Back in 2007 I found myself in the middle of Kireka, being hassled by men and being called "Mzungu" (white person) five thousand times a day by little kids with barely any clothes to wear. There were no roads or lights and I, with my Western senses consequently fell down several holes each night.
Kireka ia a small town on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. Some call it a slum, some refer to it as an internal refugee camp.
However I knew none of this until this year.
On my journey back to Uganda (for the 4th time) to collect more jewellery and make more links with local jewellery producing projects, I found out that Kireka was home to exactly what I was looking for, I was back to where I started again.
Kireka is reffered to as an internal displacement/refugee camp as during the war in Northern Uganda, survivors and refugees fled to Kampala to escape the danger and to start a new life.
And thats just what the Women of Kireka did, escaping the violence and bloodsheed of the North, they began a new life in Kireka earning a minimal wage smashing rocks on the nearby rock quarry.
Work on the quarry is tiresome and dangerous (see above video), I asked my guide, Bridget if the workers ever fell down the quarry and she told me they frequently did, many have died and many have also lost fingers whilst crushing the rocks. I tried, but couldn't even begin to imagine a life where I had to flee disaster, leaving everything behind to be greeted with the promise of smashing rocks daily for the foreseeable future, knowing that my life and my children's lived depended on it, but were also at risk from it. The hope that the women have is shocking but inspirational. I wondered if their joy and ease in talking about their lives and the quarry was a front because they knew I was a visitor, I don't even have the capability to imagine such hope and strength.
The Women of Kireka project was set up, to enable the women to earn an income so they don't have to spend so many back breaking hours on a dangerous quarry. They create wonderful beads from recycled paper, so not only are they able to earn money to feed their children, but these beads are great for the environment, ensuring that newspapers and magazines are put to great use, they are now fabulous wearable pieces rather than piling up on the rubbish dumps!
Here are some photos from the WoK workshop and a video of Bridget explaining how the paper beads are created. Please ask for permission before using photos.
The women at the project all have different stories, most enough to break your heart, yet they have so much joy and happiness you wonder how it's possible. Although the project has greatly improved their lives, they still cannot yet afford to leave work at the quarry. The women, just like all of us, still hold on to their personal ambitions, many of them wanting to gain skills like tailoring to make a better living, the WoK project is working slowly towards expanding into these areas to give the women a better future.
Some of the women I met and a little bit about them
Elder fled to Kampala from Northern Uganda in 2000. She works with her husband on the stone quarry to support her three children. She hopes to find a new livelihood soon as she finds the work at the quarry physically demanding. She would love to be trained in tailoring, something she believes she could excel in, and dreams of opening a bakery.
Santa fled to Kampala from Northern Uganda in 1994. As she suffers crippling back pains, she hopes to stop working on the quarry and continue assisting the expansion of Women of Kireka
Fleeing the Lord's Resistance Army in Northern Uganda, Sarah and her family came to Kampala. She works with her husband on the Kireka quarry. She hopes Women of Kireka will eventually help her open her own tailoring business where the work will be less strenuous than on the Kireka quarry.
Jasinta moved to the quarry in 1998 to provide for her 10 children and her husband, who is mentally impaired. She desperately needs another source of income to make ends meet and hopes Women of Kireka will help her develop new business skills.
These are some of the beads that the WoK have produced, they are all for sale at Amaziah Jewellery, please check https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150403001357779.351533.148541962778&type=1 for more sale items.
I also have a large amount of lose beads which I will be turning into items like this:
If you have any requests for items you would like made, or would like to buy some loose beads to create your own jewellery, please comment or email email@example.com
Remember, every purchase helps to better the lives of these wonderful women!
Amaziah Jewellery is non profit!