With a total population of 109, 290 children: 42,397 vulnerable, 12,761 orphans in a population of about 874,000 widows, which represents 11percent of females aged 15 years and above in Uganda, most families endure to find survival basics, given the rising levels of poverty in the country.
In the new district of Butaleja in Eastern Uganda, where children and widows, not only find it hard to get food, better education and clean water, it is even more disturbing. Still a dream come true is appearing in Butaleja villages.
It is in the form of Esther Nali, a rights activist, who was born here. She chose not to back-off from the ailing orphans and widows in Butaleja and has embarked on a project to advocate for the hundreds of orphaned children to acquire education and improve their livelihood.
Nali found a desire to help the people of Butaleja out of the experience that she got while a pupil of Butaleja Integrated Primary School. Nali narrates her ordeal of walking distances to school, and later in the day, struggling to get clean water from River Manafwa, the only water source shared by both people and animals.
She said that in the search to find clean water for families, many of her colleagues ended up dropping out of school and stayed home to fetch water. She decided otherwise and endured to find a miracle in her thirst for clean water.
Through her initiative, Springs of Zion and Pearl Foundation for Children and Widows , that she started in 2009, Nali chose to advocate for the poor, widows, vulnerable and the disabled with a mission to ensure that widows are catered for, children go to school and avoid facing difficulties.
The Helping Hand in Challenges
Nali’s Springs of Zion mission involves restoring the hope for the poor and ensuring that they are provided with the little basics. She has done this through visiting different families and schools and giving children scholastic materials and also paying fees for them. With the help she got from NSSF Torch Awards, and part of her salary, she has helped her push the foundation ahead.
Women from the society have managed to get skills of making sanitary pads using the sewing machines that Naali bought and the knowledge which she has trained them in. This helps in keeping girls in class in their menstrual periods.
Even when Nali and her accomplices continue to advocate for Butaleja people, the Director Butaleja Intergrated Primary School, Sam Okitoi, notes that the villagers tend to destroy the tanks put up for their access to clean water. “Most of them don’t seem to know the relevance of having clean water for the school and neighbouring communities,” Okitoi says.
Okitoi says that children skip class when their parents force them to go to chase birds out of the rice farms, so instead of being at school children spend the whole day in the garden. Out of the 1, 200 children, the turn up on a Monday may be only 900. Also, the number of drop-outs is high with the under-age girls that get pregnant and get married.
Okitoi says they usually move to different families with the church leaders and LCs and encourage the community to bring their children to school and ensure that they do not look at the disabled children as a burden. Nali calls upon other individuals to join hands with her to fight poverty in Butaleja by giving money donations.
Nali, who has procured water tanks for the schools communities, says that with River Manafwa being the main source water, there is a health risk as the water source is shared by both animals and humans. A report by the Butaleja District Engineer, Hamisi Moga, indicates that the terrain in Butaleja does not favour the construction of boreholes with some areas having water that is not suitable for human consumption. However, they have managed to collect money as a school and built a wall to protect the tanks.
The Chairman of Butaleja village, Yahya Tongo, thanks Nali for the hard work she has put in to ensure the disabled people of Butaleja are helped.