Esente zokuka meeza is a local euphemism for the money a man leaves at home every day, for household purchases. Back in the day, men were the only bread winners and every time they left home to fend for their families, they would give their wives money to take care of the necessities at home.
Now that the tables turned and women started working, the kameza phenomenon is seemingly phasing out.
This arrangement invokes varying opinions among the populace. On one hand, there are those who support it because it is the ideal partnership according to our cultural and religious beliefs. They argue that it allows the division of roles, with the wife being a home manager, while the husband shoulders all financial responsibility.
Is it necessary?
On another hand is a school of thought that believes the kameza arrangement undermines women’s rights to have access to jobs and careers outside the home setting and thus do not think this money is necessary.
Another category believes the man should provide for the family whether the wife is gainfully employed or not. With the cost of living increasing daily, most families cannot afford to live on a single income, so mothers have to find a way of contributing to the development of their homes financially.
Angela Mayanja, a mother and wife believes there is a way to strike a balance; a man should avail the kameza money and the wife should not mismanage it. “There are many reasons a woman decides to become a housewife but staying home does not mean you should not be productive.
Many women desire to contribute financially to their families, but they do not have the income or their husbands will not let them go to work. Yet they can put to better the money they receive everyday from their husbands,” Mayanja shares.
Mayanja says she started a grocery shop in 2004 using capital she had saved from her kameza money. She decided to quit her job after coming home one day, only to find that her housemaid had abandoned her children at home.
“I came back home at 9pm and found my babies looking for a light switch. My neighbours said they had been alone the whole afternoon since they had last seen the maid at around 2pm, when she told them she was going to buy onions from the market.
Anything could have happened to them but thank God who protected them. After recovering from the shock of what had just happened, my husband asked me to stay home and take care of our children,” she relates.
But the one income was not sufficient, the family was expanding and they had dreams of living a better life. “I started saving Shs5,000 daily from the money my husband gave me. I learned some tricks that would make it last; for instance I would make a light meal for lunch and save the big one for dinner. I also trimmed my hair to save the money because I realised I was spending much on it,” she recounts.
When she had saved Shs1m, Mayanja informed her husband that she was going to start a “supermarket”. After identifying a space, she paid three months’ rent, bought shelves and added a fresh coat of paint to the walls. “I was left with Shs150,000 with which to buy stock. I went to Kikubo-downtown, where I bought a few packets of curry powder, Riham sodas, a few bars of soap, some few, brooms, books small tins of Blue Band and shoe polish.
The day I opened, some people laughed at me for having arranged the shop like a supermarket yet the groceries I had could not even fill half a shelf,” she recalls.
However, Mayanja was determined to see her dream come true and was rewarded by making Shs6,000 on the first day and Shs7,000 on the second day. Since the shop was near her home, she could do house chores and tend to the shop at the same time.
However, the going was slow and the profit less than what she had expected, which challenged her patience. “There were days when I almost gave up. I would look at my “supermarket” and think I deserved better as a university graduate. But as a Christian, I knew this was pride,” Mayanja recollect. Her good customer care soon got her loyal customers and soon she started expanding.
“When my husband realised I was determined, he bought me a deep freezer which enabled me to stock the kind of commodities that sell faster and give more profit. I am happy to say that my persistence paid off. I was able to save enough to buy a nearby plot of land where I hope to build my supermarket soon,” she says.
Charity Mukasa, another housewife, has a thriving business, she started with kameza money too. Mukasa, a former marketing consultant decided to stay home, after failing to get a baby sitter she could trust. “My husband hated househelps. Before I quit my formal job, I would make sure I was home whenever he was so that he did not have to interact with the househelp. When I began to feel the need to earn my own income, there was no way I would tell him about it,” she shares.
Instead Mukasa started saving money from the kameza which she invested in making snacks from home, whenever her husband was away at work. She would give the supplies to a boda boda rider to deliver to shops and supermarkets nearby.
“I collect payments on Saturday, the day I normally do my shopping for the home. I am making more money this way than I earned at work. I am happy, he is happy and I am able to do many things for the family that we could not afford to do before. Whenever he asks how I could afford to do them, I tell him I have been saving kameza money. There are many income generating activities one can do from home without interrupting the schedule,” Mukasa notes.
To give or not to give kameza
Ambrose Kibuuka, a husband and father believes kameza money is important as it facilitates the smooth running of a home. “However, lately it has been abused by gold diggers; this money should be spent on the home not buying dresses and changing hairstyles everyday. Also kameza money should be given by any partner who is earning regardless of gender. If a woman has money, she should be seen to supplement the home budget since this is a generation of ‘equality’. If women want to enjoy equal rights, they should also be ready to share financial responsibilities with men. The belief that a man has an obligation to provide while the wife should just sit around waiting for him is very regrettable,” Kibuuka argues.