Unlike most of the women in these stories who came to the villages through marriage, Jeanette was born in Gakomeye. Her childhood was poor and hard, but life improved as she grew up and married. She has three boys, aged from two to eight. Unfortunately, shortly after marrying she contracted an amoebic infection and the resulting stomach ulcers have caused ongoing health problems. She and her husband y have no land of their own, so must work as casual labourers to buy food from the market.
In 2016 Jeanette described her life as being again hard. Her health limited her work to around three days a week, and she had no health insurance. She already knew about self-help groups: her sister belongs to a group and a couple of years ago Jeanette’s sister borrowed money from the group to pay for Jeanette to go to hospital. Jeanette needed no convincing when she had a chance to join a group herself, and she had some clear ideas on how to make it work. She would collaborate with her husband, with his work ensuring that she would have money for savings. Her first goal was to pay for health insurance.
In 2017 Jeanette has her health insurance paid with a load from her self-help group. This makes a huge difference to her and gives her access to more timely treatment for her stomach problems, and for her children if they are sick (malaria is common).
Other than the health insurance, Jeanette says that her confidence has grown from being in the self-help groups. Before joining, “when I used to stay here [at home] alone, they couldn’t know what I was able to share, because I couldn’t go […] to talk to them.” Now, she has overcome her fear of speaking in public, “I kept attending meetings and the fear went away,” and finds herself more independent, “for everything [problems] I used to ask [my husband] every time. I never ask anymore, I go and solve them and when he comes everything is fixed. I don’t wait for my husband to solve problems.”
Jeanette was excited to learn in the self-help group training that she could become a leader herself, “if we [her group] are strong enough we can start other groups and look after them.”
Jeanette and her family still have to work hard to live, but being in a self-help group has taken away a little of the day-to-day uncertainty. Knowing that she has the support of her group has given Jeanette the confidence to grow. She left us with the prediction “when you come back we will have achieved more.”