When Winfred Anena first told her parents about her plan to start up a money-making project, they did not take her seriously.
The Senior Two student of Bishop’s Senior Secondary School in Mukono, however, astonished everyone when she did not only start one, but two projects. Anena now pays her own school fees. Saudha Nakandha talked to her
Like any other little girl, Anena was always curious. What was exceptional about this young lady, however, was that she was more curious about projects that could generate income.
“I always looked out for projects that I knew I could embark on to help my parents pay some of my fees. I saw how they struggled,” she recalls.
She recalls that it was in 2005 after her Primary Seven, that she really set her heart into following her dreams.
The then 14-year-old was in her vacation and had nothing to do. She worried that such idleness would bring her trouble.
She had been warned about premature relationships and pregnancy. Her family had just relocated to Kinawataka in Kampala to escape the LRA insurgency.
“Life in a slum is terrible. You have no space to play; you spend most of your time loitering around the neighbourhood. So I decided I would avoid the consequences by keeping busy,” she explains.
A skills training opportunity presented and Anena decided she would go and get equipped.
“Among the skills that were taught was soap making, which I found interesting. I used to walk all the way from ‘Acholi Quarters’ in Kinawataka to Kamwokya for this training.
The good thing is that I joined the training with a friend, Bruno Ruganzu, so we would go together.”
A dream to reality
“After the training that same year, I borrowed sh20,000 from Ruganzu to buy liquid soap ingredients.
“I tested my newly acquired skill and it was successful. The next step was to find containers for my merchandise. I engaged children from the slum.
They would walk around to look for empty mineral water bottles and then bring them to me. I would fill them with liquid soap, which I would then sell at sh1,500 a bottle. My first profit was sh3,000. This greatly encouraged me, so the business took off. I still make liquid soap.
“My parents have taught me how to save. This has helped me meet my school requirements. I pay my own school fees,” she proudly says.
Anena runs her liquid soap and bead making businesses concurrently. Asked how she manages, she says mixing the liquid soap is easier, so she does that first and then concentrates on her beads. Anena has an arrangement with six of her friends from the slums.
“I talked to their parents about helping in my business and they accepted. I don’t make enough money to pay them salaries, but I give them scholastic materials like books, pens and pencils, so that their parents only have to pay school fees,” explains Anena.
Anena also helps other slum children acquire business skills, especially during the school holidays. She says she wants to be a businesswoman some day. She has big plans for her little projects.
“I want to expand my business into a big enterprise and be able to employ more people some day. Maybe I could start a factory,” she says dreamily.
Balancing work and school
“I only do my work during holidays since I am in boarding school. When the school term starts, it is strictly studies,” she says.
She explains that during the four-week termly holidays, she and her friends concentrate on making and selling beads and liquid soap in the first two weeks. In the second two weeks, they embark on revision before they go back to school.
Anena says her business is at a halt when she is at school. Her parents are busy working so they cannot help out.
“It is also difficult to delegate because that means I cannot monitor the outcome.
Besides, I fear leaving my business with untrustworthy people,” she says.
From Bobi in Gulu to the slums
Anena’s father, Joseph Obita, lost his job during the LRA insurgency. He was a bus driver with one of the bus companies.
One fateful day, the bus was attacked in an ambush. He survived, but the job did not.
The bus company stopped operations for a while and when they resumed, he was not taken on. Obita since then has been doing casual labour to support his family. He is a tout at the bus park, for which he earns 3,000 a day. His wife Lucy Lalam sells mangoes and bananas, which she buys from Nakawa market.
“I also take on other casual jobs on the side to help take care of my family. With the money I make and that from my wife’s proceeds, we take care of the family. Our daughter helps where she can,” he says.
Before the family moved to Kampala, the Obitas used to stay in Bobi, in Gulu. But when the war was at its peak, for their safety, the family of nine moved to Kinawataka, Kampala, where they have been living since early 2005. Obita hopes to one day return home in Gulu.
“I am trying to make sure we establish a permanent structure before we go home. Everything was destroyed during the war,” he says.
Anena’s elder siblings are also in school. They are also involved in casual labour to support their education since their father’s income is not enough.
Anena, the third born among seven children, says she and her siblings are lucky to have stayed in school, unlike some of their age mates who had to drop out because of the war.