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CARE”s Learning Tour Moves North! The Delegation Visits Inspirational And Innovative Programming In Post-Conflict Northern Uganda
Stephanie Chen is CARE USA”s Policy and Communications Manager 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.
CARE USA CEO Helene Gayle congratulates the women in the NUWEP program for their progress.
Photo credit Josh Estey
The delegation, including Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA.), Rep. Jack Kingston(R-GA.), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), departed from Kampala this morning to a village in Gulu – a district in northern Uganda – to visit CARE”s Northern Uganda Women Empowerment Program (NUWEP) program. For several members of the delegation, this was their first visit to the post-conflict area where many Ugandan families are finally returning to their homes after years of civil war and displacement.
NUWEP is a holistic development program implemented by CARE that focuses on the safety and protection of the people affected by the conflict, especially women. Part of the program includes CARE”s signature Village Savings and Loans Program, which has increased the community”s capacity to be productive in agriculture and small enterprises.
CARE”s Board Chairman Bo Cutter
Photo credit Josh Estey
Despite their past, the participants the delegation met showed remarkable resilience: Many of the women – and men -- have started their own small businesses raising life stock and selling food. Many of them shared with us how the gender empowerment aspect of the programs also helped improve many women”s relationships with their husbands and allowed them to be a bigger part of the decision making process.
After the greeting the delegation with a traditional song, the group of 30 women in a VSLA helped the delegation understand the positive impact of the VSLA program by performing a skit. The skit called “We Will Never Give Up’ centered on a poor woman in rural northern Uganda whose alcoholic husband refused to help her raise the children and tend to their crops. When the woman receives counseling from the NUWEP and joins the VSLA, her life begins to slowly improve. Eventually, her husband see”s her ability to save and invest money. He soon helps her with the work.
While the skit was short, it gave a glimpse into the positive changes many of these women have faced since joining the program. Afterwards the delegation visited each of the women”s small businesses. One group of women sold seeds, grains and vegetables. Another tapestry business where money from the VSLA was spent on the sewing machine.
Catherine Connors, writer and blogger for Babble.com shares a moment with the children in Gulu during the NUWEP visit
Photo Credit Josh Estey
After visiting NUWEP, the delegation headed to the ARISE program in Awach where we were welcomed by a beautiful song and dance.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) is welcomed at Pathfinder International's ARISE Project in Gulu, Uganda
Photo Credit Josh Estey
With support from Pathfinder International and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), this program integrates family planning services into existing health services, including prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) and antiretroviral treatments (ART) for people living with HIV/AIDS. In particular, the ARISE Project works through the National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (NACWOLA) to sensitize men and women on the importance of getting HIV testing and treated through community outreach.
We heard from an inspiring Community Support Agent (CSA) named Jimmy who talked about the importance of linking the community to the health system. The NACWOLA group then performed a song for the delegation, followed by a discussion of the different family planning methods that are available. We also heard from Joyce, the chairperson of the group, who shared her personal story about being tested and treated for HIV through the program.
The delegation then split into three groups and walked to nearby homes to see an outreach demonstration done by NACWOLA. They learned about the amazing and important work the CSA's are doing to address some of the barriers that exist in getting HIV testing and family planning services, such as stigma and cultural beliefs.
The delegation left Gulu with many inspiring stories and messages about the importance of U.S. foreign assistance investments in Uganda, and how communities and families are working to lift themselves out of poverty with the assistance of innovative and exciting programs like ARISE and NUWEP.
Now, onto our final day of the Learning Tour! Webale!