Barbara’s Story

Barbara with her three children in 2023
Barbara with her three children in 2023

$4 to save Barbara’s son was just the beginning. 

Life can lead you into some dark places. 

When suddenly you look around and realize you are completely alone. 

This is how Barbara’s life had unfolded: 

Barbara legally married her husband as a very young uneducated woman (you would likely call her “a girl”), as is common in rural Uganda in severely impoverished communities. They lived on her husband’s uncle’s small plot of land in a traditional round one room mud hut with a thatched roof; hiring themselves out to dig in other’s small farms to survive. In a few short years she had two children, and by that time her husband would disappear for short periods of time which became longer and longer as time passed. By the time she gave birth to her third child her husband was coming around once every few months. He’d taken on a second wife. 

Barbara’s parents had both died when she was young, and had no relatives that were near. Afraid for her own survival, and having no where to go, she hoped he would come back to stay – and at least, they had some type of shelter in which she and her three children could stay. So she kept quiet, with no resources, relatives or recourse. Barbara hired herself out as a day laborer digging in other people’s small farms – weeding mostly – for the equivalent of $1/day, her young son strapped to her back. 

Barbara approached WAGARU in hopes of enrolling in the tailoring program, to acquire a skill that could help her to earn a larger income to support her family. She completed the 3 month program, but with so many hurdles in front of her she struggled to launch. 

This was the state of things when we visited Barbara last June to see how WAGRAU could help her to move forward. 

It was early evening and the sun was getting low on the horizon. Barbara greeted us with her two young children clinging by her side. The youngest she carried on her hip. As we went through customary pleasantries, Executive Director and Attorney Deborah Akello inquired about her youngest son who was clearly not doing well. He had malaria. She was saving money for his treatment, but as we did the math, there was no way he was going to survive the wait. The cost for his treatment was the equivalent of $4.

Barbara discussing a way forward with our staff member Hellen.
Barbara discussing a way forward with our staff member Hellen.

WAGRAU as a rule does not give handouts. 

Handouts are not empowering, and would lead to long lines at WAGRAU’s door with all of the challenges people face on a daily basis in this severely impoverished village. But in this case, we made an exception. After meeting with us to discuss a way forward, Barbara went directly to the clinic for her son’s treatment. 

Meanwhile, when Deborah learned that Barbara’s husband had obtained a formal job with a paycheck, she helped Barbara to file a letter of intention to sue for child support, which motivated her husband to the mediation table where he agreed to pay her monthly support for their three children. 

Then, through a generous donor, money was obtained to purchase a sewing machine a collection of fabric and supplies for Barbara to begin her tailoring business. Initially working from home, she saved up for the funds to rent a small store front.  

As her small business took root, guess who started coming around again? Barbara estranged husband. Now that Barbara was feeling more empowered, she refused him when he tried to invite himself back in. He came back a second time and she refused, then the third time, he assaulted her. In the aftermath, Barbara contacted WAGRAU for help. Deborah took Barbara to the hospital to care for her injuries and to document the assault. Then, Deborah contacted the husband and demanded a meeting. In an effort to balance Barbara’s needs, she proposed mediation with her husband explaining that she could file charges and have him arrested, or he could agree to her demands including compensation for Barbara’s injuries (which she could put into her business) and signing a restraining (no contact) order agreement. Her husband could continue to work – which meant that Barbara would continue to receive child support for her three children. 

Barbara at her home recently, filled with HOPE!
Barbara at her home recently, filled with HOPE!

When we visited her home recently, Barbara looked like a different person. Her face was glowing, illuminated by the smile on her face, as she greeted us enthusiastically. Barbara’s tailoring business is going well. She has saved enough money to rent a small shop in the village center to work from. She had earned enough to rent two small plots of land to plant crops to feed her family and perhaps sell any extra for a profit. All of her children are in school. Her estranged husband has not come by to intimidate her. Barbara feels empowered, and above all, she has HOPE. 

Barbara’s struggles aren’t over, but she is not alone, and has tools to help her to begin to empower herself and support her family – sending her children to school to break the cycle of powerlessness. 

Please join us in supporting women like Barbara to empower themselves and grow in HOPE! 

Donate now, and consider becoming a monthly donor to support our ongoing work to LIFT women out of extreme poverty! 

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