9th April 2015 – Women: The backbone of Uganda

Today was always set to be a busy day. This was scheduled to be the day on which the data collection for Phase 2 (Key Informant Interviews) was completed, and that the Phase 3 Focus Group Discussions (FDG) were conducted. We had two interviewing pairs meeting with new Key Informants and one interviewing pair set to complete an interview that had been commenced yesterday. So, the initial task for Fr Ponsiano was to secrete these 3 interviewing pairs into the appropriate locations for these interviews to take place. There were some logistical challenges to negotiate when it became apparent that many of the people that had been invited to attend the focus group discussions did not have access to transport to make it out to the Pauline Hotel where we had planned to conduct the discussions. It seems silly, but it is easy to miss important considerations such as this when the team are caught up in the hurly burly of research activity. It had been assumed that the team transport would be available to collect participants, and they were informed that this would be the case. Hurriedly convened contingency discussions this morning produced a plan B. We switched the venue to a more central location that would be much more convenient for the attendees to get to. In addition, the decision was taken to offer funds from the consumables budget for the project to compensate people for the costs of their travel. It was no mean feat by the team to get all 15 people who had been scheduled to attend the Focus Groups there and ready to go – albeit with a slight delay.

Two focus groups had been organized; one for females to be facilitated by Elizabeth (with Julianna acting as scribe) and one for males that was facilitated by Patrick (with Daniel acting as the scribe). We had obtained ethical approval to audio record the FGDs, and the participants provided informed consent for this. The main purpose of the focus groups was to explore in more depth the types of tasks/activities that people living in the Lira district frequently do to take care of themselves, their families and their communities. This information gathered is intended to supplement that gathered in Phase 1 of the research regarding tasks/activities. The people who had been invited to attend were prominent members of the community such as police officers, school teachers, District Counsellors, retired University lecturers, and nurses.

There was a striking difference in atmosphere between the two focus groups. The female group had a more collegiate, cooperative and welcoming feel to it, whereas the male group had a less settled and edgier vibe. The extent to which the tangible distinction in mood between the groups influenced the nature and content of the discussions that took place remains to be seen. I had met some of the female FGD attendees (including Mary and Betty) last August when I delivered a workshop in Kampala. It was great to see them again, and they were very pleased that we had committed to visiting Lira and that we were conducting the research in this district. During this visit to Uganda I have been very struck by the strength, power, commitment and resolve that females in the country possess. I am convinced that the future of Uganda rests in the hands of women. There are many challenges that must still be addressed in terms of safe-guarding the rights and opportunities of females in Uganda, but there are glimmers of promise. Enhancing educational opportunities, reducing teenage pregnancies and working with male attitudes towards females appear to be important points of focus. The role of females in Ugandan society is reflected by the fact that there is a Uganda Women’s Anthem; the opening lines of which are: ‘We are the proud mothers of the nation, The backbone without which, it can never stand…’ This is an anthem that is widely known and sung by females in Uganda.

Following the completion of the focus groups (and the taking of obligatory photographs of the respective parties), a group of us headed into the bustling centre of Lira. The temperature had been rising steadily as the day progressed. Although the sunroof in the Super Custom van was open, if the vehicle was stationery for any length of time, the heat became stifling. With the end of the visit to Lira drawing to an end, it was important for Katja, Richard and myself to visit the Barclay’s Bank (!?) ATM to get money that we can use to settle hotel bills and pay for a number of research overheads; including the vehicle hire and training room hire. Katja was also keen to visit the market to buy some material that could be used to make a dress. Katja was ably assisted on this mission by two members of the research team (Julianna and Joan). Once the material had been purchased, we travelled over to a market in another part of town where, set on hard, dusty and uneven ground, a large volume of seamstresses and tailors were working at covered stalls. There was a vast array of colours and designs on the fabrics that rested on work-benches, and the off-cuts that littered the ground.  I was struck by the large number of Singer sewing machines – the model of choice for discerning seamstresses/tailors all over the world. The Singer Company had a large factory producing sewing machines in the Clydebank area of Glasgow. In the 1960s this factory employed over 16,000 employees. The factory closed in 1980 due to financial difficulties and falling sales. As a testament to the site where the factory once stood, ‘Singer’ continues to be the name of a train station near Clydebank. It is testament to the quality of the product that the company produced that these machines continue to be used in back streets and market stalls all over the world. It was great to greet the workers in Lango and to spend some time talking with them. Katja had some measurements taken and was invited to return tomorrow when the finished article will be ready for collection.

On returning back to the Pauline Hotel we had a quick lunch and caught up on some paperwork. We gathered the research team together for a debrief regarding the ending of data collection. I’m really proud of the team and the work that they have completed over the past 10 days. We have all learned a lot from each other, we have grown as individuals and as a team. Tomorrow we will embark on the analysis of the Phase 2. It is set to be a busy day again. It will be our last day together as a team, and we plan to mark the end of this leg of the project by having a celebration together – Rosco will I’m sure be lobbying for some more dancing…

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