On International Women’s Day we are delighted to share with you the forthcoming launch of our new programme in northern Uganda, the Wamare Young Women’s Institute.
Wamare means ‘love one another’ in Luo, one of the local languages of northern Uganda.
In April, we are launching the inaugural Wamare Young Women’s Institute, a two-week residential programme for 30 young women formerly abducted by the LRA (female returnees) from conflict-affected areas in the north, north-east and West Nile sub-regions of Uganda. The Institute enhances and complements the limited existing services and initiatives supporting those who have been abducted and enslaved by the LRA in northern Uganda.
The Institute combines capacity and knowledge building workshops (strongly focusing on income generation and livelihood issues) with trauma-related sessions and health modules in support of their recovery and reintegration, and in recognition of their aspirations to create a different life for themselves and their children. Daily yoga and stretching sessions, as well as meditation and the incorporation of dance and music, are all integral components of the environment we will be creating within the Institute.
See the Institute Banner.
See the Application Form.
The application period is closed as all of the spaces at the Institute have been filled.
The programme for the Institute has been carefully planned to reflect the issues raised by female returnees and local service providers with whom we met during a series of consultations held between 2014 and 2016.
The Institute will include peer story-telling and body mapping sessions in support of the healing process for young women who have experienced extreme levels of trauma, violence and brutality. Workshops on parenting skills and primary health issues including sexual and reproductive health will be complemented with sessions on ‘food as medicine’, drawing on the traditional use of herbs to treat common illnesses and ailments and to supplement nutritional needs. Many of the young women we work with, and their children born as a result of their captivity with the LRA, have a variety of health issues following their time with the militia group and due to the impoverished conditions they lived in before, during and after being in the LRA camps. Some are also living with injuries due to gunshot wounds and a few have mobility issues as a result of the violence they experienced. Referrals to the limited number of services available which respond to these issues will be provided at the Institute.
Based on the clear feedback from female returnees during the consultation process, the Institute will include a number of sessions dedicated to livelihood programmes, the practical application of income generation concepts and principles, and fostering entrepreneurial initiatives.
Issues of survival, the ability to support themselves and their children, foods security (access to land to plant crops), educational opportunities for their children and their own personal recovery and desire to reconcile with their families and clans, featured strongly as universal priorities amongst all of the young women we consulted with. These issues will be addressed at the Institute and in the follow-up activities and supplementary training programme within the first year following their graduation.
The Wamare Institute is complemented by the Reintegration Programme, which is a collaboration between the Women’s Initiatives and the Justice, Reconciliation Project (JRP) with the Women’s Advocacy Network (WAN). Through mediation processes, family visits, dialogues with cultural leaders and radio sessions, this programme fosters acceptance and reconciliation between female returnees and their families, clans and the wider community.
Read about the Reintegration Programme.
Local service providers we met with during the consultation process all noted the limited programmes available for returnees and the lack of specific programmes for young women formerly abducted by the LRA, and other young affected by the armed conflict. Local practitioners informed us that they feel the Institute would ‘fill an important gap in support of female returnees’.
We are fortunate that several of these talented service providers will participate in the Institute as trainers and resource people.
As many of the Institute participants had their education interrupted when they were girls due to their abduction by the LRA, we will be holding a graduation ceremony to celebrate their achievement in completing this two-week residential programme.
At the end of the Institute and following the graduation, we are launching the Peace Path. This will be a public space recognising the harm suffered by the community during the LRA-related conflict, encouraging reconciliation between victims and their communities and the rebuilding of trust and acceptance for and with those abducted by the LRA, and harmed by other groups and armed forces.
Each Wamare graduate will lay a brick with her name engraved on it on the peace path in a ceremony involving cultural and religious leaders. The path symbolises belonging, healing and reconciliation. Our hope is to gradually develop a pathway paved with the names of victims and survivors of the LRA-related conflict, specifically those who were abducted as children and young people. The pathway will be open to anyone in the community who wishes to lay a brick for themselves or a loved one. It is a symbolic recognition by and for victims of the conflict.
We are grateful to the Gulu District Council for their cooperation and generosity in dedicating a space for the peace path.
The icon designed for the Wamare Institute was developed through a collaboration between Keri Taplin and Brigid Inder. The idea behind this shape was to create a sense of moving from dark (harm, violence, suffering) to light (healing, reconciliation, recovery). We also wanted something which would show movement and transition, rather than a cycle of violence and hardship from which one cannot escape. For this reason the swirl opens out into space rather than folding back on itself and repeating the cycle.
The design was partly inspired by a beautiful glass sculpture, Happen 2, by British artist Galia Amsel. It was also inspired by hei matua, a stylized form of Maori carving in the shape of a fish-hook. To Maori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa-New Zealand, the fish-hook represents strength, good luck and fertility, which we interpret as having a spark of life which is indistinguishable in the face of extraordinary challenges. We also interpret it to mean bringing to life creativity, ideas, a goal or a dream, such as the dreams of those who will participate in Wamare. The Institute itself is the manifestation of the organisation’s dream since 2008, during our work on the Juba Peace Talks between the Government of Uganda and the LRA, to create a space of support, healing and learning for young women abducted by the militia group. Hei matua also represents safe travel, which in this context we interpret to mean the journey towards, during and beyond the Wamare Institute, as well as recognising the individual journey that each of the young women participating in the Institute has already been on.