Nothing For Us Without Us

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Gather Fellow, Uganda

On the 3rd of October, 2018, we at Youth Leaders for Reconciliation and Development (YOLRED) hosted our community visioning summit, an important part of the Gather curriculum, which was attended by 56 community members from various categories including youths, older people, and local leaders.

During the sessions, participants were formed into four groups by Diana Opira Alaroker, a YOLRED staff member and also a Gather Fellow who served as facilitator, to give possibilities to everyone to discuss the community assets they have. The leaders from these groups later made a presentation based on their identified community assets and Diana presented a summary as well as shared with them the asset map.

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I then took the participants through what adaptive challenges are, asked how do we as a community respond to such challenges as well as the opportunities and the vision for the future. Collectively, the participants identified land conflicts, alcoholism, their voices not being heard, stigmatization, and segregation of the former child soldiers and their children, laziness and corruption among others as being adaptive challenges. They noted, however, that taking a joint leadership and responsibility by every member of the community might provide answers to such challenges.

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Looking into the opportunities and the vision for the future, the participants considered greatly exploiting and putting land into use as one of their most valuable assets and noted that this also will provide opportunities to employ the unemployed youth. Similarly, they also viewed the Village Saving and Loan Associations (VSLA) scheme as one way of improving their social cohesion and avoiding segregation since it brings people together and requires them to work together. This will improve their household income as well and put them in position to manage their basic needs and attain financial independence.

On speaking to 56 participants of the summit, the Hon. Susan Lapat, a community representative to the office of the Mayor, asked the participants to put into practice what they have learned, adding that this is an eye opener programming to the community that keeps the brain thinking. For long, people have had assets in their community unexploited and hence remained in their current situation. Consequently, she asked the members of the community to now start exploiting and putting into use the assets they have, including engaging the leaders, the Gather Fellows’ teams and other stakeholders in order to realize a joint community leadership towards achieving the change we want in our community. In the same way, the Chairman of Local Council 1 also asked the participants to embrace love and trust for one another so that they can realize the dreams of their shared aspirations as a community.

At the end, everyone was able to realize that “There is nothing for us without us.”

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Geoffrey Omony serves as Executive Director of Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development (YOLRED), the first organization in Uganda designed and run by former child soldiers.

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