Jenifer Amuna is the Chairperson of the Ugandan community in South Australia .She is also the Founder of ‘Together to Build’, a not for profit organization established in 2018. Jenifer experienced hardship growing up, and it was through a “Good Samaritan” she was able to go to school. In her words” I have to give back to the society because somebody showed me that love; I also have to show people mercy”.
Jenifer speaks to Sunday Oyinloye, Publisher, Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable
How was it like growing up in Uganda?
Growing up, I never got to enjoy being a child. My childhood was lost in child labour; begging for food, homelessness, missing school and exams because of unpaid school fees. Sadly, decades later, not much has changed; many children continue to face the same challenges I went through with little hope for a decent future.
You have a not for profit organization called Together to Build, what was the motivation?
We believe in the adage that says give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, teach a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Poverty has far reaching consequences that can be averted by equipping young people with skills and in turn strengthens a stable society, minimize dependency and transform lives. Our vision is to build a society where young women and men are economically independent for a better livelihood and our objectives are to improved livelihood of women, adolescent girls and boys across developing countries by 2025, improve access to adolescent sexual reproductive health services in developing countries by 2025, and to improve knowledge on gender equality in developing countries by 2025.
What are you doing to achieve that?
We are training young mothers and men in market-based technical and entrepreneurial skills which includes but not limited to the followings: Tailoring, hair dressing, re-usable pad making, soap and lotion making, mechanics, bricklaying and concrete practice, carpentry and joinery. We Support young mothers and men to form village savings and loan associations as a source of financial service for enterprises. Together to Build supports and trains young mothers with internship and placement with employers in the business and social sectors. We partner with beneficiaries to provide start up kits to enable them to begin small scale enterprises within their locations .We engage in awareness creation and advocacy among parents, adolescent girls and boys, young mothers and community leaders on adolescent sexual reproductive health amongst others
What is your role as the Chairperson of Ugandans in South Australia?
My role basically is to bring all Ugandans together in unity because unity is key. I am passionate about Africans in general. As Africans, we stand united as one.
Why are you so passionate about culture?
When we talk about culture, we are talking about our way of life. Being in a foreign land with children, I want to give my family the balance between the two worlds (Uganda and Australia) .How I am raising my children here and how I am doing is completely different from the way I was raised at home. They say you can take someone out of the village, but you cannot take the village out of them; I am that kind of a person. I want my family to also experience what I experienced growing up in terms of our way of life. That is why I am passionate about culture which is my identity and our identity.
Ugandan community in Australia is organizing lessons for children to teach them Ugandan language, tell us why you took that step?
Some of us feel comfortable speaking in our mother tongue. Not only that, when these children go home (Uganda), what language will they use to communicate with people in the rural areas. Most of us feel comfortable speaking in the language which we were raised up speaking and not only that; we really want to pass it down to our children. We have relatives and parents in Uganda. I want my kids to be able to fit in when they go back home and speak to relatives in the language they understand. If my kids go to the village and meet my grandparents, how will they be able communicate if they cannot speak my grandparents language? I want my kids to be at ease, relate and fit in to the culture of our people when they go back home.
Who is funding the project?
It is actually a community project.
How are the children coping with the language class?
The children love it. They are concentrating. They do their homework and take back to the teacher
What lessons can other Africans in diaspora learn from this?
They should embrace their culture and their mother tongue, it’s very important. You don’t know when your children will go home, maybe without you, and how are they going to relate if they cannot speak the language of the people at home?
Are you also introducing Ugandan food to the children?
Yes we are teaching them in our houses and that is one of the things we are also planning as a community to teach them collectively; our food, our dance and other things that relate to our culture. These were some of the values that were passed to us by our parents and grandparents, and we want to pass them to our children.
What is the Ugandan community in South Australia doing to give back to their roots?
We have families back home; we have relatives and we are reaching out to them. Some of us also have charity organisations. There is a lot of ways that we are reaching out to them
Do you have any advice for Africans in diaspora?
I know how hard Africans in diaspora work and support their families back home. Home is our root. We have families and relatives who depend on us. I want them to continue to help their families back home. We should continue to embrace our roots and culture, and we should always stand by each other.