The Union of Jewish Women of Uganda represents the women of the Abayudaya tribe in the villages of Putti and Nasenyi in Eastern Uganda in East Africa. Their community, the Kahal Kadosh Shearit Yisrael, has been practicing Judaism with assistance from the American Jewish community. However, during the presidency of Idi Amin, Judaism was outlawed and the Abayudaya were oppressed. Today their community numbers only 200 people and they chose the name “Shearit Yisrael”, meaning remnant of Israel, as a statement of their resilience.
The women’s Union is led by Hadassah Nakiza Waluntu (president), Elisheva Kisakye (treasurer) and Ruth Msoo Ngugi (secretary), along with other four board members who form the executive. Their priority is to help the women to gain economic independence through better employment opportunities. They have set up craft workshops to teach traditional designs for kippot, jewellery and challah cloths, which they plan to sell online and overseas in order to develop a more reliable and independent income stream. They also run conferences about issues affecting women and girls, including what can be done to end early child marriage, which is so rampant in Uganda, and how to prevent dangerous infections and diseases that affect women.
The goal of UJW-Uganda is to help women recognise their responsibilities and rights so that they can live happily and religiously. They are keen to make connections between their small community and larger Jewish communities in South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, the USA, Canada and Israel, in order to strengthen their community and build Jewish families.