Profile Of Ms Betty Kafuko - An HIV/AIDS activist
HIV/AIDS has claimed many lives in Uganda since the early 80s and it continues to be a leading cause of adult disease and death in Uganda.
Ms. Betty Kafuko, A Programme Officer HIV/AIDS at Build Africa Uganda, has worked in the field of HIV/AIDS for 12 years. The longer she has been in this field, the more passion she has. She is an activist, one of the most committed Ugandans in the fight against this epidemic.
Betty grew up a quiet girl, fought to do right always and did not get punished while in secondary school. She was the best female student in her high school, which earned her a government sponsorship to Makerere University.
She also appreciates her high school – St. James Senior Secondary School Jinja – for not expelling pregnant girls from school. When a girl was found pregnant, she was allowed to continue studying while at home (by getting notes from friends and only going to school to do examinations). The late Mr. Krup, who was the Head Teacher of the school defended the pregnant girls because he realized that many girls have gone out of school because of pregnancy issues therefore it was not wise to chase them from school. “If we do not chase the boys who impregnant the girls, why chase the girls?” he would say.
“My mother is my hero. She is my best friend, we share so many things including clothes. We are good friends.” Betty says. And she is also a mother who disciplines her children.
“My Mom knows me, psychologically my mother knows my mood, my programmes, my likes and everything about me,” says Betty.
Some parents do not have the parental skills, they do not have close relationships with their children but my mother is one who gives attention to her children.
Betty’s mother has run a restaurant for 24 years now, since Betty was only eight. Having been born from a polygamous family, Betty has over 15 step brothers and sisters but from her mother’s side, they are only two, a girl and a boy. One thing that her dad emphasised is love for each other and in their family if you are not told you can not know that these are step brother or sisters. She talks about her brother who support her all times, love her so much and want to see her happy twenty-four-seven.
Betty and her brother and her cousins work in their mother’s restaurant up-to-date. She says that she began serving food in her mother’s restaurant from 1987 when the restaurant was opened up-to-date. It is through this business they got school fees including her five cousins whose parents died when they were still young.
“We would utilize the lunch time to serve people in our restaurant and then go back to school after lunch, people in the restaurant would wonder where the net-tied waiters disappeared,” Betty says, laughing.
Betty says she is not ashamed to serve people in the mum's restaurant even today because that is good work.
Betty’s advice to people is that they should not minimize any work they do because when you start small, you grow big.
A baby girl who wanted to be a town clerk as a toddler later developed another dream of counseling at an early age. As a pupil, she used to have examination fevers, she always wanted to be the best in her class at all cost therefore she would panic during examinations. She got a good counselor from AIDS Information Center who counseled her until the fever was no more. It is at this point that she realized counseling is a way of shaping lives and therefore she could help other people with various problems work their way through them.
With courage and simplicity, Betty says the most important thing in counseling people living with HIV/AIDS, teenagers and the married couples is understanding them, giving them respect and time, these help them open up and share their thoughts and ideas. Having served in AIDS Information Center Jinja for ten years, Betty dealt with teenagers who sought different services from the center.
Betty loved her job with passion, her childhood dream, of being a counselor. She was more of a mother to the teenagers who nicknamed her “Mummy”.
Talking of her background, Betty is one of the few highly educated young females in Uganda with a master's degree in Public Policy and Management. She has a bachelor's degree in Social Sciences, with a diploma in Community Health and various certificates in the field of HIV/AIDS.
Speaking on HIV/AIDS, Betty says women suffer a great deal if their partners turn out to be HIV/AIDS free and they are infected.
Men are favored by communities when they infect their wives with HIV/AIDS while women tend to be condemned and in many cases their husbands can mistreatment, beat or murder them.
She worked with Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme (URDT) in Kibale, where she learned issues concerning gender and land, Betty says most grassroots women do not know what land titles look like, she got the exposure in an interact with women from URDT where she worked as an Assistant Gender and HIV/AIDS Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for twelve months.
Betty’s advice to mothers in Uganda and around the world is that they should work hard to educate their children. It is through commitment that we can achieve great things. She also adds that parents should teach their children to work, get involved in home responsibilities so that they can grow up responsible people. Children will understand their parent’s conditions only when they are in a close relationship, she says parents who say their children do not understand them are those who do not involve their children in what they do.
“We all have a role to play in the HIV/AIDS struggle, the changes we want start with us because everyone is a role model to someone else therefore stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS begins with you,” Betty concluded.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard from corners of the world.