From a young age, Ruth exhibited the same qualities as her mother. At the age of 18, she left a polygamist marriage to an older man and his four other wives, mirroring her mother’s same actions less than 20 years earlier. She took her two children with her and eventually remarried to a man named Saiz Nandala, with whom she had seven more children.
“I am very happy because I am the only sweetheart,” Ruth says. “Good love cannot be shared.”
EXPORTS TO SOUTH SUDAN
As the sole wife, Ruth felt a duty to provide for her children alongside her husband. In 2012, she started her career as a businesswoman by exporting vegetables and bottled water to South Sudan. In the subsequent year, Ruth traveled through northern Ugandan to the border twice and used the profits to fund her eldest daughter Haga’s education. The conditions were treacherous and contributed to Ruth’s decision to stop the trips.
“Yes [the state split] affected us, most of [the people who exported] even lost their lives,” Ruth says. “They ambush you and they kill you and they take all the money.”
In addition to the dangerous nature of the job, Ruth decided to stop exporting because she became pregnant with twins. Shalom and Shamma were born in July 2013, and motivated Ruth to open her own local business. Through the 1000 Shillings business grant, Ruth has been able to leave her dangerous export job behind to open a local business in Namatala.
FIRST FLOUR, THEN SOAP
Ruth’s vegetable exporting business in 2012 gave her transferable experience for her new venture. She is approaching her new business, a small shop in a logical and strategic way by purchasing and stocking her shop with the cheapest items first before moving onto goods that require a higher investment.
“I am first buying maize flour, then rice, then soap,” Ruth says.
Namabasa, where her shop is located, is far from the heart of Namatala and its popular markets, but the decreased competition combined with Ruth’s skills have helped her start a prosperous business. Through exporting, Ruth learned the basics of customer satisfaction. She believes her business will be successful because of her excellent customer service and welcoming attitude.
She also learned the importance of saving money. Eventually, her savings will enable her to put all of her children through school. As the 1000 Shillings business classes supplement Ruth’s wealth of knowledge, supporting her family and improving their lifestyle will become easier and easier for the firm, but loving woman.
Thirty years ago when Ruth was growing up in Mbale, the city looked very different from the crowded, boda-filled streets that exist today. Ruth is 41 years old, and as an older 1000 Shillings women and one of the rare Mbale natives, she saw the city before it was developed, when it was just fields and forests like the outlying villages now. At the time, there was only one school rather than the many that exist now, and children generally did not attend class regularly. Ruth attended up to grade six in primary school, or the equivalent of sixth grade. She’s lived all over Mbale, from Namakwekwe to Musoto to Namabasa, her current home.