The limited opportunities for employment for women in Uganda was one of the inspirations behind Natasha founding the company. It is reflective of the economic situation in the country, and is reflected by the gratitude and passion of the artisans who have found sustainable, creative employment with Voice.
In the fourth Uganda in Five Women post we learn about Cathy Kisakye, and how she has overcome many challenges in her life to be able to unlock her true potential as a highly-skilled Voice artisan.
Eighty percent of women across Uganda rely on day-to-day informal labour to support their families, which makes saving difficult and access to resources and land limited. Like many women in Uganda, Cathy had the odds stacked against her. One of six children to a single mother, Cathy was unable to get into the school she needed to get a good education. Fortunately, she had an uncle who was able to help support her, but this meant leaving home to live with him and his family. The sacrifice paid off and Cathy qualified as an engineer and worked for her uncle. This was until she chose to have her son, Benja, and she had to choose between being an engineer and being a mother. There was no maternity policy or pay on offer, and so after Cathy gave birth she had to put her career on hold.
Women make vast and positive economic contributions to the Ugandan economy, however in many cases, the work they do goes unpaid or is restricted by their responsibilities as caregivers to family members.
One thing must be said for Cathy - she is a resourceful woman. Being a single mother, the responsibility to support her son lies solely on her shoulders, and so after she had Benja, Cathy enrolled into tailoring school. Despite being trained and highly skilled, Cathy struggled to find good work where she was able to use those skills. Then she met Tash and the other women at Voice International. Working for Voice has given Cathy the opportunity to develop her creative skills, while being paid a regular stable salary, enabling her to plan for the future, even during a global pandemic.
There was a 17% reduction in the number of women working during Uganda’s lockdown, and the impacts were seen even more in women with children. Fortunately for Cathy and the other women who work at Voice, they still received their monthly salaries during lockdown, which meant that they were able to focus on looking after their families without the fear of having to make contingency plans. Fear of not having a steady job or worrying about what you should do next is enough to hold anyone back from reaching their full potential, but Voice has been able to cut through that fear and has given Cathy the environment she needs to truly challenge and develop herself.
All the women at Voice have learnt to handcraft beautiful jewellery from scratch, and Cathy is a particularly talented artisan. She enjoys the challenges each new Voice collection brings, and is the in-house soldering expert. Her favourite Voice product to make are the Pinto studs: “First they challenged me [because they were] difficult to solder, but in the end, of course, I made them and they looked so beautiful. That made them my number one in the collection,” she says.
Cathy’s dream is to continue working for Voice and to develop her artisanal skills, as well as those of other women. Much like Regina and Fede, Cathy also one day wants to own her own land, land that her son can inherit from her. Cathy is a beautiful and caring woman and her love for her Voice sisters is evident. Her aura of quiet determination, together with the opportunities she has at Voice, has enabled Cathy to exceed her potential as an incredibly talented artist, devoted mother and loving sister.