Nanyombi: The sportswoman, artist with passion for politics

Nanyombi was born to Mukasa Venansio and Joyce Nambarirwa in Kyebando, a Kampala suburb. She  was born able-bodied and lived up to two-and-a-half years when she suffered from polio that left both of her legs paralysed. That is when she stopped walking and resorted to crawling.

“I crawled to school and it was so hectic. There were stones on the way that kept on cutting my knees and feet. The school was far. After suffering from many injuries, I got a temporary solution. This was wrapping papers around my knees and feet to stop injuring them. I moved on like this until when I was 12 years,” she says.

Though she was crawling, she could do almost what every other child could do, including digging.

“I love digging and I could dig very well. Many people were excited to see me digging. My favourite kind of digging was making potato heaps.”

Nanyombi’s music career started when she was young and credits most of her achievements to music.

“I got my first wheel chair because of music. I was a very active member of my Church Choir called St. Cecilia Choir. I was spotted by the Father of  St. Thomas Church and he gave me a wheel chair. This was a very big turning point in my life because my movements were made easy. Shorty after, another Father gave me a tri-cycle,” she recalls.

Not only did Nanyombi have passion for music but politics too. The politics exposed her and ventured into sports. It also inspired her to take her music career out of church to another level.

“I started politics when I was very young. I was in Senior Two and competed for a slot to represent women with disabilities at Kawempe Division. Before this, I was already representing persons with disabilities at Local Council One (LCI) and at the Parish,” she says. This was in 1996.

Going to Japan

She did not win the election but the exposure gave her a chance and was picked on to participate in the Oita International Wheelchair Race in 1998.

“I was spotted because I was active and known. Somebody connected me to John Ssebaggala who was working at Kireka Rehabilitation Centre. He gave me a special wheelchair which I used for racing and he trained me. We participated together in the race in Japan. I was the 10th out of more than 500 participants,” she narrates.

And there is something more she can not forget about Japan.

“The Japanese are very kind people. Many of them loved me. They always wanted to be with me and gave me several gifts. They treated me like a celebrity. That is where I got the wheel chair I currently use.”

Her trip to Japan was fully paid for by the Japanese Government. However, her repeated efforts to participate in subsequent races in Japan were futile since the embassy denied her <leo_highlight leohighlights_keywords=”team” leohighlights_url_top=”https%3A//” leohighlights_url_bottom=”https%3A//” leohighlights_underline=”true”>team visas.

“They suspected that some of us or our helpers could escape and stay in Japan. We had many helpers and therefore embassy officials were suspicious. There were more helpers than the sportsmen and women,” she says.

Music career

Nanyombi’s music career started when she was young. She was part of her school choir and also a member of her church choir called St. Cecilia Choir. She was inspired to take her music career to another level by a summon from a pastor in Kawempe.

“The pastor preached in church that everyone can get what they want in life. Want I wanted to become is a successful musician. This summon inspired me so much that I realised that I can make it. On my way back from church, I bought a book and a pen and started writing down my song. When I started writing, the song was just flowing,” she recalls. “I started rehearsing at home where I was renting. A few days after, every neighbour was singing my song with me.”

Shortly after, she joined another church, Christian Life Church in Bwaise. She also became part of that church’s choir where she impressed and caught the attention of the church pastor, Christopher Songa.

“He said I would make a very good musician and advised me to sing alone. He said he had seen a disabled lady preaching very well, and that I could also become a good disabled musician,” she recalls. “Then someone connected me to a good producer, Andrew Kaweesa, who recorded my first song.”

Her first song, is called Weekwate ku Mukama (Behold God). She produced an album with four songs in 2008 including Weekwate ku Mukama, Nyweza Endagaano, Mukama Nkwebaza and Kanyimbe. They are all gospel songs.

Her best song, Kanyimbe (Let me Sing) is a testimony about her surprise visit to Japan and what she had gone through in life.

“I was surprised to go to Japan. I enjoyed, and I learnt. I had never expected in my life that I would board an airplane and go to Japan. The Japanese loved me so much,” she says.

In the recording studio, she got in touch with more prominent gospel musicians like Florence Rukundo, Kiyingi Wasswa and Danjero Busuulwa, who continued to inspire her.

After recording her first song, her church pastor gave her an opportunity to perform before the church audience on a Sunday and she thrilled the congregation. She received over 100,000= from cash prizes. The pastor also made sure that she performed at the church whenever there was a wedding.

When Nanyombi is fired up while singing, she gets out of her wheel chair and starts to dance while crawling. In fact, one of her songs, Kanyimbe, is of the traditional Kiganda dance with drum rhythms. She performs it while crawling and the spectators are thrilled by watching the same traditional dance performed in a different way.

In 2008, she performed at the Korean East African Conference hosted by her church and she received 650,000=. “I used the money to produce a video for my song, Weekwate ku Mukama, and to produce more songs. She launched this song in 2009 and was accompanied by many gospel artists.

Future music plans

Nanyombi wants to produce new songs and videos for old songs but lacks the money.  “I started shooting the video for Kanyimbe but ran short of funds. It would be a thriller. I wanted to shoot from the airport when I am boarding an airplane but the airport management is so demanding. It needs a lot of money, time and doing much follow-up.

Using disability sports to become a celebrity

Q. Who is Julius Masereka?
A. I am an active sportsman in disability sports in Uganda. I come from a sports family. I am 29 years old with clubfoot. Both of my feet are bent towards each other. I was born like that. I play sit ball, sitting volleyball, cricket, table tennis and long tennis.

Q. How did you get involved in sports?
A.I started playing football in 1994 when I was in school. I was the goalkeeper of St. John Primary School and Old Kampala High School where I studied. Because of my disability, I could not manage playing other positions but I performed very well as a goalkeeper.

Q. How did you get involved in disability sports?
I was inspired in 1998 when I watched on TV persons with disabilities playing sports. I started looking for where they were training from and I found them in Nakivubo. I asked to join them and they allowed me. We were trained ahead of some competitions that took place in Lugazi. I played with the likes of Ali Mukasa, Bashir Mutyaba, Musa Kajubi, Ronald Kaggwa, Joseph Mawerere, among others.

Q. Who inspired you to join sports?
A. Sports is in my blood. I come from a family where there are many sports people. I have three brothers Tina Kambale, Dunia Mambo and Piko Masumbuko playing for National Super League teams. Kambale plays for Sports Club Villa, Mambo and Masumbuko play for Fire Masters.

Q. What have you achieved so far in sports?
A. I have not achieved so much but I know the good things will come. However, I have travelled to Rwanda Rwanda three times and once in Kenya where we played in different tournaments. So  I have toured. My mission for participating in sports is to become a celebrity and I have started to realise this because I am now known here in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.

Last year, Uganda hosted the sit ball  World Cup Competitions and we played with many teams from all over the world. The players for those teams now know me. I have got many friends, experience and also got a chance to interact with fellow persons with disabilities from other countries.

I also got a medal and three certificate for participating in different tournaments. In 1998 I was also voted the best smasher after a friendly sit ball match between Uganda and Rwanda.

Q. Last year Uganda hosted the World Cup for Sit ball and the Ugandan teams did not perform well. Why?
A. Uganda fielded three teams, two for men and one for women. The best men’s <leo_highlight leohighlights_underline=”true” leohighlights_url_bottom=”https%3A//” leohighlights_url_top=”https%3A//” leohighlights_keywords=”team”>team was 5th while the women were 2ndafter being beaten by Rwanda in the finals.

Rwanda also won in the men’s category. The morale in the Ugandan camp was very low because players had no money even for basic needs. The President promised us 100 million but it came several days after the tournament.

We even entered the pitch for our first game without jerseys and we had to be called out when they arrived at kick-off time. It was some of the players who went out to shop for the jerseys and so they were panicking and could not concentrate on the game.

Q. You are now training in Lugogo. What are you preparing for?
A. We are preparing to participate in the qualifiers for Olympics Games to take place in Rwanda in August 2011. The best teams will be selected to represent Africa in the Olympics Games to take place in London in 2012.

And we have a coach John Brosbase from England who wants to take eight talented women in sitting volleyball  to train them in England ahead of the qualifiers in Rwanda. He will also select 12 men and take them to England. I am working hard to be part of the people to go and train from England.

Q. What challenges have you faced in sports?
A. No major challenges apart from transport to go for training. We have no sponsors and everyone pays for him/her self. I have no job yet I have to pay transport everyday. And those who work find it a great challenge to leave their jobs and spend money to go for training where it will not be refunded. If we get a sponsor, everything will be okay because many players do not turn out for training because of the transport problem.

Q. What is the way forward?
A. I call upon Ugandans or companies to sponsor us. I also appeal to fellow players to behave well during the trainings, respect the coach and teammates. Focus on the future not the present or past. We have to sacrifice now to have a brighter future.

UNAPD members set for training in Denmark

Veronica Banaawa Mubiru and Margret Nanyombi have been selected to go to Denmark for a four-month Global Line course. The two were selected out of four members nominated by UNAPD to attend the course beginning in August 2011.

Every autumn since 2000, Disabled People’s Organisations Denmark (DPOD) and the school Egmont Højskolen have offered the Global Line course.

Banaawa has been doing voluntary work at the UNAPD secretariat for one year while Nanyombi is a business lady, a musician and a member of UNAPD.

Over ten members of UNAPD have benefitted from the course. They include Fred Kibira, James Makula, Alice Kutyamukama, Stephen Muhumuza, Julius Maganda, Irene Nabalamba, Irene Nabifuge, Rachel Mwima, Ivan Luyima, among others.

Many disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) from developing countries with which DPOD or DPOD member organisations are engaged in cooperation benefit from the course. Between 8 and 10 PWDs are invited every year to attend this 19-week course in Denmark.

The vision of the Global Line is to strengthen disabled people’s organisations in developing countries by raising the qualifications of their members. DPOD believes that this will improve the course participants’ involvement in their organisations at the national, regional and local level.

The course is intended to: provide each participant with tools for improving organisational work at the local, district or national level; gain broader understanding of democracy and how it can be implemented at the personal and organisational level.

Participants also learn about the rights, possibilities and responsibilities of people with disabilities including their participation in society. Their personal development and self-confidence are also strengthened.

UNAPD gets new project

UNAPD is set to implement a three-year Membership Empowerment Project after her partners approved the  proposal.

The partners to the project are Danish Handcap Forbund (DHF), Danish Brain Injury Association (DBIA) and the Disabled Sports Organisation Denmark (DSOD).

The Membership Empowerment project seeks to improve accessibility in schools, improve members’ economic livelihood and promote  participation of PWDs in social activities like sports.

It was noted that inaccessible school facilities is one of the major reasons why many children with disabilities don’t go to school or drop out . Therefore UNAPD seeks to address this challenge by advocating for improved accessibility in schools.

UNAPD will also promote ways of improving her members’ economic and social living conditions.

The project also seeks to promote disability sports and UNAPD will support members to form many sports teams and organise various disability sports competitions.

UNAPD was inspired to promote sports countrywide following success of many members who are playing for national teams like sitting volleyball, sit ball, cricket, table tennis, weight lifting and swimming.

It will be implemented in 12 districts that are yet to be selected. Three districts will be chosen from each of the four regions of Uganda.

PWDs recount VSLA sucess stories

GRACE MUNGURIEK is a mother of two: a thirteen-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old boy. She has been in VSLA for over three years. She has received and paid back several loans. She belongs to Cancewa group in Nebbi Town Council. The name of her group Cancewa means Poverty Awakened Me! She says no body can persuade her to quit her group.

“Before I joined VSLA, I was struggling to sell vegetables. I borrowed money and I moved on to sell silver fish, charcoal and ground nuts. I am happy because I make more money and I have been able to raise my two children. I meet all their needs and are both going to school.”

JEMA AYIYOWROTH is another hardworking and enterprising woman with disability. She does not want to waste any time. Before interviewing her for this story, she pleaded: CAN YOU TALK TO ME WHILE I GO ON WITH MY BUSINESS. I DON’T WANT TO LOSE ANY TIME!

She has borrowed and successfully paid back 10 times.  She last borrowed 250,000 near the end of 2010. She belongs to Binibil group also in Nebbi Town Council. Binibil means Come and Taste, apparently referring to tasting the sweetness of VSLA.  She says VSLA is her saviour.

“Jema is a mother of one boy Marvaras Mungolong who studies at Achara Primary School. She meets all her and her son’s needs like rent, feeding, clothing and paying school dues. Her son had been chased away from school for lack of a school uniform and she said she was going to buy it because she had the money.   She likes her group very much and does not think of quitting it because of the many benefits.

” I have just relocated to this place. Before, I was working from the market – selling silver fish but the taxes were too much. I recently borrowed money and started to bake and sell pancakes in addition to selling silver fish. I make much more profits in my new place and I don’t think of relocating unless when I am going for a bigger business. I wish to operate a kiosk in future “.

OLARKAR YOKINO: Olarker Yokino’s group Mer Pamungu in Nebbi subcounty is only three months old having been formed in 2011. He was attracted to join the group by his wife.

“My wife belongs to another group. I got so many benefits out of my wife’s savings and I also decided to join a similar group. I have not met any challenges in this group. Our group is new but I have been able to get a loan and expand my business”. Yokino is a fish monger. He also deals in buying and selling beans. He used the money to expand his businesses”.

GLADYS OYIKI is able bodied and owns a canoe used for fishing on River Nile. She makes a lot of money in her business and she is paying tuition fees for her son at Makerere University. She also has a grandson in senior six. She has been in the group for 5  years and said she would not have achieved much if it was not because of VSLA.

NGAMITA KUTANSIA has a physical disability and moves with the aid of a walking stick. But this did not deter fellow members to entrust her with the group’s money. She is their treasurer. She a mother of one child of seven years and she is able to look after him through her business of selling ground nuts. The group members have faith in God and are inspired by the name of their group, Mungu Bitimo. It means God will do everything.

BEATRICE AYERANGO was attracted to the group after seeing fellow women progressing because of their groups. She joined the group only two moths before and has so far got two loans of 20,000 and 15,000 shillings respectively. She buys and sells dry cassava.

Beatrice and Yokino’s group has nine persons with disabilities out of 30 members.

UNAPD members begin to benefit from VSLA

In 2009 Uganda National Action on Physical Disability implemented activities in Nebbi district aimed at mainstreaming persons with disabilities in the Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA). HAMAD LUBWAMA reports how VSLA has transformed people’s lives. For more information about VSLA, refer to the March-April, 2011 Edition of UNAPD newsletter in the newsletter section on the upper righthand side of the website’s front page.

What is VSLA?

VSLA are groups formed at village level for the purpose of improving members’ economic and social livelihood through saving and borrowing. Each group comprises of between 15-30 members of fairy the same financial status.
They choose an executive committee headed by a chairperson, secretary and a treasurer. Having a business is one of the major conditions to join a VSLA group. It also works on the principle of self selection where members freely join groups of their choice.

When the groups form, they go through seven trainings offered by a Community Based Trainer. Each member pays 1,000 for all the trainings. When they are ready to start saving, they buy a Cash Box at a cost of 75,000 from West Nile Private Sector.
Controlling fraud.

To avoid cases of cheating and robbery, they make a metallic Cash Box complete with three padlocks. The keys to each padlock are kept by three different designated group members and they all have to be present to open the Cash Box. The treasurer keeps only the Cash Box but not any of the keys.

Simple procedures

Each group meets once a week and each member is supposed to save a stipulated amount of money. Some groups save 500, 1000, or even 5000 per member depending on their financial status. They come with it at the meeting. When it accumulates, they start borrowing. Each member has a passbook where they record their weekly savings in form of stars.
Each star represents a fixed amount of money each group member saves per week. At any time, a member counts his/her number of stars to determine how much they have so far saved. Even the illiterate can do this. All members share their accumulated savings and interest at the end of each year.

Small loans, big changes

Most members borrow small loans as little as 10,000 but realize big changes in their petty businesses. The most common businesses are selling fish, cassava, beans, and rearing goats. Repayment of the loan and interest of between 5 to 20 per cent is made per week for a period not exceeding three months.
Each group has two money counters who receive money from members.
Apart from the mandatory savings, each group member contributes to the social fund. Members borrow this fund to solve emergence needs and social problems like sickness, paying school fees, buying household items, among others. Each member pays any amount of money he/she wishes at their convenience.