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Archive for February, 2012

This  digital story shows the work of Isis-WICCE  in  empowering women in S.Sudan with leadership skills to actively engage in post conflict reconstruction and peace building through  the Exchange Programme Institute  http://vimeo.com/37577788

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Last year in October, I was privileged to coordinate the intercultural visit of 10 Dutch women (as they preferred to be called so) who came to Uganda to interact with fellow women  in Lwangosia, Namayingo District. Offcourse this came with its own challenges of  hosting big number of ‘Bazungu’ white people  in a typical village setting with no electricity, no running water and no proper accommodation  which called for serious preparations  to make sure that the visitors  feel at home and comfortable.    To the hosts in Namayingo, there was a lot of excitement, anxiety and high expectations from the Bazungu because this was their first time to host them. them. We held a lot of planning meetings to come up with interesting activities and site visits which included visiting the widows and orphans, schools, health centres and prisons in Namayingo district and Sigulu Islands in Lake Victoria. The first visit was to the widows in Bukhemba village which is 45 minutes drive from the place where we were staying.

As part of the gifts to the widows, each widow was given a matress and a blanket. We left when they were all smiling and the fact that a “muzungu” visited their homes was good enough to give them joy and happiness and restored their hope that someone out there is concerned about  their plight.

The visit to the Islands on Lake Victoria

Arrival in Sigulu Islands

Another exciting and almost tragic trip was the journey to Sigulu Islands. We left Lwangosia in the morning at 10:00am looking forward to a boat ride to the islands. To me , I thought we were going to use a modern boat. To my surprise, when we reached at the landing site which is about 30 minutes drive from Lwangosia I asked Rev Simon Peter Ongango who had arranged for the boat that where is the boat, he pointed at a wooden canoe boat, my heart jumped but I kept quiet since every body seemed comfortable with it including the Dutch women.  At the site, we managed to get 9 life jackets for a group of over 20 people and we were not bothered with them.

We set  off  for Sigulu at around 11:00am and the journey was so smooth and within an hour or less, we were  already in Sigulu. We were received well by the local leaders  and the natives there who were also excited to see the Bazungu and their expectation too were very high. The chairman LC1 gave a speech where he mentioned  problems  faced by the islanders  which was mainly lack of services like health, education and high prevalence of HIV and AIDs as well as  violence against women.

In sigulu, they  wanted us to visit a  widow  who was  a few kilometers  away from the centre where we were received and this  was not on the original plan. At the same time we were warned that we have to leave the Islands well in time because in the evening the lake gets rough.

As a leader and Coordinator of the group, I had to take a decision and we concluded our journey without visiting the widow because it was not in our original plan. We set off from Sigulu at around 3;00pm. We had carried some snacks which we ate on our way back. After we  had moved for  over 45 minutes just  in the middle of the journey on the lake, the boat engine went silent. At first the boat owners  tried to  re-start  it and  it failed. We thought it was just a temporal problem only to find out that the engine failed completely.

All of a sudden the boat started swinging from one position to another and it started moving on the free flow of the waves. Our hearts jumped. Remember we did not have life jackets and  we were right in the middle of the lake. I knew I was going to meet my creator there and then. Everybody on the boat trembled. I could see fear in the eyes of the Dutch women. This was my first greatest scare I have ever encountered in  life.Fear swallowed me and I immediately I started thinking about my eight months baby and my two year old son and how life will be without my presence.

We were stuck on the lake for an hour. Thanks to the advances in new ICTs especially the mobile phone communication. Amidst this crisis, we were able to make telephone calls to the owner of the boat and a rescue boat was sent with another engine which was fixed and that’s how we managed to get out of the lake. Otherwise we would have made the news for the day with the Dutch women on board.

After we had reached Lwangosia, many questions kept coming in my mind; what If we had left Sigulu Island late in the evening and we were stuck in the lake at night? What if there was no mobile telephone communication, what were we going to do? How many people die on the lake die in the same circumstances like we have been in? Only God Knows.

Our next  field trip visit was in Lubango primary school, a place known to have crocodile  orphans and widows and a hard  to reach area with  poor road network.  We had to walk  for  three kilometres or more because the car could not reach the school where we were going. In Lubango we were warmly received by the Mothers Union and the school administration. Mothers union  taught the visitors how  who to make mats out of papyrus  and beads out of paper. The Dutch women carried small gifts which included scholastic materials and mattresses and blankets for the widows.

Prisoners sitting outside the cell

The last visit was the Uganda Prisons, Namayingo where we found horrible conditions of prisoners. There was one small cell that accommodated over 20 male inmates and it was filthy. When we asked about women’s section were shown another tiny room which formerly a kitchen and it had no inmates and we were told that there was no female inamtes by the time we visited

All in all the change visit was very exciting and at the same time a shock and an eye opener to the Dutch women as most of them could not imagine how people manage to  survive especially such conditions especially the widows, orphans and prisoners.

Nevertheless, they appreciated the beauty of our country and the climate  and urged the Ugandan women to work hard and utilise the resources that God gave us. We hope this relationship will be maintained and  we hope to see more visits and collaboration.

Jesca at the widows’ home in Lubango

Two of the widows we met in Lubango

Orphans we met the the widows’ home

Below are a few shots from the visit

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Skills development is one of the critical ICT interventions and as such, in November 2010, a group of grassroots women paralegals in Namaingo district Eastern Uganda were equipped with ICTs skills    as one of the efforts to enable them utilise ICT tools in   combating violence against women in their communities..

The  ICT training emphasized the use of  new tools  of  communication such as   use of mobile telephone applications  and  social media.

The women have been able to use ICT to raise awareness on issues of VAW in their community using bulk SMS and  share their stories through blogging. On the otherhand, ICT has been more than just the tools for communication  but an aid in executing their duties of resolving misunderstandings in families.

In one of the chats I had with the women paralegals recently,they  confessed that had it been the use of ICT tools ie the digital camera and a recorder, they would have failed to intervene.

“The   camera and a recorder has eased our work, there are men who refuse to engage in mediation.  We just get out our camera and a recorder to record a woman’s statement and to take her  picture. This leaves the man shaking thinking that this will be published in the media and he soften  and agrees to settle the matter”.

This is because men fear to be exposed.

The women went further ahead to share a story of a man in one village called Bukhemba who  battered his wife and abandoned her  with  the children. The woman was refered  to the paralegals  in that village  for help. The paralegals  Grace and Gettu  intervened  in the matter with the support of the local council leadership. At first the man had refused to talk to them  and when Grace got out a camera and a recorder from the bag and the man thought that he was  going to be publicized in the media  and he accepted to talk and confirmed that he had beaten his wife because she had delayed to get the goats in the field. The man had also refused the woman not to dig in her land and he  had married another wife.

After the negotiations and mediation, the man  apologized to the woman and agreed to take care of her. He also agreed to build for her another house  within three months. The woman was living in a small shark with was almost falling down.

This is one of the several cases  where ICT tools have been more than just tools but an aid in combating violence against women.

If the women did not have ICT skills, it would have been a little bit difficult and   and somehow challenging to convince  men to engage in mediation  to resolve domestic misunderstandings.

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