My experience at FOWODEThis is my personal experiences at Forum for Women in Democracy(FOWODE) during a three-week internship in July 2012. I relay myexperience with FOWODE projects and how they fit into the greatermission of the organization, as well as how these assignments and lexperiences relate to where FOWODE is moving in the future. My major assignment was drafting FOWODE’s gender policy which Many people in the U.S. think that if Uganda needs help, they need Their ideas about financially sustaining themselves are ingenious. would be an addendum to the human resources manual that governs food, clothes and mosquito nets. If someone asked me now, I would This is not just flattery. The VBC program is innovative, and more staff at FOWODE. Originally, based on my research, say Uganda is striving to create more infrastructure, better education than that, it is effectively furthering FOWODE’s mission. My time and healthcare for its citizens, and better working in the field was a highlight of my internship. I thought this document was going to be a government officials. By infrastructure, I mean roads, 20 page report on how FOWODE does “Many people in the U.S. access to clean water, access to loans, and systems to My internship coincided with FOWODE’s Leadership building gender in the larger community, including think that if Uganda needs help, they need check and balance those in positions of power. That Camp. I attended it for two days and I was instantly impressed with overviews of all of their projects, past, food, clothes and budget speech helped me think about things more the professionalism of the young women as they gave speeches and current and future but it turned out to be an overwhelming task. I reviewed the mosquito nets. If deeply, such as, “Yes, growing more tea for export seemed to be genuinely working to learn the concepts presented for someone asked me now, I will bring in more for the gross national product, but the day. However, I think it is important that while FOWODE trains organization HIV/AIDS work place policy would say Uganda is people also need to keep growing food to feed the these young leaders, it takes extra care to vet each speaker and the Human Resource policy and once I striving to create more population.” Or “Taxing alcohol does raise money for beforehand, and only hire teachers who are also completely in understood the general format that they infrastructure, better the government, but how will that negatively impact congruence with FOWODE’s mission and vision. While people are were looking for, I began to research education and healthcare rural farmers who grow the products that make the learning about gender issues for the first time and looking up to these women’s rights organizations and other for its citizens and better alcohol?” Not to mention that they are raising the tax people, it is imperative that they are getting accurate and Ugandan organizations to see what was working government on cosmetics, which seems trivial, until you realize empowering information from them. It upset me to see someone in currently being offered, and where the officials”. that these taxes only impact women, who are expected authority that just perpetuated the stereotypes and traditional gender global standard was heading. to wear makeup in the workplace. roles that FOWODE is attempting to transform. I specifically put a section that states ‘promotions would be Whereas in Uganda issues, such as better roads, seem to be intrinsically linked to performance reviews and criteria’. Although it constantly on the budget, year after year without improvement, Overall, my time at FOWODE was short but eye opening. Being seems more of a general human resource policy issue, I found in my America seems to flip flop continually about what projects are able to learn about how they are engaging in women’s issues in research that without this provision, staff can get promotions for important. One day insurance companies are mandated to cover birth Uganda also helped me to look at Uganda’s culture and traditions, anything, and women are often overlooked when they are not based control; the next Planned Parenthood is getting defunded entirely. not just from a feminist or American lens, but from a humanistic on written qualifications and demonstrated work. Although we were included in many staff meetings, the big budget one. I got to spend time with the staff that explained the culture to list of everyone’s overtime and seeing firsthand how much meeting was the most insightful for me as an outsider in Uganda. I me and shed light on some of the differences in Uganda that I did not FOWODE employees work, I felt the need to add a provision got to see in detail how the government makes priorities. It was also previously understand. Although the programs are amazing, encouraging family and privates lives by limiting work weeks to 40 really great for Julius to come speak with us after the budget was FOWODE’s staff is really the greatest asset. They are dedicated to hours. I was not completely sure how that would fit into FOWODE’s announced to explain things and answer questions. the women’s movement; it was apparent in the way they talked about operation, so I added several options for encouraging well-rounded their projects and where they wanted to see the organization go in employees, including flexible working hours, overtime pay, and I also had a chance to visit one of the districts where FOWODE the future. earned vacation time for all overtime worked. I created a section implements her programs, my time in Kibaale district was an concerning parents that I thought would be utterly liberal and may invaluable experience. I was able to see a different side of Uganda I was able to get a feel for what it would be like to work for a non- even create tension with the staff. I specified that mothers should than the busy city of Kampala. I got to see the road conditions for profit full time, and a taste of what professional writers do. In the have six weeks for maternity leave. The staff pushed for 60 days. I myself; only then could I really understand what the Village Budget end, I appreciated that I was able to make the projects what I thought was very happy with all the things that FOWODE already provides Clubs were up against, and how their struggle with infrastructure they should be so that I could learn through experience and not just in these terms, especially for lactating mothers. Women are given issues really affects their lives on a daily basis. Even after all of my follow a set of instructions. There was a lot to learn in such a short time off each day to breastfeed for 4-6 months. This would never research, I only had a true picture of the VBCs after I visited a group and I am excited to continue following FOWODE’s work in Uganda. happen in the United States, and I consider it very progressive and of them and was able to watch the process unfold. I will say again good for mothers, families and the community as a whole. Overall, I how impressive this program is, and how impassioned the By Trinity Overmyer was pretty happy with how the first draft turned out, the willingness participants are. Not only do the VBCs bring real, measurable of the employees and also their willingness to let me attempt to write changes to the community and government, but the members it and run a meeting even though I was only an intern. become empowered and are changing their own lives as well. I have never been particularly interested in politics or the democratic I participated in the joint listening in of the 2012/13 national budget process, but seeing the villagers come together to fight for speech that was organized by FOWODE for various civil society themselves has inspired me to be more involved as well. organizations. I found it interesting that so many NGOs gather to listen and discuss the upcoming year’s budget. They come together I thought the support by FOWODE would be greater, but the and share information, excitement and disappointments over members seem to be taking charge of the clubs and their mission government pronouncements for the next financial year yet most themselves. This is what will keep this program going far into the non-profits in America suffer silently alone as they are emailed their future. They are pushing to get more training so they can train others government contributions (if any) for the next year. without needing FOWODE’s assistance. They want cameras so they may conduct monitoring visits on their own. They have maintained The budget speech was really interesting and informative for me. It operational budgets by offering microloans, helped me learn and think and learn so much about how Uganda does development and where FOWODE fits into that scheme.
My experience at FOWODE “On our way back to Gulu town, we took many of the community members in the back of our truck to drop them off closer to their homes. That simple action was a welcomed relief to the women because many walk a minimum of two or three kilometers to attend the VBC meetings”. On my first day I was assured that I would get a lot of different into a Community Based Organization (CBO) with legal power I talked to two non-members of the VBC who had heard of their hands on experience both in the office and the field. I was and authority to fundraise for themselves, the community could work has aspiration to join and help their communities more. Here provided with reading materials and publications to introduce me continue to work and move forward without the regulations and again it was moving to see the positive effects of FOWODE’s to FOWODE and also help me to understand what type of governance that FOWODE has to this point required. I witnessed work being so affective that more men and women are trying to activism they represent, and the typical types of outcomes their fear and trepidation in the many faces, both male and female, of join and commit to the empowerment of women and gender work has seen in the past. Along with reading the publications, I the community members as this message was conveyed to them. equity. Before my trip up to Gulu I struggled to connect being attended meetings in which team members attempted to evaluate knowledgeable about the local government’s budget with giving what changes had been made and what new programs would be I had interviews with community members, both men and women women freedoms and leadership within the community. I was addressed in the coming period. I felt this system was an that were part of the VBC. The individuals spoke of pride and self- clearly wrong and happily so, it was inspiring to know the innovative and interesting way to keep all staff engaged and efficacy in learning about what a budget was how to read one, and differences and impacts made on a community by simply learning accountable for their actions towards the organization. Reading how to hold their local governments accountable to it. Since how to speak and follow up with local leaders. What inspired me previous publications, attending meetings was a great way to be FOWODE has instituted the VBC in Gulu, the community has the most was the decrease in domestic violence and the increase in introduced into the organization. I had the opportunity to learn seen a variety of changes and improvements. One major change respect men in the community provided to women. I never would about goals, programs and structures before I really started diving seen is the improved health care and the community is hopeful that have thought those two things would have a cause-and-effect into the project Julius had provided me. I felt both comfortable a new and closer health center will be soon built. There has been a interaction. It was amazing to see in person how the actions of and accepted which easily allowed me to start working on the decrease in young girls dropping out of schools partially because FOWODE are helping women move forward at the local (micro) project to read, interpret, and make adjustments to FOWODE’s of greater teacher commitment but also because the VBC has been level. During a programs meeting back at FOWODE head office, Gender Budget Program Manual for Community Budget able to open a line of communication between child-parent-and it became clear why FOWODE interviews community members. Monitoring and Tracking (CBM&T). teachers at every level. New and better wells have now been Without those efforts FOWODE has no way of showing how drilled, and overall sanitation in the markets has increased. Other affective the programs are but to prove also that there is still more For my second project, I together with other interns from the improvements that community members were proud to speak of required to support communities to establish themselves Purdue group, visited different districts of Uganda to assist with included decreased domestic violence and women now owning effectively in this accountability work. the Village Budget Club Monitoring Visit and to also interview property such as animals. Women often use the profits from their community members that were both involved and not in the animals to help pay for children’s school fees so they do not have I attended the annual reading of the National Budget which Village Budget Clubs (VBC’s). The VBC is compromised of men to drop out. Everyone was positive and quick to claim that because included a post reaction conversation where FOWODE and other and women in villages. FOWODE starts by going into of the VBC their lives had changed. All community members NGO’s discussed the lack of funding going towards gender issues. communities looking for concerned members who want to see spoke of a desire to continue their work with FOWODE in any It was shocking to see the obvious lack of gender equality change and progress. Those people then become the first trained to capacity. consideration when it came to the National Budget. recruit and run the VBC once FOWODE leaves. Community members are trained in budget reading, rights of community On our way back to Gulu town, we took many of the community Working with FOWODE for my three week internship was a very members, and laws that regulate local government budget members in the back of our truck to drop them off closer to their positive experience. Unlike some of the other NGO’s students allocation. The hope of FOWODE is that the clubs will provide a homes. That simple action was a welcomed relief to the women from Purdue worked with, FOWODE seemed well established and legal backing to advocacy and activism in the communities so that because many walk a minimum of two or three kilometers to were able to provide resources to the interns that helped us to issues around development can be changed. FOWODE acts in this attend the VBC meetings. We were informed about the distance easily accomplish the tasks set before us. I felt that there was program under the assumption that by teaching men and women many members have to travel to reach the sub-county office when support at multiple levels to complete my projects. I apparently how to work with the Local governments and budgets that women an issue arises, it was estimated the distance was no less than had missed the meeting in which FOWODE laid out their will see equitable change and communities overall will benefit. seven kilometers if not more and this affects especially the expectations for us in the internship but Lauren Coleman told me members with disability and the elderly who want to join. that a main objective was for us, as interns, to learn and observe as I traveled to Gulu, the trip gave me a chance to see the region that much as possible in our three weeks with the organization. Not has been devastated by war and other issues. We had an interpreter We attended an interface meeting where the community speaks only was I able to accomplish this through the projects I assisted and this was important because in the districts native languages with and brings issues to light with the district field officials. with but also through daily conversations and attending staff are spoken more often than English and especially with those Again because of the farming we had to wait for more members to meetings. FOWODE was good at exposing the many different community members who are older. In the Northern region of show up. As we waited, one of the leaders took us to the local levels of work done by NGO’s and I was able to appreciate all the Uganda, June is farming season. This was true with Gulu and as clinic where we spoke to the nurse there about issues she saw with works and struggles that all NGO’s go through with being taken such we started our meeting in the afternoon to allow men and the community and what the clinic’s needs were which weren’t seriously in the public, working under the restrictions provided by women who work in the mornings to come in once the day currently being met by the government. It was interesting to hear donors, and still attempting to change the gender inequity of becomes too hot. It took us approximately thirty minutes to reach her side of the issue because she claimed to be unaware of the Uganda. the community by truck and when we pulled up to Labora Center, VBC and had many needs that weren’t being met by the government that all related to funding (something the VBC had By Lauren Coleman the women stood to greet us by song and dance. The excitement and anticipation from both I and the community members was felt they were being successful on). After that meeting with the amazing and overwhelming. I was thankful that they were so nurse, the community leader explained to us that the village we willing to let me into their meeting to share ideas and experiences were in was once a displacement camp from the war and that over with someone they had just met. We shook hands with everyone 27,000 Ugandan’s were living there at one point in time and the there (approximately 30 men and women of different ages and only medical center available to them was the one we had just left. physical abilities) and were asked to sit in nice chairs for the That clinic contained one consultation room, one exam room and meeting to begin (which was a personal struggle for me while the one surgical room. Clearly it wasn’t enough back then to help the other women sat on a tarp on the ground simply because I desired community either. Today, only about 3,000 villagers are left but it so much to join them to experience the VBC from those women’s was an overwhelming experience and realization that many if not eyes). The FOWODE official talked about FOWODE’s exist most of the men and women I had and would be speaking with at strategy explaining that FOWODE may not always have the one point experienced the war in some fashion yet there they were funding to keep the VBC’s going and that by turning themselves fighting to find empowerment and strength.
Using art to promote t gender equality... r During my Study Abroad to Uganda, I worked alongside FOWODE an As an intern at FOWODE, with two co-workers to southwestern workers organization that works for women’s rights. My first observation was Kabale which is about six hours from Kampala. I found this fieldwork that FOWODE is committed to women’s rights, especially concerning t to be quite effective in helping FOWODE with the VBCs. While the politics. There also is a strong focus on pursing these rights on both a language barrier existed and I had a translator, I still mana managed to local and global level. The organization works on two specific glob interview six people. I also talked with many villagers in addition to programs: The Gender Budget Program and the Leadership Building rams: the interviews, and really got to personally experience rural Uganda I Uganda. Program. (There are also a multitude of other side projects as well. . There well.) saw primary schools and health centers first hand, giving life to my research for women’s rights in Uganda After the fieldwork was Uganda. During my internship I attended a full day of the women and leadership completed, first hand, giving life to my research for women’s rights in camp and witnessed several activities. The program encouraged the girls activities Uganda. After the fieldwork was completed, I was able to see how my to think critically by having them role play a court scenario scenario. work directly added to the Gender Budget Planning Program, which They debated whether feminism was a was really great. positive or harmful influence to the Ugandan people. It was fascinating to watch them I felt that FOWODE was a highly organized “ rom a western perspective I “From perspective, debate, regardless of what side of the issue and committed NGO that followed their observed that time is very ime they were placed on. The girls would argue dedication. I knew I was a part of something subjective in Uganda, and it was important and could clearly understand h how that feminism is causing single mothers, frustrating to have to meet my work impacted that image. As an intern, I ruining African tradition and a general western standards using Ugandan certainly learned more about the organization, nuisance. The opposing side would argue for methods. FOWODE was far from what it accomplished on a grassroots level. Ichange, progress and liberation. My favorite part of the Women and Leadership Program was listening to where I was staying in Makerer Makerere could see with my own eyes the impact onrenowned Uganda feminist, Solome Nakaweesi Kimbugwe. Solome presented her lecture on African Nakaweesi-Kimbugwe. University and given the villagers during fieldwork and leadership.feminism, and what it meant to the girls at the program. She invited the girls to join her social experiment inism, transport system, if someone And all of that time spent felt veryactivity. This meant placing cards on the floor ranging from “strongly agree, agree undecided, disagree” and “strongly told me to be ready in ten- worthwhile.“strongly disagree”. The young women were then asked to respond with their opinions on specific topics. minutes; it could be two hours From a western perspective, I observed that later”. time is very subjective in Uganda, and it was imeFOWODE had put together the Communication and Advocacy Strategy on Family Planning in Uganda and my frustrating to have to meet western standardsassignment was to help FOWODE achieve its advocacy objective of communication. I wanted to help using Ugandan methods. FOWODE was farFOWODE utilize fine arts and graphic design to raise awareness about this issue to everyday people, promote ts from where I was staying in Makerer Makererefamily planning, female leaders leadership and empower women. This would be through creating posters, pamphlets, University and given the transpor system, transportand illustrated books, also using English and local language For the family planning packet, I designed one language. if someone told me to be ready in ten ten-minutes; it could be two hoursand illustrated books, also using English and local language For the family planning packet, I designed one finished poster a two- language. later. Meetings that were supposed to last a half hour could end up half-hourpage graphic novel, and several small illustrations, which could be used as and when needed. taking all day.The poster displayed a young black woman with hair that held the history of her life. It showed parents with a baby raising it, sending he FOWODE is truly committed to women’s rights. I believe in the visiona girl to school and a female parliamentarian. The poster read, “Strong mothers make strong leaders” to encourage women’s health that FOWODE has and the great work that this NGO has done. As I haveand access to resources. For the poster, I wanted to make a connection between family planning, women’s rights and transformative said before, the Gender Budgeting and Women’s Leadership programsleadership. The two-page graphic novel broke down the family planning advocacy packet into simpler forms. page are great. I understand the cultural differences that happen and how that can hinder an experien My advice to FOWODE would be to continue experience.In focusing on common ideas of equal access to resources and awareness, I helped FOWODE follow its dedication to women’s rights. ommon being open-minded to foreigners, however, acknowledge the cultural mindedIn terms of effectiveness, there were some positive results and some frustrations. I did finish my work and saw it utilized as a poster differences.and in a newsletter, which was amazing By Rachel Tobias