On 8th March 2023, Uganda will join the rest of the world to commemorate the International Women’s Day. This year, the theme is gender equality, an important aspect in the lives of women as highlighted in the fifth United Nations Sustainable Development Goal.
All women, regardless of their age deserve living respectable and self-sustaining lives and this is the ultimate desire of 68-year-old Kasalina Nakabugo, aresident of Wannonda village in Butuntumula sub-county, Luweero district. She is a woman worth the celebration for her efforts to change the lives of the elderly in her community, being a voice to the voiceless and providing exemplary leadership. She ensures her peers live a long, dignified and happy life.
The cheery woman who looks way younger than her age has decided to voluntarily mobilize and help fellow old women in her community to access health and social services, with emphasis on the very aged and helpless and those living with HIV.
“We old people face lots of challenges, but whenever I help them, I feel happy and complete. I am 68 years but I feel as though I am 50 years.” Nakabugo joked about her looks.
A UNICEF Policy Brief, Investing in Social Protection in Uganda: The case for the expansion of the Senior Citizen’s Grant revealed that older people in Uganda face chronic poverty related challenges due to disability, as 66.8% of them have at least some difficulties in functional areas such as hearing, seeing, walking or others. These conditions call for family, friends, and government support to older persons.
With support from the Grandmothers project run by Reach Out Mbuya Community Health Initiative (ROM) under the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Nakabugo wakes up every day to the joy of ensuring most of the grandmothers in her area have what to eat and have received their medicine from ROM. Many of them suffer from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) that are very expensive to treat.
She goes house to house checking on them, and whoever she finds unwell, she immediately informs the medical and social support teams at ROM who always come to the rescue of the helpless grandmothers.
“My peers no longer silently suffer or suddenly die from health-related issues because I easily invite the doctors to treat those who get very sick and the very old ones from their homes. Forthose of us who still have some energy, we always go for treatment at the facility or an Outreach Center next to our village” She said.
Nakabugo’s love for her peers drove her into her elderly group’s leadership so as to serve them the better. In this position, she has won the trust of her peers to access their homes homes on a regular basis and whenever she finds any of them weak or very sick, Kasalina runs to the facility to inform the doctors who immediately go and treat that grandmother from her home.
“Whenever there is a very sick grandmother especially at night, I wake up very early, board a motorcycle and go to Kasaala to notify the doctors or bring the medicine to that grandmother. I am so proud of those doctors at the facility, because they have never disappointed us.” She narrated.
Nakabugo further shared that sometimes when the grandmothers are given groceries such as sugar, salt, soap and flour at the facility, she takes the responsibility to pick and deliver those that belong to her weak colleagues.
She added that although she has all the will to continue serving her colleagues all her life, she is faced with the challenge of a poor transport system that requires her to board an expensive motorcycle, through rough roads to and from the facility whenever she should.
Nakabugo’s happiness is to see that each grandmother lives a happy life and for this reason, she makes sure that she mobilizes them to attend parties and music festivals.
Mr. Kabaale Ivan, a social worker who regularly interacts with Nakabugo. said “Nakabugo is a selfless grandmother who carries out one-on-one home visits among grandmothers in her community, during which they discuss drug adherence, nutrition and home hygiene. She also ensures each grandmother makes a five minutes’ walk in her presence.”
He added that Nakabugo voluntarily makes a monthly report on each grandmother, highlights those who need specialized immediate support.
The Community and Social Support Manager at Reach Out Mbuya, Ms Hilda Achayo applauded Nakabugo for her efforts to help other grandmothers. She said, “Nakabugo is a very active, vibrant and committed grandmother you can always count on as far as mobilizing peers is concerned.”
Hilda explained that occasionally, Nakabugo selflessly uses her personal resources to deliver required information to the incharge. Without her, reachimg out to over fifty grandmothers in her community would be a nightmare.
Nakabugo is one of the many good women the world has and emulating her example is what each of us should do to make the world a better place for all.