AUTHOR: Robinah Winnie Nandudu
I am Robinah Winnie Nandudu, the founder of Rural Mother At Risk-Africa, an organization based in Uganda, East Africa. At the age of 45 years old, I am a single mother with two sons of 10 and 12 years of age and I care for a number of orphans.
Being a single mother in Uganda is not by choice. During this time one experiences rejection, accusations, shame, and all sorts of abuse.
I took my time getting married. I waited until the age of 34. I fell single in 2006 after finding out that the father of my two boys was already married. I started experiencing threats and violent attacks from his first wife, who became my co-wife.
In Uganda, many men quietly engage in polygamous life, something I, like many women never wished to be part of. Here, it is one of the biggest factors which lead to single parent families. It was normal for my co-wife to threaten and attack me. In fact, many have even used acid to burn the face of the ‘other woman’.
My co-wife worked tirelessly towards the downfall of our husband, she wanted revenge. He ended up losing a very good job which she had attributed to our somewhat comfortable and successful cohabiting.
To avoid the after effects, I ended the marriage and left.
I was unsure of the road that lay ahead. One woman raising two children. I was ready to face the worst because I knew it was my fault to have gotten involved in a polygamous marriage. My divorce meant losing my job so my responsibilities intensified. I had to pay all my bills alone, and care for the children. I had very little time to attend to my office duties and the salary was not enough. Life was very hard until I decided to go back to my father’s home.
My dad meant security for me but after his death in 2007, life once again became difficult. Women in my culture don’t inherit anything and staying in my father’s home with my children made other family members insecure. By leaving my marriage and coming back home, I was seen as a disgrace. I became the talk of the family and the entire community. My sons and I experienced multiple family conflicts and intimidations and we were forced to just move on.
My struggles were not unique, comparing myself to other single mothers in Uganda, I had been somewhat lucky. Single mothers are disadvantaged and left vulnerable. They don’t own land but must look for ways to live and house their children. Left homeless, helpless and hopeless the mother must find a way to take on both parental roles. All is about survival.
In situations, where hope is diminished the mother may give up her children to child labor which usually exposes them to abuse. Alternatively, single mothers will be forced to steal, mostly food for themselves and children. Yet they still need clothing, money and health care.
It is from having and seeing these sad stories played over and over in rural Uganda and that I called together a group of people to form my organization, Rural Mother At Risk-Africa (RURMOR). We work to empower rural, single mothers with the focus on addressing the underlying causes of poverty which make them vulnerable and prevent them from socio-economic growth and development.
Our programs are geared towards human rights, confidence building and social networks for sustainable livelihoods and economic empowerment. We envisioned a community where single mothers enjoy their rights and freely participate in community development. Our mission is to build the capacities of rural, single mothers for social and economic empowerment.
Through this organization, I received an overwhelming amount of responses from women and community members offering support. Today I have reached over 100 single families.
At the moment, we are utilizing a 30-acre piece of land donated to us until we are able to purchase our own. Here we are farm mushrooms, maize, beans, potatoes, pumpkins, cassava and passion fruits.
AUTHOR BIO: I am experienced in community mobilization, data collection and analysis, coordination of projects, monitoring, evaluation and financial reporting, strategic planning and implementation of activities as I worked in various organization as an administrator, media reporter, manager, and programs coordinator.
I hold a bachelor’s degree in social work, diploma in business studies with some basic certificates in customer care, environmental reporting, tourism and hotel management.
I have attended several national, regional and international workshops and conferences on gender and development issues, environment and health, by presenting oral papers or general participation. One of the most vibrant international conferences is the international river symposium in Brisbane Australia.
I am rich in cross cultural experience I acquired while working in a foreign country for one year under the Norwegian Frediskorpset professional exchange. I have a heart of volunteerism, and I like meeting and interacting to widen my networking for better experience and knowledge.