Italian national on mission to empower vulnerable people

Wednesday January 22 2020

Members of the group during a tailoring lesson under the supervision of Ms D'Amico. PHOTO BY POLYCAP KALOKWERA

GULU- Although she is a graduate of ethno-anthropological disciplines at a university in Rome, Ms Giuseppina D'Amico has devoted herself to teach and empower vulnerable women in Africa.

“This is because I am so obsessed with a passion to teach and empower vulnerable women; I feel art, and craft is the best form for them to earn an income with or without somebody by their side,” she says.

Ms D’Amico’s love for Africa dates back to childhood myths about African cultures which were depicted as primitive.

Being an anthropologist, Ms D’Amico says, she needed to find out more about the African societies.

She travelled to Zambia in 2007.

“I first came as volunteer with Italian Alay Missionary Association and served as a project manager where I reorganised the structure of vulnerable schools in Zambia from 2007 to 2012,” Ms D’Amico said in an interview.


She often found herself teaching life skills to children and women.

She has been able to embrace the career todate.

“African art and craft won my soul and this prompted me to embrace it at first sight,” she says.

She says that that embracing African arts and crafts is a genesis of sustainable development and a path to defeat abject poverty.

She was born on April 4, 1984 to Mr Antonio D'Amico and Ms Donatina De Cicco in Campobasso, Molise region, Monacilioni town, Italy.  

Her brother is Francesco D'Amico.

Ms D’Amico said she pursued a post-graduate master’s degree in International Development Cooperation and Project Design in 2014, specifically to be equipped with project skills and expertise to render her service with difference.

After her graduates studies, she was in charge of donations to Africa under the Italian Alay Missionary Association.

“I didn’t enjoy the job for two years and kept praying to be posted to the field instead. I felt I was being cheated with office work and feedbacks because I belong to field forging solutions and teaching people to be self-assertive rather than being spoon fed,” she said.


The gallery where items that are made by members are sold. PHOTO BY POLYCAP KALOKWERA


Her dream

Ms D’Amico dream came true when she was posted to Uganda on January  2016 and head Wawoto Kacel Cooperative Society Ltd in Gulu.

“I can’t literally express the joy I had that day upon receiving the appointment letter to work with women positively living with HIV/Aids,” she says. “At Wawoto Kacel, we believe in creating, inspiring, empowering and unlocking women potential through art and crafts and it has continuously worked for us.”

 Ms D’Amico says that the mission and strategy of the society are her driving force saying it urges her to give back dignity through work to people living in deep poverty and social ostracism because of HIV/Aids stigmatization, handicaps or other conditions of vulnerability.

 She has since trained women to produce unique hand-dyed and hand-woven materials using different methods and design bags, table mats, table clothes, scarves, blankets, laptop cases, pencil cases, purses, dolls, dresses, kitchen, bathroom mats among other items.

“The beautiful jewellery this women are making out of recycled paper and newspapers is sold on the global market,” she said. “When you look at the quality, reliability, and innovation with peculiarity applied to the sweaters, uniforms and all kind of logos for schools, you won’t believe these uneducated women are the ones making them.”  


Ms D’Amico said she has created a a miicro credit company that empowers women to access micro loans to a tune of Shs300,000 per member which are payable after one year with a five percent interest.

“We realised that members had diverged challenges that needed to be solved internally as another form of economic empowerment,” she said. “In few years, the good results obtained both in terms of positive impact on the health of the members and of good economical outcomes,” she said. “This has attracted many people to join the cooperative and the social base of the society has become larger to include other vulnerable categories like those who are sick and war survivors.”

 The hurdles

Ms D’Amico acknowledge that she has not been spared by challenges like language barrier which she, however, battles to communicate effectively with members who cannot communicate in  English.

“I use the little Luo I know spicing it with English but still others don’t get what I am communicating,” she said.

 “I am being taught the Luo language by the women and I feel excited to learn from them too,” she says.

Wawoto Kacel Cooperative society’s assistant manager, Ms Immaculate Adong said Ms D’Amico is a sister, a mother, a friend, a needy in pursuit and a person with vision for the poor.

 “She has mentored me to be a leader of difference and always overcome risk undertaken without fear,” she said.

Ms Doreen Akech, 38, a member of the society, said Ms D’Amico is a person every woman deserves to have by her side because of her ability to teach, inspire and counsel.

“She understand your problems basing on how you feel not how she feels about it and when she counsels you, her words soften your heart,” she says. 

The society’s embroidery instructor, Mr Tonny Orach, said she is a hardworking, creative, and flexible manager.

“Her problem solving ability besides teaching arts and craft is phenomenal,” he said.