Boda boda riding is largely considered a male dominated field but it is where Annet Matama, a 35-year-old resident of Buwaji, Nawanyago subcounty in Kamuli district found solace.
In the mid-day hustle and bustle of Busoga’s cosmopolitan city, Matama, a former crime preventer, stands tall as she plies her trade which she says has helped transform her life.
Born to late Patrick Balaba and Monic Namuswa, the third born in the family seven dropped out of school in Senior Four for lack of school fees. She joined former Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura’s loose security outfit (crime preventers) in 2010 and was at the forefront of manning the 2011 general elections.
“We manned the poll and we were paid Shs330,000 as the salary for the whole exercise,” Matama says. She says they (crime preventers) were promised government jobs but upon competition of the election exercise, they were ordered to return police uniforms and wait to hear from government. They are still waiting to date.
Matama used the Shs330,000 salary she got from her service as a crime preventer to start vending old clothes (mivumba).
“I used to move in different markets in Kamuli, Jinja and sometimes in Buyende,” she says. A few months later, Matama tried her luck in agriculture following advice from a friend. She started growing tomatoes and cabbage and was making a killing until the weather vagaries came back to roast.
“I quit farming after a dry spell subjected me to losses,” she says. The tomato loss pushed her to the then Jinja Municipality where she obtained a street parking collection job from the Jinja municipal council.
“I think this is the worst job on earth. We were being paid percentages depending on one’s collection for the day. If you collect Shs20,000, you are given Shs2,000. This wasn’t enough to cater for me a single mother of two children,” she says.
Becoming an askari
Unwilling to go back to the village, Matama later secured a job as a security guard in a certain company. She says her pay was Shs500,000 subject to statutory deductions.
“I saved and bought a “mate” and later a second-hand Bajaj boxer motorcycle which occasionally broke down and made me spend a lot of time in the garage. Matama says that although the salary in the company was quite good, she got tired of working at night and decided to venture into boda boda business.
“What exacerbated the situation was that my boss had started making advances on me. I could not yield to his advances because he was sleeping with my friends at work. In December 2021, I decided to withdraw my savings and got a brand-new Bajaj boxer on a loan after depositing Shs900,000,” she says.
Matama says she earns about Shs30,000 daily but is challenged by some customers who express surprise upon noticing that she is a woman. She says she has all the necessary requirements and abides by traffic police rules and regulations.
Matama says she now owns a plot of land in town and four other motorcycles that are bringing in money on daily basis. “In a space of two years, I am an employer,” Matama says, adding that she never allows to be diverted by men who yearn for love from her.
Rallying other women
Matama has used several platforms to mobilize fellow women and some of them have heeded to her call. Together, they have formed an association known as; “Ladies Bodaboda Association” whose current membership now stands at 100 women from different parts ready to ride bodabodas for money.
“We got a donor who promised us above 20 motorcycles on loan but free deposit. It’s fairly paid monthly for a period of 18 months and one becomes the owner,” she noted.
She said they so far have two recognized stages in Jinja city; Alidina and Nile Avenue Ladies Bodaboda stages. Matama, the association chair, calls upon government and other relief bodies to aid them with more motorcycles as a way of empowering women.
“I hear President Yoweri Museveni donating money to musicians, “malwa” groups, youths and others that would even have no impact. Let him look at this association that is going to cause change in the lives of women in Busoga,” she said.
The association shall comprise of SACCOS where those that can’t ride will employ people to get them money for savings. This, according to Matama, will help transform the lives of women.