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Gulu Women’s Economic Development & Globalization

Gulu Women’s Economic Development & Globalization (GWED-G) has been engaging youth since 2011 in a project that aims to encourage young people to actively participate in human rights activities and help them analyze their problems and explore opportunities for a better future. The project, titled “Youth Empowerment for the Realization and Promotion of Human Rights in Northern Uganda” is supported by Amnesty International and IKV Pax Christi with funds from the Dutch Government. It is one of GWED-G’s three projects under the Northern Uganda Human Rights Partnership which involves the coordination of nine civil society organizations in programs for youth, women’s rights, and community justice. Many youth in Northern Uganda have been affected by war and are left with economic and psychosocial challenges that often isolate them from the community. In GWED-G’s youth

groups, youth are able to talk about their experiences and their current struggles in a welcoming and accepting environment of their peers. The youth are engaged in community service activities like cleaning hospitals and schools, have started their own income generating activities like fish ponds and quarry work, and save money through Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA). GWED-G hopes that the supported youth will become leaders among their peers and advocates for human rights in their communities.

The goal of “Empowering Youth for the Realization and Promotion of Human Rights in Northern Uganda” is to encourage young people to actively participate in human rights activities and help them analyze their problems and explore opportunities for a better future.

Objectives: 1. To improve knowledge, understanding and appreciation of human rights and peaceful conflict transformation among youth. (conflict sensitivity) 2. To empower youth leaders to promote human rights and become agents of change in their communities. 3. To provide skills and opportunities for income generating activities to improve the socioeconomic status of youth. 4. To increase the capacity of partners to better support the youth in achieving the above mentioned objectives.

awareness raising activities and campaigns amongst fellow youth and community members of Awach and neighboring sub-counties. Training for Youth Youth belonging to the 3 youth groups also have the opportunity to be trained to become leaders for human rights promotion and protection in their communities. A 2-day training on Human Rights for the 75 members of the youth groups in Awach sub-county gave participants a comprehensive education on their rights as youth, promotion and protection of human rights, demanding rights from duty bearers, and their roles as youth in human rights promotion, protection, and fulfillment.

Youth have been engaged in several activities since the project’s inception and have taken the initiative to start others on their own. Above all, members of the youth groups report a significant improvement in themselves psychosocially thanks to the support and group therapy they are able to access with their peers. All of the youth involved in the groups have been affected by war—they may have been abducted, orphaned, or left in poverty, yet they have come together as leaders to promote the rights of all community members in a conflict sensitive environment. Promotion of Human Rights through IEC Materials This year, GWED-G’s youth groups have been given IEC materials like t-shirts, banners, and leaflets to support Youth also attended a 4-day training on leadership and group dynamics. The 75 youth learned about the importance of group creation, formation of groups, group governance, and the benefits of belonging to a group. Participants were also educated on the various types of group leadership, roles and responsibilities of group leaders, qualities of good leadership, and how to mitigate and resolve conflicts within the group. Both trainings were attended by a mixture of male and female youth, and all were given the chance to discuss

the training modules, ask and answer questions, complete group work, and present their work. Community leaders from Awach sub-county such as the youth councilor, women councilors, and community youth representatives also attended the trainings to incorporate the knowledge and skills into their work in governance.

Juk Ber group is also engaged in group farming where they planted two acres of sunflowers. Sunflower is a highly demanded cash crop that fetches very high prices on the market for commercial production of cooking oil.

Village Savings and Loan Associations To support the youth’s economic stability, the project supported each of the 3 youth groups with a cash box and all materials necessary for a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). VSLA groups are designed to encourage a savings culture among youth so they can save small amounts of money from farming or small businesses, and then take out loans from the group’s savings in order to expand their income generating potential. This will be especially helpful for the youth who are not yet involved in an income generating activity so they can access start-up capital to begin a small business or initiative. Youth Group Highlights Wor Twero Wa: Yoga for Healing and Peace

All of these farming activities were initiated during the resource mapping exercise conducted during last year’s visit of ACORD and partners to the group. This visit highly motivated the group to work hard and step up to another level after being empowered with the rich resource knowledge. Resource mapping has also been conducted for the other two youth groups who are now trying to identify the activities they would like to begin as a group. Pe Ibwol Wa: Discovering Unique Talents Pe Ibwol Wa youth group was involved in a pilot activity using the discovery of unique talents to contribute to recovery and coping of youth affected by war. The group put together a 2 hour long “show” in a market in Gwengdiya Parish that included music, drama, and poetry aimed at delivering positive messages to fellow youth in the community.

GWED-G partnered with an organization called Mandala House to pilot an intervention with war-affected youth to reduce trauma, contribute to psychosocial healing, and promote peaceful co-existence among youth through improved physical and mental health. The Wor Twero Wa youth group was selected to take part in this pilot activity and members met twice a week for 3 weeks in June 2012 to participate in one hour sessions led by a certified Mandala House yoga instructor. After every meeting, the Mandala House representative led 30 minute discussions about the effects of yoga and participants noted that they felt calmer, less stressed, more comfortable in their bodies, had reduced back pain and chronic pain after each session. Juk Ber: Fish Farming, Piggery, and Group Farming Juk Ber youth group in Paibona parish has started up a piggery project where they are raring two healthy hybrid pigs. The group had previously invested in fish farming and acquired the pigs from their fish sales. The group is continuing with their fish farming activity and is already selling some of the fish and making a profit. They have currently sold over 150 fish and have gained approximately 300,000 Uganda shillings.

The group also participated in International Youth Day 2012 by helping to clean Awach Health Centre IV. By sweeping, slashing, and weeding, Pe Ibwol Wa youth group was an example to their community by showing them that youth can be trustworthy and productive members of society. Even as the group was finishing their work, a mother came in to the health centre to give birth, as if she was waiting to celebrate the clean facility with its first delivery.

“ Freedom of opinion and participation in governance is our right as youth”

Lakot Beatrice was only 6 years old when she was abducted from her home by the Lord’s Resistance Army Rebels. She was in the bush with the LRA for 2 years and because she was too young to walk very quickly or very far, she was beaten because she could not keep up. She was forced to take a husband, but was beaten because she refused him. She was forced to point a gun at a man to kill him, but luckily she was shown mercy and never pulled the trigger. Finally, in 1995, she escaped and returned home. After returning from a rehabilitation center for formerly abducted persons, Lakot’s father sent her to live in Kampala so she would be safer than at home. But in Kampala, she was severely stigmatized and taunted by her neighbors. They called her a rebel and assuming that she had killed in the bush, they did not hide the fact that they didn’t want to stay near her. Annoyed and angry, Lakot felt like she should just return to Gulu and live alone in the bush because life in the community was too hard. She sent a message to her father and she was brought home. Not long after returning to Gulu, Lakot was married at the age of 15. She stayed with her husband for 10 years and they had 4 children. But even in her own home, she was stigmatized and her husband insulted her, discriminated against her, and called her a rebel. Finally, she couldn’t bear it any longer and decided to leave. Now, she is taking care of her children alone and farms to try to pay school fees. Even with all of her hard work, she can only afford to send 2 of her 4 children to school. Now 25 and a member of the youth group, Lakot is recovering mentally, socially, and economically. “I feel more relieved and psychologically upright than when I was with my husband. In the group, I can forget about my time in the bush. They help me to heal. The group also helps me to feel accepted in the community and I feel my dignity as a human being.” - Lakot Beatrice After losing his father when he was 12 and his mother when he was 17, Richard lived in the camps with his stepmother. He says life was hard then because they were completely dependent on relief food and were not able to cultivate their own land because their movement was so restricted. But still, he was lucky because he was not abducted. With financial struggles in his family that was now headed only by his father’s second wife, Richard stopped his education during his first year in secondary school. Now that Richard is 24, he is married with 2 children and sustains his family with the hard labor of farming and construction. He says the group has been helpful because they have all become friends and use their VSLA activities to save and get loans for improving their lives. Richard says that the group has allowed him to forget about the hardships he faced in the camps with both of his parents gone. Richard hopes that this project will help them to sustain their livelihoods with innovation and growth. “I hope our messages will encourage the youth to live peacefully and guide one another. They should forget about the past and live for the future. They should find ways to be productive, work hard, and live a good life.”- Opiyo Richard Onguti, Chairperson of Pe Ibwol Wa youth group Gulu Women’s Economic Development & Globalization (GWED-G) was started in 2004 as a non-profit, nonpartisan, and non-governmental organization based in Gulu, Uganda. We implement short and longer term sustainable development programs in line with Human Rights, Health, Peace Building, Economic and Social Empowerment, Psychosocial Support and Education, Research, and Advocacy. We envision a healthy, nonviolent environment free from poverty and discrimination. Our mission is to strengthen the capacity of grassroots communities in Northern Uganda to become self-reliant agents of change for peace and development through training and education to make effective decisions concerning their rights, health, and development.

Gulu Women’s Economic Development and Globalization (GWED-G) P.O. Box 1257 Gulu Plot no. 2/3 Ogwok Oyaru Road Pece Division - Gulu Municipality, Uganda Tel: +256 0471436460 Email:

Youth Newsletter  

Updates from GWED-G's Youth program

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