The influence of Uganda on Voice is clear through the designs, the materials used to create the jewellery, and the women who make the jewellery. Each artisan brings their history, their story and their dreams to each piece of jewellery they make, and through that their love of Uganda is shared. In this series, we talk to five women about the influence of this beautiful country on Voice.
In the second post in the series we speak to Regina Bukira who, a mother of three daughters and a passionate and skilled artisan.
Uganda has always been home for Regina, it is where she was born and raised, and where she gave birth to her three daughters. She describes it as a good country, full of “mountains, rivers and lakes, lakes, parks and animals”. While there is beauty and joy to be found in Uganda, Regina tells us there is also a lack of opportunity when it comes to employment.
There are around 22.6 million women in Uganda, fifty percent of the country's population, and of that 2.8 million are of working age (between 16 and 64). Compared to Western countries the unemployment rate of women is actually low - 1.8% compared to 3.6% in the UK and the US. However, those fortunate to have found work often struggle to find work that is consistent, permanent, and pays a fair wage for working in fair working conditions.
Regina has struggled with this lack of opportunity all of her life, and it has proved a driving force for her to seek ways to provide her family. Before Voice, Regina studied cooking and worked in restaurants in Kampala, but working in the city proved incompatible with raising a family. Alongside raising her daughters Regina started her own businesses cooking and styling hair in her village. While bringing in some money, this type of employment offered Regina no stability or guarantee of work. In comparison, through Voice Regina now receives a regular wage from guaranteed work, and is part of a creative social enterprise that empowers women through creative employment, founded in community.
Regina’s story is one of Voice’s empowerment cycle in action. Like all of Voice’s artisans, Regina makes products with skill, passion and love. Each of the artisans learns to make every product, but they have developed their own specialist skills. Regina is Voice’s core sewer, and she’s also the best at intricate wire work, and so is chief assembler. Her favourite product to make is the timeless silver necklace, which involves cutting and hammering metal, as well as assembling the dainty bar and chain. When asked what she would say to someone buying one of the Voice products she has assembled, Regina’s answer is simple: “We are the women who started this to empower others.”
Working for Voice has given Regina creative skills she wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. Prior to Voice, she had little opportunity in terms of work that she could do alongside raising her family. Now she is a skilled artisan, and earns enough money to pay her children’s school fees, pay their medical bills and provide food for them.
Importantly for Regina, Voice does more than just support her. Regina’s dreams have grown from seeing her daughters Pam, Anita and Chloe educated in Uganda at a good school, to believing that they will achieve their own dreams. “My first priority was to see my girls educated: now my girls have dreams too,” she says. “I wished for them to have a good education so that they can make their dreams come true. One wants to be a chef, one wants to be a doctor and the other wants to be a teacher and a dancer.”
This demonstrates so clearly the impact of Voice’s empowerment cycle. Voice exists to create opportunity where there previously wasn’t, enabling people like Regina to thrive in the country they love. Not only are Regina and her family able to break the cycle of poverty in their lives, but they are able to dream bigger.
Her three daughters have big dreams, and Regina is able to dream bigger too: “Working at Voice taught me to save to make my dreams come true,” she says. She now dreams of buying land where she can build a house for her and her daughters, a dream she only started to believe could be possible because of Voice.