practices in every sense of the word. So for you/your group to join, we have to have met the group and have established that you have transparent and fair employment practices.

Looks like you have been beaten to the better part of fairness, what are those things that you look at to measure or ascertain good/acceptable employment practices?

I have a very high sense of ‘fairness’, I hate seeing someone being unfair to someone else, be it a person or a brand, I don’t like people being undercut and cheated & people not getting their wage because let’s face it, most people don’t know their rights and employers use that to terminate their contracts unjustly and to manipulate them so, unethical employment practices are exactly what I am against.

What are some of those things that have enabled you to get where you are?

Social capital! Social capital allows you to get a long way which gives you privilege, the social capital has helped me to get on and my ability to help other communities isn’t because I am rich but because I have a lot of social capital. Social capital is important in all terms and ways.

As curator of Africa On The Blog, what exactly do you do?

That’s nearly a full time job in itself, I source contributors to the platform, chasing them for their articles, promoting the website, making sure that the contributors are looked after, I have to ensure that the quality of work is good and to bring new people on board.

Tell, us more about Africa On The Blog?

Africa On The Blog was started 5 years ago, It was an idea that I had and other people in the diaspora wanted. I actually thought it would only engage the women in the diaspora to talk about their Countries, experiences, and stories but the thing took a life of it’s own. *laughs*, So We ended up getting many people who wanted to be contributors from allover Africa including Men.

some of the contributors we had were lecturers at universities who started sending their students to us as a resource, it’s pretty much started a life of it’s own.

Do you have a any Ugandan contributors?

Currently, we have none but over the years, I have heard 4, first was a pharmacist, then David Mpanga who is a solicitor here and 2 others but currently, I don’t have any Ugandan contributors.

Do you think colourism is real in Uganda, because I actually think it’s on a very low scale?

Colourism is real, it’s an issue of patriarchy, low self esteem, politics and colonialism because now women believe that to get a good job they have to look like Maggie Kigozi. Just stop it, don’t do that to yourself these skin lighteners have side effects that you will have to live with for years to come. Because…

Do you have any plans of organising a charity event in Uganda like the walk around Virginia Water Lake?

Most people in Uganda don’t know exactly what I am doing and after being in the UK for close to 24 years, that’s where all my social capital is, but yeah, I would love to have a fundraiser here or run a Ugandan but it wouldn’t be easy. We have a place at next year’s London Marathon and I was almost tempted to give it to a Uganda to fundraise for us, but the VISA situation would be a difficult thing, so I gave it up.

So how can young people  volunteer with LTHT?

Currently, you/that person must be willing to travel to Ruhanga because that’s where we are currently based and some of the things we are looking at isn’t money. If you could get 10-15 comrades who owned laptops and you went to Ruhanga to help the people there to get the computers, you’ve shared your skills and that’s very important, even if it’s just for a weekend. That would be much better than money, people like me value time, if you give it your time, then it’s worth it and we would be grateful.

As a writer I assume you are reading. What book are you currently reading?

It’s a feminist book but its a good one, let me show you…

It’s Beyond the pale and I would prefer the pages but that would mean I have to move around with a book and I mean, look at my handbag, very small a book can’t fit.

Any last words to all the ladies out there and every body?

To the ladies, go do it yourself, that’s advice I got from my dad, make sure that you’re financially independent as a woman and don’t do anything to yourself like bleaching, it will live with you for the rest of your life.

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Girls after receiving free re-usable sanitary pads made by participants at the skills development initiative.

Ps. We do believe that many Ugandans out there are doing awesome things and we would like to be a part of you if you could share your story like Mrs. Ida Horner did. Do you have a story?, you can email us at thisis256@gmail.com

 

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Writing Shouldn’t be your sidekick- Uganda’s Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire

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Bwesigye-bwa-Mwesigire

A master of his art, a writer and a creative in all forms of mental creativity that refers to himself as just a guy who promotes African Literature in all spheres, and Co-founder of an organization that fronts African Literature, promotes the arts through writivism.

 So who is Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire?

This is always a hard question to answer.I will just say that I am one of three co-founders of the Centre for African Cultural Excellence, a non profit that promotes the arts, especially African literature, through Writivism.

When did it occur to you that you are a writer?

I am hesitant to identify myself as a writer. A writer of academic and journalistic work, yes, a creative writer, no. Writers are human beings who have novels, plays and collections of poetry published. I have none of those. I am only a promoter of African Literature who sometimes writes academic essays and journalistic reviews and interviews writers.

Where does your inspiration lie?

Problems that beg for solutions, which means all problems are inspiring. They give one a reason to work.

They say that if you want to hide something from and African hide it in a book. Do you think this is still the case?

It has never been the case. I want to look at a book as an image for a story. Stories are not all written. There are oral stories. There are written stories. And there are stories that are both written and oral. Africans, Ugandans, human beings have always consumed literature, stories in whatever form, written or oral.

 Writivism what does it even mean? Tell us more about this initiative.

Writivism is about the promotion of African Literature produced and consumed on the continent. We hold workshops in various cities on the continent, connect emerging writers to established ones to be mentored, run an annual short story prize, publish annual anthologies, run a schools programme and an annual literary festival in Kampala.

There is a lot of information being written. How shall we make Ugandans read all this information with all the things competing for their attention?

We need to stop thinking of reading as the only way to consume information. Film is important. Music is as well. Oral literature is as important as written literature.

 What is your message to Ugandan writers?

They should be pro-active. There are many opportunities, they should grab them. They should work hard too. Take writing as seriously as lawyering, doctoring, engineering and other professions and vocations are treated. Then it will pay. If taken as a part-time, side-kick, it won’t work. Imagine if being a lawyer, doctor, engineer etc. was considered as a side thing, it would not pay as much. Our work, us who promote writing and writers will be easier when we have excellent work being produced, to promote.

 

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