Follow me to Uganda: learning from each other for better communities
Next week I am heading to northern Uganda to once again participate in the Grassroots Women Peace Building Conference! The conference consists of a coalition of registered organizations who collaborate across northern Uganda for women’s advocacy and peace building purposes. This gives women a platform to share their experiences of poverty, discrimination, and gender-based violence. By working with and learning from each other, everyone in attendance can start to create action plans to promote women’s rights and equal opportunities for all.
In addition to the conference, I will be engaged in several advisory roles in projects to better the local community, in conjunction with students and faculty from the University of Oklahoma. The projects we work on here rest on an important principle: sometimes technical expertise is not enough to solve the toughest issues. To really tackle a complex problem, it is necessary to learn from and include the community it is affecting.
For example, water scarcity is a challenge affecting northern Uganda. Water nonprofits try to help communities in need by implementing boreholes—deep, narrow holes made in the ground used to locate water. However, with limited resources, these organizations often focus on the best technical locations for boreholes without considering other socioeconomic factors such as conflicts between tribes, sacred lands, etc. This can lead to working boreholes that go unused—and are therefore of little use to the communities they intended to serve.
To address this, I will work with this summer’s group of students as they continue to interview local tribal and village members. By listening to these community voices, we help identify issues so that new boreholes are truly accessible and useful to the local communities.
This is the second year this conference will be held, and the conference organizers are anticipating a 30% – 50% increase in attendance! I’m excited to share my organizational and management experience with these organizations so that they can combine them with their passions and concerns to make a lasting impact. I am honored to use my industry knowledge to facilitate and support these much-needed projects and am grateful to Mead & Hunt for the chance to use my community service hours to cover part of this trip and share my experience.
By giving back in meaningful ways, we all benefit: I gain valuable experience integrating community needs to create truly useful designs, and the local community learns new ways to move forward without outside intervention. The purpose is not to come in and magically fix everything, or even to tell them ‘what should be done’; instead, we strive to give others the tools they need to be self-sufficient. We are stronger when we work together.
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