International Women’s Day had us saying farewell to a grand old lady who lived 102 years and left behind a humble yet powerful legacy as a good mother, devoted wife, committed Christian and one of the most hardworking people in her community.
One story that stuck about the industrious nature of Tezira Rwabuhungu went back to her time as a young girl in Rwanda, where they used to go out in groups to do communal digging. Because she had a tendency of literally digging from dawn till dusk, people started avoiding her and her group diminished in numbers but she went on tilling the soil.
One day, a eulogist recounted, she complained that nightfall had come too quickly yet she had been tilling non-stop from early that morning! Another told us how she made the determination after getting married and acknowledging the humble nature of the salary of her Reverand husband, that her family would never want for anything.
This made her work doubly hard at making handicrafts to increase their domestic income – which she did well into her eighties!
Her final journey took us to Namutamba, in Mityana, where right at church I met her anti-theses – all three of them men, of varying education levels but similarly humble beginnings.
The first had a kiosk selling fruit right across from the church we were at, which caught my attention because of a recent dietary shift on my part. His prices were half what I meet in Kampala, so I was eager to stock up for the week, but he wasn’t ready to suffer the inconvenience of searching for change.
After a few minutes of bargaining with him to take more of my money, I realised how ridiculous I sounded and stepped back. But the pull of the fruit was strong, and I felt a duty to change his attitude as well.
So I invited him to cross the road with me to explain that if he created a branch of his kiosk using a table set up in the compound of the church just metres away, he would make enough money for change to not be a problem, since there were hundreds of people from Kampala present.
He gave me that, “I’ll get back to you” look, walked back to his banana-laden kiosk, and only returned when I sent for him much later on as I was engaged in a one-sided conversation with the second antithesis, a chap called Something Sebuturo.
Sebuturo burst in on a conversation I was having with Capt. Gad Gasatura about Namutamba’s vast potential for tourism since it contains a wealth of history right in the homes of the people there. Just as we were warming up our theme to package it for the newly-formed Uganda Tourism Board team, Sebuturo arrived, preceded by thick fumes of alcohol.
Before long we were in stitches as he engaged us in witty Kinyarwanda mixed with Luganda and some Runyoro, and he was so busy chatting he missed out on the bananas being distributed. That’s when I sent for the Kiosk entrepreneur, and the third antithesis to the hard working old lady entered the picture.
This fellow was called Magango, and joined with the offer to hold the kaveera I was using to gather litter. Out of respect for his obvious age, and with one eye on his neat batik shirt, I protested a little but he brushed aside my protests with the declaration: “Nze njagal’akaveera kano. Tekinzibuwalila ‘kugikwaata!” (‘What I want is the plastic bag; it’s not hard for me to hold.’)
His breath gave off no alcohol, so I paid him a little more attention and was surprised at the eloquence of his conversation, which included some english words.
“I did Cambridge exams, you know!” he said at one point, referring to the question papers sent to Uganda by post from Canterbury between the 1960s and 1980s. All this he did while swinging the kaveera of litter, even as he revealed that his father had been a well-respected carpenter in the area.
This was shortly before Sebuturo walked off haughtily after announcing to me, “Alright, I am off – Ushs500 is all I need right now!” and throwing me a disdainful gesture after I dilly-dallied at providing him with said funds.
I was flummoxed.
What had happened to Magango to make a random kaveera such a valuable possession that he would gather up our rubbish? At least Sebuturo’s breath was a pointer to his general disposition, even though he did strike a funny pose standing in the foreground of his brother’s four wheel drive vehicle driving off back to Kampala.
And most of all, I couldn’t understand why was the kiosk seller was NOT selling off all his wares at the funeral of a woman whose work ethic, industry and dedication to service was legendary, at least as a gesture to say: May her soul Rest In Peace.
The reason social media is important is because it is having a major impact on the way we live our lives – even here in Uganda.
Social media is not just Facebook and Twitter even though those are two of the most popularly known platforms in Uganda. It’s what we do with those platforms and many more, and how we use them to relate with each other.
Last weekend I interacted with some Rotarians over this, and one of them said quite resolutely that he simply did not have any time for or interest in Facebook. Two minutes later, after he heard that there were 1million Ugandans on Facebook alone today and that he could reach them in some way or another for his benefit, he changed his mind.
Another Rotarian perked up more when he heard about crowdsourcing – which is really an old concept that has just become much more powerful because of social media. It’s harnessing the power of numbers to achieve a goal or task quicker – and most Ugandans would recognise this through a fund-raiser.
A couple of months ago the Rotary Club organised a charity run to raise funds for the Cancer Institute. Lots of resources were expended over many weeks to get this done and eventually a good many people with big public names and heavy corporate and government jobs responded to the letters and newspaper ads, turned up and about Ushs100million was raised.
Good. That’s what Rotary is about – service about self, contributing to social causes and networking among well-heeled and influential people to do this.
A month after that, a small group of youths started mobilising amongst themselves for a charity to raise funds to build a dormitory for some school in Luwero. After a couple of weeks of tweeting and Facebooking about their event, code-named #Hoops4Grace4, the youths pitched a tent in a field on Lugogo By-Pass, sold home-made juice, t-shirts and wristbands, and played some basketball – all in all raising Ushs8million.
None of these youths is the usual big-name type and all of them threw a few shillings into the kitty to get to the Ushs8million.
I’m not following the lines of the Bible story about the donations by the rich man and the poor widow, instead, I was fascinated that a small group of little known youths with no corporate, church or political backing whatsoever had deviated from the path of consuming alcohol, partying hard and general recalcitrance, to collect money for some school in Luweero.
I rounded up the ringleaders and demanded an explanation, and they hit me with more shocking news – they all had ordinary jobs doing ordinary things, and this was just a side thing they had gotten into. Plus, they had identified a serious need at that Luweero school (the name doesn’t matter because there are many of these around us) and decided to address it themselves.
These kids had even mobilised their friends to go down to the school and physically do some work there, and all done via Twitter, Facebook and their mobile phones!
And while I was interrogating them, I was a bit dazzled by the sparkle in their faces as they said things like, “We felt that, surely WE can also do something” and “We thought that maybe we could make a small contribution”.
Their small contribution will certainly result in a dormitory building in Luweero because this week, as Uganda celebrates 51 years of Independence, these youths are mobilising again – campaigning among their friends and contacts to either buy a bag of cement (about Ushs30,000) or a brick (Ushs500) for the cause.
Just that – harnessing the power of the crowd by getting each of us to buy one bag of cement or one brick and turning that into a dormitory.
In 2011, the Arab Spring revolutions used Social Media to mobilise protests that eventually overran entire governments; here, today, if these efforts catch on perhaps some of our youths might be using Social Media to mobilise and…overrun poverty and shortfalls in social services?
We should certainly hope so.