Last week, three visitors from the George W. Bush Institute stopped by the Sseko workshop to film part of a video for the African First Ladies Summit in Washington, D.C.
A few women recorded interviews for the video, and others had the opportunity to sing a few songs, providing background music for the film. While the media team were busy interviewing the ladies, we asked Jenifer, one of our veteran employees and an aspiring journalist, to turn the tables and interview one of them. Here’s her story:
I am Jenifer. I joined Sseko in 2013 and I worked as production professional in design team (accessories). I joined Sseko because I wanted to earn a living and support my family. I came from Northern Uganda in the district of Kitgum where my parents are from.
It was a wonderful day that we received visitors from the U.S. to Uganda from the George W. Bush Institute. There are only few places they visited, one was Sseko Designs. They were able to meet some of the individuals, where they did the introductions and their main aim of their visit [a video]. Among others they were able to meet with me because I would also like to become a journalist with time. I was able to meet with Rachel, among the people who came.
Adoch Jenifer: What’s your name?
Rachel Tatro: My name is Rachel Tatro, and I am a communications manager at the George W. Bush Institute.
AJ: How long has this organization of yours been?
RT: We started the Institute in 2009 after President Bush left office, and we focus on several areas and one of those areas is women’s health and global empowerment for women.
AJ: Who was the founder?
RT: George W. Bush.
AJ: He founded and then he left [office] after, or then he founded when he was not the president?
RT: He founded the institute after he left the presidency.
AJ: So basically I ask you, Rachel, what work do you do in this organization?
RT: So I work for our external affairs team, which means that I do marketing and communications for the Bush Institute. And that includes all of our programs. We have six areas of engagement, we focus on education reform in the United States, we focus on economic growth in the United States, and we focus on a military service initiative where we help veterans and wounded service members. We have a women’s initiative, and then we have a global health initiative.
AJ: So now, as in, your organization, have you extended in Africa, or your main business is in U.S.?
RT: Our women’s initiative and our global health programs are mainly based in Africa and a little bit in the Middle East. We have a women’s initiative fellowship where we brought two classes of fellows from Egypt the past two years, and then we had a class of Tunisian women this past year who came over to the U.S. and started a training program, and then they went back to their countries to implement it into their business plans. We also have the First Ladies Initiative, which mainly focuses on African first ladies and how they can influence and empower women in their country. And then we also have our global health program, which focuses on cervical cancer screening, treatment, and prevention in Africa. And we’re in- right now we’re in three countries, for that program, it’s called Pink Ribbon, Red Ribbon, and we’re in Zambia, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
AJ: Now like, from U.S., the main office, how many workers are there?
RT: We’re based in Dallas, Texas, and we have about 85 employees.
AJ: So those people, do you send them out, like you have sent people to Uganda, or they are mainly just in the office there?
RT: We are mainly in Dallas. That’s- all of our full-time staff is based in Dallas, but we all travel quite a bit; to Africa and to other U.S. cities, we go to New York and Washington, D.C.
AJ: You as Rachel, what advantage have you taken out of this company?
RT: Well, this job has been really a blessing and it has allowed me to learn so much and be able to do so much, like come here to Uganda, that I would have never been able to do.
AJ: So was it your first time to come in Uganda?
RT: Yes. This was my first time to Uganda.
AJ: I think you’ve enjoyed?
RT: I have. It’s beautiful here. I love it.
AJ: What good thing have you seen of Uganda? Because you know, sometimes people in U.S. they think that Africa is still remote and so, you as Rachel, you’ve taken a chance to come here. What good thing have you got, and how much have you taken?
RT: So, aside from the fact that everyone we’ve met in Uganda has been so kind and warm to us, and welcomed us with open arms, aside from that- You know, I think that you’re right. A lot of Americans maybe see- when they think of Africa, they maybe see a rural woman in a village. They think about women living very traditional, rural lifestyles. But there’s also cities, and there’s women who live and work in cities just like you all do. So I think that that’s- it’s been really incredible for me to see…the other side of it.
AJ: So now, how did you learn about Sseko, and why are you in Sseko here?
RT: So we learned about Sseko- our women’s initiative director, Charity Wallace, was here two or three weeks ago, and she visited Sseko. And she learned about the program, and how- especially in Uganda- how they employ women and help women get jobs. So they came to visit, and they were impressed by it, and we are making a film for the African First Ladies Summit, that is in Washington, D.C., and it is hosted by Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Obama, and many of the African First Ladies are coming to that. We have some films we will be showing during the summit, and this will be part of the film.
AJ: So now, like, in Uganda, how many organizations are you going to visit, or you have just selected Sseko?
RT: So we visited several. We did an interview with Mrs. Museveni, the First Lady.
RT: Yes. Janet Museveni, we did an interview with her on Monday. And we visited with beneficiaries from Opportunity Bank, Heifer [International] and today, we’re going to [another] site, it’s a children’s village, an orphanage. We’re going there later today, and then we leave tomorrow.
AJ: Tomorrow you’re going back to U.S.?
RT: It’s unclear. We’re- I’m not sure if I’m going back to the U.S., or…
AJ: Because you move as a group. You’re moving as a group, isn’t it?
RT: Yes. So I will probably go back to the U.S. tomorrow, or go to Tanzania. We’re still waiting to hear from the Tanzanian groups, but the filmmakers, they will probably go work for a little while. They’ll go somewhere close by, maybe Dubai or something like that, and then they’ll come back because we have appointments in Zambia and Namibia in about a week and a half, so it doesn’t make any sense for them to fly all the way back and then come back.
AJ: Also, you’ve taken your time to see Sseko. What do you think you have learned from Sseko?
RT: I have learned that there are some very incredibly hard-working and fun women here at Sseko, with beautiful voices.
AJ: Thank you.
RT: So yes. It’s been a real privilege to be here and meet you all, and thank you for letting us take over your workshop for a day.
AJ: So thank you very much.
RT: Thank you!
In addition to the interview, I was also in the videos of the gospel music with the CLA girls [University Bound] from Cornerstone and other co-workers.
In conclusion Sseko is a big company that deals in making shoes for the ladies and mostly employs ladies to operate the machines. And I think that’s the major reasons why the visitors came to see.