Learning To Lead: The Final Day Of The Learning Tour To Uganda
Nicole deBrabander is CARE USA”s Program Officer and she is traveling in Uganda on a CARE Learning Tour - a comprehensive, multi-day tour for policymakers and those who can influence policy to gain firsthand knowledge of the core issues poor communities face. To learn more about the Learning Tours Program, please visit: www.care.org/learningtours.
The population of Uganda is growing exponentially. With 1.2 million additional people born each year, and a fertility rate of 6.6, the need for innovative and sustainable programs has never been greater.
We began the last day of the Learning Tour by meeting with three women parliamentarians who are leading the way toward change in their country. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga welcomed the group by emphasizing the focus of her work: To ensure that the principles of gender equity underscore all programs in Uganda. During her tenure, she has worked to ensure 30 percent women”s representation in parliament. Betty Aol, who represents the Gulu district, discussed the challenges that still face the country, including gender inequality, water and sanitation and health care. She explained the gap that exists in staffing community health workers: Only 179 community health workers currently exist while 500 are needed in the district. We then heard from Betty Bigombe, the State Minister for Water Resources in Parliament. Betty was instrumental in the peace process in Northern Uganda, working as the chief mediator with the Lord”s Resistance Army (LRA). She emphasized the need to address the challenges of Ugandan women, including poor health services and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
Representative Barbara Lee greeting Speaker Kadaga.
After a robust discussion with the women parliamentarians, our delegation headed to Mildmay Uganda (MUg), a faith-based health facility that promotes comprehensive and integrated care to its patients, and is considered to be a center of excellence by the Ministry of Health. Here, people living with HIV (and their families) receive sexual and reproductive health services as part of their routine HIV care. They also receive specialist care, such as dental and vision, and participate in income-generating activities that help to support their families and create sustainable change in their lives. What is most unique about this facility is their psychosocial support initiatives and focus on women and children. After our delegation split into two groups to tour the clinics, youth center, school and income-generating shop, we joined back together to watch a performance by the youth group.
The youth group performs at the Mildmay Center in Kampala.
The group performed a short skit that told a promising story of a HIV-positive mother who learned, through prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) measures, she could give birth to a negative child. They also performed a beautiful song called “Thank You’ and a young man educated our group on the importance of taking his antiretroviral treatment (ARV) through an inspiring dance to Michael Jackson”s, “Smooth Criminal.’
Catherine Connors (Babble) and Derreck Kayongo (CARE) dance along with the youth group at Mildmay Center.
This program is a true example of integrated programming where people receive the care they need not in sectors, but in one comprehensive package. With funding from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Mildmay currently supports almost 44,000 people (54% are women; 13% are children).
In closing, I know I speak for all of the delegation when I say we are excited to go home and share these amazing stories and experiences with our family, friends and colleagues! Thank you (webale)!
All photos: Josh Estey