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Archive for August, 2011

The recent   press reports of ethnic clashes   in South Sudan over cattle  and other resources  indicate that South Sudan is still  far away from attaining peace and stability  after gaining its independence in July 2011. The situation remains worse especially for women and children because they are the most affected. According to IPS Gender Wire, an online news agency thousands of women and children are being abducted and over 1,000 people have died this year.

The future of these young girls like these ones is at stake

The conflict is being attributed to the easy availability of arms and cultural norms that portray the ownership of cattle and women as a sign of success.

Last year I was in Juba for the training of health workers and these reports confirms the discussions we had during the training. The health workers from Central Equatorial State  informed us  that  in some cultures, young girls are booked for marriage and the man who pays the highest number of cows takes the girl. In otherwords, marriage process is like a marketplace where girls are auctioned and the highest bidder takes her. As a women’s rights activist, I find this very disturbing. How long will this go on? When will the men realize that God created man and woman to support and complement each other.

While some countries seem to have made some strides in towards achieving gender equality and other MDGs, the story is different in post conflict South Sudan. As a result of instability, the women of Southern Sudan missed out on all the developments and benefits of and within the women’s movement world wide.

Women are still regarded as men properties and that is why men have to go out of their way to acquire such property and hence cattle rustling and the ethnic clashes. The situation is worsened by the cultural and traditional beliefs and practices in South Sudan which put men in a superior position and regard women as inferiors.

Therefore with  the ushering in of  new state, the women of South Sudan  require a lot of support from  both the Government of  South Sudan and the entire world women’s movement to enable them  catch up on what they missed and  demand for their rights and dignity as human being.

Loyce dancing with women at Lobonok

Faces of S.Sudan women

Faces of Resilience

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Brenda from Kubatana explaining to us how to use blogs and wikis

It  was  in 2005 that I attended  the Women’s Electronic Networking Training(WENT) organized by Association for Progressive Communication (APC) in Kampala. This was a time when I had just Isis-WICCE a women’s organization. The training focused on use of free and open source software (FOSS) by NGOs. The training had two tracks. One for the technical people  and the other one for non-techies. For non-techies where I was mainly  focused on blogs and wikis.

To me,  it was a very enriching experience. What first surprised me was the fact that I could see what transpired on the first day of the training on internet. I  read facilitators experiences and reflections on the first day and  asked myself   how have  they managed to put that information on internet so quickly. While at  University, I had learnt something about   website designing using HTML TAGS and it was cumbersome and it needed a lot of time and I kept wondering how they managed to publish content on line so first.

On the second day, we were introduced to blogging and specifically on how to use blogger. Things were not easy at first because it was the first time learning this. At the end of the training I managed to create a blog

I came from the training with the fire, enthusiasm and energy willing to learn more about blogs and I continuously consulted friends whom I met during the training.

Loyce after receiving her certificate of training

Blogging needs you to be a communicator and a writer, a skill which I lacked and my blogs  remained empty  for a while.  I also learnt how to use  wikis, by then facebook was not yet there. If it was there, then , the facilitators  would have talked about it.

In all this, I had a passion and commitment to learn the new tools and that is what kept me alert and wanting to learn more.

In 2006, I saw a call for facilitation on use of online networking andinformation sharing tools(wikis and Blogs) during a workshop organized by Kenya Library Association in Kampala on documenting the World Social Forum. I expressed the interest   and I was given an opportunity to facilitate. By then, I did not have very good knowledge about the   blogs and wikis so I had to do an extensive online research, consulted friends and in the process I ended up learning more. I did prepare and presented my session very well.

Having facilitated that, I was invited by UNICEF to facilitate the same session during a workshop for Resource Centre Managers and Information Officers in Kampala. This gave me more confidence and knowledge about the subject.

I have been struggling with learning how to be a good writer and communicator and in 2008, I participated in the Citizen Journalism Africa project where I acquired some basic skills in writing.

It was early this  year, while on my maternity leave that I reflected on creating a personal   and active blog where I can document my thoughts, experiences and stories about women I have interacted with as part of my work.  This made me realize how empty I was because of lack of a systematic record of  what I have done and here I was claiming to be a blogger.

Yes, I have created and managed blogs Loyce,  HIV ProjectTumbula Women but they were not consistent and others were project focused. I have also  contributing to several online information sharing platform like Frontline SMS I-Connect ,  WSFLibrary  and WorldPulse

I hope to maintain this because I have always loved writing and I admire what people have written.

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In  July 2011, I was interacted with  two women leaders from Ivory Coast  who were on a cross cultural learning and exchange visit in Uganda. Due to the post election violence that Ivory Coast descended into late last year, the purpose of their  visit was for the women to share their experience  as well as  acquiring  knowledge  and best practices  on how best to engage in post conflict  reconstruction and recovery.

Ivory Coast experienced post election violence following the disputed outcomes of the November 2010 Presidential elections between Alassane Outtara and Laurent Gbagbo. Alassane Ouatarra won the election but the incumbent Laurent Gbagabo refused to give up power and had to be removed by force; but after months of violence between the army and pro-Outtara forces.

During the violence, people lost their lives and property as villages were set ablaze leaving many people homeless. At least 3000 people were killed in the postelection violence.

Pauline sharing her experience during the dialogue

During their visit, Pauline Yao, the Chair Person; National level Femmes Cote d’Ivoire Experience (FCIEX) and Julia Gnekpato, Coordinator, Restoration of Human Rights Foundation presented video clips and photographs showing the extent of violence that civilians in Ivory Coast faced.

This was during the  roundtable discussion on Ivory Coast and women and post conflict reconstruction.  Yao emotionally recounted the moments when she was attacked by armed men who tied her and wanted to kill her. The moving story of her narrow escape from death was a story of many Ivorians. Yao  was forced out of her house and rebels occupied it. She sought refugee in her office and for twenty days she could not get out.

Julia Gnekpato  also shared her experience of how she lost everything.

I have nobody left. You are all I have.”Gnekpato said in a very emotional moment.

Julia in a very emotional moment while sharing her story

However these women are leading efforts to rebuild their communities from the ruins of violence. They told of documenting stories of sexual violence in different communities. In particular, the women narrated to the participants a story of a 60 year old woman who was raped by a 13 years old boy during the turmoil. To such women, regaining dignity takes a long time and a lot of efforts from different actors.

The women now carry out home visits, one-on-one counseling, community sensitization, drama and sports as a way of bringing communities back together.

After their presentation, Julia and Pauline received words of comfort and encouragement from the members of the Ugandan civil society to continue with their peace building work. They also got advice on several strategies to use in their peace building work and post conflict reconstruction.

Isis-WICCE brought these women to Ugandan to enable the civil society to understand what struggles other women on the continent are faced with. Harriet Musoke from Isis-WICCE said that sharing such experiences from other countries which have gone through the same experience such as Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda enables women understand how to approach post conflict recovery.

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