Apac, another side of the pearl of Africa
From June 21st to 24th 2016, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Apac, a district in Northern Uganda, with the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET). During this short trip, we visited members of the organization, shared our experience as interns in Uganda at the local radio talk show Radio Apac 92.9, participated in an entrepreneurship workshop, visited a local farm, and got direct exposure to a new side of the pearl of Africa.
On our second day, we had the opportunity to participate in an entrepreneurship workshop and witness the formation of an entrepreneurship association: the Apac Women Entrepreneurs Association. During this meeting, Apac women from youth to elders – although most of them were mature women – join together to discuss their challenges, visions and solutions. Hearing them talk about their ideas to push forward their businesses and gain recognition for their work was inspiring. It demonstrated the potential women can have to fight for their ambitions while acknowledging the variety of doors entrepreneurship can open for women to overcome gender obstacles and other interrelated challenges.
Likewise, participating in the meeting with Voluntary Social Activity Committees (VSACs) – a group of members from the district community who are chosen to advocate for the community through e-governance, and therefore act as a bridge between the government and the rest of the community – and other WOUGNET members on our first day was just as insightful. Compared to the entrepreneurship workshop, women and men were both part of the group of attendees . The presence of both sexes stimulated the discussion and generated constructive debates on issues such as health care, domestic violence, family planning, the place of men in gender inequality and manhood in community development. Indeed, seeing that the conversations during both meetings was mostly done in groups – with or without men – illustrates how development work or entrepreneurship should indeed start with oneself, meaning with someone’s own personal will to adopt a mindset that strives to create a positive and meaningful impact. However, it is not a task that can be done by a single individual or organisation. It requires collective actions from people at different levels.
Undoubtedly, although Kampala remains my first home here in Uganda as an intern from abroad, Apac was still an enriching experience. It enhanced my interests for international development while fostering a curiosity for entrepreneurship and social innovation in me. This experience, although short, also stimulated thoughts and questions in my head regarding the place of men in gender inequality, women’s identity in international development and the space that culture and systems of beliefs occupy in gender issues, advocacy and development in general. This came through thanks to the warm and welcoming encounters I had with the women of Apac and the rest of the community.
Intern, WOUGNET, Student – McGill University Canada