Sow In Me Uganda: an interview with Mugabi Suzan Nakaziba
Today, in our #ConversationsWithFriends series, we feature an interview with Mugabi Suzan Nakaziba, a Patron for Sow In Me Uganda, a Christian-led nonprofit organization that supports women and children in need of discovering their potential, through helping to put an end to poverty, domestic violence and the lack of education in Uganda.
Sow In Me Uganda - SIMU is a community center whose aim is to spread the Gospel, engage in socioeconomic productive activities for self sustainability and enhance longer and healthier lives among the orphans and other vulnerable children, and women specifically widows.
Q.: Susan, tell us a few things about Sow In Me Uganda
A.: Sow In Me Uganda (SIMU) is a nonprofit and nonpolitical organization whose aim is to engage in socio-economic productive activities that enhance longer and healthier lives and contribute to the development of the country. This organization is committed to the fight against Poverty, Diseases, Higher Illiteracy Rates, Child abuse and Violence against women. It comprises a team of community volunteers working in partnership with the law enforcement and other service providers to ensure women and children safety.
SIMU is registered as a non-government organization by the Uganda National Bureau for Non-Government Organizations and operates in all the districts of Uganda.
SIMU majorly focuses on the welfare and wellbeing of both children and women, although we also pay attention to all groups of people in need.
With children, we have designed a number of projects to help address and suit their needs.
1. Children Support Projects
Here under, we have a program module to cater for each and every vulnerable child enrolled on the program. All these kids have different needs basing on their backgrounds. We have a list of projects that are catering for our kids in different ways;
i) Student Sponsorship
The student sponsorship program gives opportunity to susceptible children to receive basic Education (both Pre-primary/Kindergarten and Primary Education). These are between the ages of 05 to 17 years. Our goal is to have at least 300 needy children supported by giving them the opportunity to attend school, provide them with school requirements such as books, uniforms, shoes and find them scholarships.
ii) Empower the Girl Child
Some girls in developing countries regularly miss school 3 days a month simply because they have their periods. Some don’t have money to buy sanitary supplies. And even when they do have access to menstrual pads, many schools do not have safe, private, hygienic bathroom facilities for girls. This means some girls are missing an average of 30 school days each year. Days missed in school add up quickly and these girls fall behind. Girls who aren’t able to fully participate in their educations are at high risk to get married at an early age, have children at a younger age, and are less likely to achieve economic independence. They are often unable to break the cycle of poverty and build a better life for themselves and their children. Keeping these girls in school could change the world. And therefore, this project aims at providing school going girls with menstrual pads so they can reclaim 3 of the days an adolescent girl child misses of school each month.
iii) Dress the Needy/I’m Alive Campaign
This is a project which involves giving hope and assistance to the orphans and the abandoned kids. We provide these kids with free clothing, hygiene products, food, and protection against any form of abuse. We also offer Medical supplies, Counseling/Psychosocial support and link them to medical service providers through partnerships. Some of these kids are the 48 of our fully sponsored kids who have been given a chance to go back to school through our school sponsorship program.
2. Women Empowerment Projects
As part of our livelihood development program, SIMU has a line of several exciting agro-based projects aimed at improving on the women’s daily income and standards of living. These activities are particularly agro-based just because we are dealing with rural needy women who have been blessed with nothing but the fertile land.
Under the women empowerment projects we have
i) Women’s Gardening Project
For this project, we are teaching women on how to start up with vegetable gardens to help themselves in providing a steady supply of green vegetables to help in strengthening food security and fighting malnutrition among babies in their families.
ii) Women Savings Project
This is another project to empower the women at SIMU with an aim of instilling financial discipline in them for purposes of having them learn how to support themselves, support their children and households at large since most of them are single mothers who have no one to take care of their needs. It’s a project which looks at how best could the women who have benefited from our women’s gardening project be helped have something meaningful out of the small incomes they make just from selling the vegetables or any other agricultural products they are harvesting courtesy of the support from SIMU.
After they have made sales, they are encouraged to team up in different groups of about 25-30 women with leadership within among themselves for easy financial management.
We are mostly dealing with teenager mothers, abused (divorced women) who have been left the responsibility to take care of their households without any single source of food and income.
3. Evangelism and Crusades
This is our major reason SIMU was founded. Evangelism is a community outreach designed program whose aim is to spread the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, share his limitless and unconditional love as well as reaching out to those in the remotest areas with evangelic crusades, church visits, hospital visits, prison outreaches and a Saturday Kids Bible Study program for the community kids.
Other than the above projects, SIMU also provides direct technical support to different organizations in the country. Like in 2017, we were working directly with Makerere University Centre for Health and Population Research (MUCHAP) formerly The IGANGA/MAYUGE HEALTH & DEMOGRAPHIC SURVEILLANCE SITE (I/MHDSS) under the Cerebral Palsy in Uganda Risk Factors, intervention and Epidemiology (CURIE) Study in the areas of research, psycho-social support, advocacy, livelihood and reproductive health targeting the Cerebral Palsy (CP) children and their families in Iganga and Mayuge districts in Eastern Uganda.
We are also partnering with the Para Social Workers and these are the community volunteers who are another arm of the government. These help us in the fight against child abuse and neglect by identifying child abuse cases, following up on cases which require referral, and helping us identify those critical and persistent cases that make the children’s lives miserable in the different districts like Buvuma, Bugweri, Iganga, Mayuge, Bugiri etc.
Additionally, we utilize the opportunity of partnership with Organizations like Reproductive Health Uganda to lobby for available Health services like the provision of free mosquito nets, free wheel chairs (for children affected with Cerebral Palsy rather the disabled) to the community, anti-malaria tablets, HIV/AIDs offered services, etc. this is intended to gain momentum of implementing health programs within the communities of our reach.
Our core objectives include:
a) Enhance poverty alleviation and food security among poverty stricken communities.
b) Sensitize, educate and mobilize the community in the fight against child abuse, domestic violence and poverty.
c) Undertake advocacy and lobbing of other livelihood and humanitarian projects and partners on issues of common concern to the susceptible mothers and their children.
d) Embark on monitoring and evaluation of policies, programs and practices of government, private sector, civil society and other development partners in order to assess their impact to the general community.
e) Identify critical economic, social, political and other areas of concern in the communities and undertake research with the express purpose of identifying visible development approaches and strategies to address them.
f) Help orphans, mothers, OVCs and the general community in HIV/AIDS preventive measures and care interventions.
In general the organization is pleased to contribute to health and wealth of Uganda for as long as it exists and we are committed to participating in any intervention that is in line with our vision and mission.
Q.: What are the challenges that you face in the organization?
A.: There’s quite a number of challenges faced; and these include;
● The limited resources needed to enable us achieve all the set goals and objectives. We find ourselves compromising within some projects that is to say, giving up on other projects to focus more on the most wanting projects. Which is very dangerous because it leaves us in a place where we can’t help everyone in and yet all people need to be attended to and helped.
● Inadequate qualified staffs to enable us do our work with ease. This is because as an organization, we find ourselves not being able to fund their remittances or incomes. And yet our staffs are also hired to offer a service so they can be able to earn a living and take care of themselves. We find ourselves being dependent on community volunteers who aren’t reliable at all hence affecting our work.
● Abuse of both women especially the young girls and the children is something that is challenging for us as an organization as the needs of the victims are unspeakable and yet we most of the times lack the financial capacity to help us get to the bottom of many of these cases. Involving the law enforcement sometimes only helps the victims get justice, but finding these victims a safe place to stay is sometimes challenging, some would want to continue with their lives normally but because we are financially incapacitated, we find ourselves failing to help them to the core.
● We are overwhelmed by the number of the vulnerable that is on the increase daily. From those we get off the streets, to those we find in their communities. And this makes it hard for us to offer the necessary services to those in dare need because we have to improvise so that at least everyone is helped.
● Basic services such as Education and Health care are inadequate making our work hard. Most of our beneficiaries desperately need such services, but because in our areas of operation there is no access to such, our women and children are only granted to the available services which sometimes are substandard.
Q.: What are the most important things that you would like people to know about the organization?
A.: It’s important for people to know that our team is both youthful and feminist. We value the wellbeing of all women and children. And this is why all our objectives are in line with children and women safety. Society tends to pay less or even no attention towards such people. But we all know that without the women, the world could never exist, and without children, we don’t have a future.
So we as an organization are very passionate about the growth and development of women, children and all the other groups of people in our communities. This is the best way of building for a better future. We believe that when we empower women and children, we are empowering the whole world.
We envision a society in which both women and children are appreciated, dignified, loved, protected, served equally without discrimination and looked at as important as everyone else.
Q.: What is your own personal approach to leadership and bringing about change?
A.: Personal involvement; without delegation because before I was entrusted with this leadership position, I was directly involved with the development and growth of my community through a number of community development projects. I was dealing directly with the people from the lowest communities. I got to learn more about their way of living and how they live in lack on a daily. So I realized it important to have a direct involvement in all the community projects that are brought in our communities. This helps me to learn more about how best we can do better with any forthcoming projects.
Authoritative Leadership; this helps me to know why I’m the people’s leader and work towards achieving the set goals and objectives for the benefit of my country/communities. I’m also able to empower colleagues and team members to take charge just as I do myself.
I’m a leader with clear and concrete intentions with a will to establish clear communication flow among my team as we stride to not only achieve our set goal and shared vision, but to create and leave a lasting impact on every person that we meet and interact with on a daily.
Q.: Can empathy be a successful way for people to explore their inner self as well?
A.: Yes! Because without emotions, you can’t be empathetic. It’s these emotions that bring out the empathy in us to share how and what we feel with those that we interact with every day. Being empathetic with others gives them the courage to bring forth their inner emotions, because then they can trust you because you have been empathetic with them.
Q.: What advice would you give to the women that would like to try some of the things you do?
A.: If you dream of doing something today… please do it with a lot of courage and passion knowing no dream is beyond reach! Whatever you do today, it will have an impact on someone someday. There’s no right time to begin, you can begin anytime you are ready and you’ll achieve bigger dreams.
Q.: What will your next project be?
A.: Empowering women especially the young girls to take on various leadership positions as long as they qualify. This is a drive that I and other women leaders will be doing both during our leadership reign and in our retirement age (a couple of years from now). We realize women are very capable of doing greater things, and we want this to be achieved in the shortest time possible, that is why we are focused on educating the girl child.
Q.: Name one thing that you want to do but haven’t done yet