Juliet Acom shares her grandmother's wisdom with the world.
“Informal education is wealth.”
When I look back at my childhood, I realize the short holiday visits to my grandma's home in the TESO region of eastern Uganda made me who I am today.
To some, it may seem a far-fetched story that the lessons my illiterate grandmother taught me have allowed me to empower women and communities and contribute to international development goals. And yet, I am sure any child who had a chance to live in a typical rural Ugandan household can relate.
I share with you just some of my grandmother’s many words wisdom:
Environmental Conservation: Whenever you eat a fruit from a tree that grows big enough to give shade, carry the seed along with you. When you come to a place without a similar tree, put it in the soil so that the people and animals there can have similar fruit and shade. To date I find myself carrying random seeds from my travels to try and plant them, for my grandmother would tell me this whenever I would eat a mango or tamarind.
Menstrual Health: When my grandma found out that I had become woman, she said, in her own words, "Juliet, you are now a woman, no human being or animal should ever see your sanitary towels. Do not discard them anywhere lest a dog sniff them, and you will never have children!” (As an 11-year-old, I thought she was being literal. Only years later did she tell me that it was for my own good.) She said, “It is now important to bathe twice a day, and if there is ever a scenario where this is impossible, reserve water to drink and wash your women's parts and your under clothes."
Food for All: Never go to bed belching while the person next door is starving. If they are too proud to take handouts, propose to them to cultivate your garden in exchange for food or money. And while they cultivate your garden join in! Otherwise God will reduce your blessings.
Economic Empowerment: A woman does not need only fancy clothes, jewelry, good food, and a rich husband to make it in life. She needs to read all the books, to save money, to join a savings group, to learn a skill, to volunteer at a home for the needy, and most of all to listen to her grandmother! Many times when my parents were faced with financial challenges especially concerning school fees or medical bills, my grandma would sell off her goats and some of her farm produce to support them. When each of my cousins was getting married, she offered them a cow so there children could always have milk.
Water and Sanitation: Do not urinate or dump waste near a water source, lest you use your own urine to cook. And if you find rubbish near the water source, do not be embarrassed to pick it up and dump it far away. And when you hear of community activities to clean the village, be the first to show up at the meeting point.
Education: A person who has worked at something for a number of years is better than you, before you start it seek their advice; if they are unwilling to give it, pay attention to them as they go about their business. Do not stare, instead observe respectfully and learn. If they do not want you around them, go to the one who taught them, if they can not be found. Seek divine intervention! In her own words: “You cannot solve a problem that you do not have.”
Conflict Resolution: Never take sides with someone who is clearly in the wrong: the tears of the oppressed are why many once affluent persons die a painful death (according to my grand mom they end up with all sorts of crazy diseases if corruption doesn't catch up with them first).
Community Development: God does not bless you with knowledge, skill, or resources for you to hoard. The selfless share these blessings with those who are less fortunate. When you share, your heart will always be in a happy place.
My grandma and I are still walking this educational journey, and so, these lessons are not yet a complete list. I cherish the time I spend with her each day, for she is proof that informal education is wealth, and that there is richness in our stories and our wisdom as women.
This story was published as part of the #WealthofWomen event and the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.