Maddy in Uganda

Everywhere people press forward to say thank you, their faces creasing with huge smiles, the women going down on their knees according to traditional custom, and explaining how their lives have been transformed.

Aw bless.

The warmth and joyousness of the Abia reception is exhilarating, but being cast as Lady Bountiful is uncomfortable.

At least there\’s some self-knowledge there.

Mary Amulo, for example. She is 31 but already has six children. She talks very softly – the Teso culture of this region of Uganda expects women to be subservient – but with huge pride.

Snigger. Maddy wouldn\’t put up with such a cultural explanation for women in the UK doing the cooking or the child rearing now, would she? These things must change with skin colour I suppose, what is and is not acceptable in such cultural matters.

But the question that keeps coming back is: where is the state investment in Katine? Why isn\’t Kampala finding the money to drill a borehole for this community? President Yoweri Museveni gets £70m a year in UK aid alone, so how come so little of it has found its way to Katine? Uganda was one of the first countries to get debt relief; it has been the western donors\’ favourite for nearly 20 years. It\’s true that most of Katine\’s children now go to school. Free education was a condition of debt relief. But it has created new problems with huge classes – 75 is normal – and no books or paper. Apart from education, little of the aid millions has trickled down to Katine.

The district governor, Stephen Ochola, is hugely frustrated. He has been promised money to repair the flood-damaged roads, but several months on he is still waiting. Both he and Katine\’s MP, Peter Omolu, say they see investment going to the south and west of the country, but not to Katine and its district of Soroti. They are outspoken in their criticism that the government favours areas that voted for Museveni in the last elections in 2006. Soroti is an opposition area: the president polled only 12% of the vote. In his inaugural speech Museveni thanked those who voted for him, but warned that those who had not would see that it had not been a wise decision.

My word, what a surprise, eh? The government to government aid gets either stolen or diverted for political reasons. The private sector aid, that more directly from people to people (like The Guardian\’s own Katine project) actually gets somewhere, actually alleviates poverty and helps people.

My, my, what a turn up for the books, eh? When will such an interesting lesson be applied to our own lives here in the UK do you think? That money fed through The State is used by those who run The State for their own purposes, not for ours?

Or do you think that might be a realisation too far for our Maddy?

4 thoughts on “Maddy in Uganda”

  1. She talks very softly – the Teso culture of this region of Uganda expects women to be subservient

    I was skimming through this post, on the grounds that Maddy-bashing is piscine-barrel-marksmanship, but this paragraph made me double-take and think “how the hell have they managed to come up with supermarket-bashing explanation for female oppression in the developing world?”. Almost disappointed that it doesn’t…

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