Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Grandmothers and Widows of Africa

I wonder how many of you were watching the news a few days ago, when it was announced that CIDA - the Canadian International Development Agency - is going to drastically reduce the money it gives to the NGO's (non-governmental organizations), that do humanitarian work in some of the poorest countries of the world. CIDA is going to put money into the private sector instead - mining companies were singled out - this is how they see us helping the poor countries most effectively.
Bringing clean and potable water to communities that have no access to this most basic of human needs, is no longer a priority for CIDA. They are taking a long view, and see money given to mining companies and other private enterprise, as improving the countries' economy and so eventually, having a positive impact on the women, the children, the grandmothers and widows, who make up some of the most disadvantaged people of this world. So even in the "focus countries", in which CIDA has focussed its energies over the last few years, even in situations where projects have clearly and demonstrably improved the lives of the people living there, there will be no more money from the Canadian government.
My husband has worked in East Africa for close to twenty years now, and the NGO of which he is Director has brought clean water to community after community. Mutual Benefit Societies - support groups for the grandmothers and widows due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic - have been started in almost every community in which there's been a water project. CIDA has provided a large part of the funding for these projects, but that door is clearly closing.
So communities in which the girls and women have to walk miles to get water, and filthy water at that, will have little hope of it ever being any different. Unless the people of Canada - ordinary people like you and like me - dig deep into our own pockets to help. This plea comes at a time when many of us are facing our own financial crises. I know I sound like I'm having a good rant (check out Rick Mercer's "rant" on this very topic, if you want to hear an articulate expression of this news), and I am, but I feel desperately sad that our leaders no longer see the poor of the world as a priority. They only seem to count when there's the possibility of some kind of economic return.
 In light of this news, I am profoundly thankful to those of you who have been so generous in making donations to the women we work with in Uganda - the Bitengye Designers - and to those of you who do other work to help with the task before all of us. Every little bit helps, even more so than before. I hope those of you who are able, will think about giving to a charity of your choice this Christmas season. Somehow my life has become wrapped up with these women in Uganda, but your involvement may be somewhere else entirely. The main thing is for you and for me to help those less fortunate than ourselves. God help us, if we forget to do that.
The women in these photos are all from Uganda. They thank you for the goats you have given them, and the sewing machines; for access to clean water and gardens in which to grow their crops; for sponsoring their children in school and giving them work to do. But most of all, they thank you for the hope you've given them, that things can be better.
When we left the women who make up the Bitengye Designers last year, they asked us not to forget them.  And I can't help but think that this is what is being asked of all of us as individuals, in a country that is choosing to go in another direction. I hold out little hope of being able to influence our Prime Minister, but I do know that I can still make my own choices, for the good of the people I have come to love.


  1. Thank you so much for all that you have done for the women in Africa. Clearly our government is completely off track.

  2. Great post. You wonder how our world has come to this point.


  3. Joanne C, Armstrong, BCDecember 9, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Thanks, Pippa - I shared the post with my entire guild in Salmon Arm, BC. The ladies have been very generous in contributing to "Pippa's Jar" in exchange for various items that I am clearing out of my sewing room or whatever. The latest contribution to your project, just from this autumn's collection, was $125.

  4. Please tell them all thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. Our funds have been running low for things like the transportation fund for HIV/AIDS clients who need to get to town for treatment, and the monthly food program in Kikagate, for those too ill to work. And Alice's school in nearing completion, but has taken much more money than expected, so every little bit extra goes to this (in fact, I am in a negative balance, because I've instructed her to go ahead and finish it, no matter what it takes!). Your efforts, Joanne, are so appreciated. Thank you once again.

  5. Good 'rant', Pippa. I appreciate the time you spent today sharing with Daryth and myself. I look forward to meeting with the women of Busabaga and will bring a report and pictures back to you. My blog is