Salama for Life – i.e., programs in water, food and nutrition security, health, finance through poverty reduction, and education — has captured our imagination in development programming, implementation, and evaluation over the last 10 years or more. Recently, we have emerged as even more grounded in our program planning, concentrating on the particular needs of youth.
For example, we are currently engaged in the implementation of a participatory-action research (PAR) program during the 2.5 month school break in Lyantonde District, Uganda.
We are calling this intervention:
Securing, safely protecting, and
preserving the stories of vulnerable youth in Uganda:
subsequently supporting and sustaining their dreams
through participatory-action research (PAR) and programmatic interventions
It has been designed as an opportunity to provide opportunities for young people — in and out of school — to reflect on their present situation (risk realities, contingencies, and moral/social dilemmas); participate in a socially-engaged environment where they feel safe in expressing their thoughts on their present and hoped for future; and together with trained mentors (Ssengas and Kojja) and Salama SHIELD Foundation support staff, engage them in a reflection-and-action process towards a hopeful future.
Mindfully mbuntu and behavioral change strategies are currently being conducted through the intervention vehicles of sport, music, drama, entrepreneurial instruction, and conceptual events. We anticipate that the outcome impacts for this “youth camp” experience will be the following:
young persons will be equipped with the enabling resources that permit them to confront an uncertain future. They will be challenged, but subsequently enabled and empowered with the behavioral skills that reduce their risk for STIs and HIV. Advancing forward into adulthood, they will also be secure in their potential to personally affirm and make positive health choices, and in addition, contribute to the creation of a violence-free family household and community-based environment.
The Youth Camp is been conducted at the Community Development Centre (CDC), Lyantonde Town Council, Uganda; Lyantonde Town Council.
“Out of school” adolescent youth are faced with the challenge of what to do with their time during school break. Many of them will return to their homes and assist their parents in managing their households (eg., working in the shamba, assisting with cooking and cleaning, caring for siblings, etc.). Many others, however, will be prone to getting themselves in trouble (attending discos late at night, socializing with friends who may or may not demonstrate a positive influence, or even entering into sexual transactions to earn much-need monies from “sugar daddies”). In short, school break can be a troubling and conflicted time, when young people not occupied with studying find themselves at enhanced risk for HIV transmission.
This proposed “out of school camp” is designed to extricate young people from at-risk situations and events, and provide them with reflective, and action-oriented opportunities to be productively and constructively engaged in the eventual process of becoming adults.
Current programs targeting youth are virtually non-existent due to lack of funding. This was reported in a UNICEF report (2006) where it stated that the Community Services Directorate which manages and governs child protection and youth affairs, receives on average barely 1% of the District local government budget. Most certainly, this is not adequate to organize meaningfully youth engagement activities that would promote and support their health and well-being. It is as if youth are ignored and their voices not intentionally heard. As such, youth remain unguided, experiencing no access to information about health and development matters.
The simple fact is that young persons need and require access to preventive and curative health care, including reproductive and mental health services. These available resources would enable young people to manage risk more effectively and promote their capability to develop their lives (Resnick et al. 2012). Yet in Lyantonde District, Uganda, health systems remain poorly equipped to address the specific information, treatment and care needs of adolescents and youth.
In Lyantonde District, there is no adolescent health centre or teenage centre where youth can easily and safely access information and counseling on health and development matters. While Salama SHIELD Foundation organized and established an adolescent centre at the Community Development Centre (CDC), it lacks much needed funds to provide the enabling resources required to support and sustain the capacities of young people.
The present Youth Camp, while a transitional measure only, is designed to provide youth with a voice. Their stories will be communicated and shared with elders, government, faith, and civil society leaders. If their concerns are not given an audience, we are culpable of not being responsible in nurturing hopeful and productive futures for those young persons who follow us. We need to provide them with a sense of hope, behavioral strategies that keep them safe, and best practice and process models for a worthwhile and fulfilling future.
The main objective of the Camp is to give youth and adolescents a voice in determining their future, coupled with behavioral skills to accomplish their dreams.
Salama SHIELD Foundation’s methodology for th Youth Camp will be to utilize participatory action (PAR) research methods throughout the 2.5 month “youth camp” experience. Health promotion, disease prevention, and entrepreneurial messages leading to behavioral change and practical vocational opportunities will be conveyed through music, drama, narratives and stories, conceptual events (discussing shared stories of lived realities, concerns, hopes, and life challenges), role play, and creative expression (eg., writing, poetry, songs written, and a youth magazine initiated). Vocational skills in carpentry will be taught by a Canadian craftsman donating his time (Mr. Roy Godber); micro-finance instruction will be provided by our Finance department team (content provided to the women’s group recipients of micro-loans, but in this instance, tailored to the needs of youth); and inspirational messages delivered by our Ambassador of Hope, successful local entrepreneurs, and other respected elders in the community.
The Minister of Education, Government of Uganda, and District officials will be invited to the closing event (mid-February, 2016). A short documentary and journalistic narrative will be produced and featured on our web-site (www.salamashield.org) and hopefully, on Ugandan television and radio.
The target population for the Youth Camp will be offered to young people who are “out of school” during their school break, and young people who are not attending school and who reside in Lyantonde District (totaling between 300 and 400 young people).
Different forms of musical expression through creative arts: videos, skits, music, dance and drama (local and western-oriented, and a syncretism of both).
SSF plans to organize tournaments both in basket-ball and volley-ball using the available athletic court yard – which is functional for both sports.
These dialogical forums are predicated on the principles associated with conceptual events.
Youth are given the opportunity to show case their talents.
The magazine will be written and designed entirely by youth with the support of the SSF team. The magazine will be created where young people from Lyantonde District will share their experiences of what it is like being a young person living in Uganda. The magazine will include personal stories, articles and words of advice for youth in a language that is easy for young people to relate to and their elders to listen to, reflect on, and consider.
Setting up a youth portal at the Community Development Centre (CDC) at the CDC Adolescent Centre / Library — where young people can access the internet to search for information and knowledge on global news and events. We are calling this portal the SILL-EE Booth: “Salama” Initiative for Life-long Learning: Enablement, Empowerment. It will be managed by a young person educated and proficient in information technology, as well as an indigenous elder supporting.
Youth will be engaged and partner with their Ssengas and Kojja who will provide them with mbuntu support – nurturing guidance from their family lineages and the larger community.
The population of Northern Uganda was severely affected by the two decade conflict that occurred prior to 2006 between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Over 1.8 million persons were forcibly displaced into Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps. Approximately 70% of the displaced persons were under 25 years of age (Women’s Commission for Refuge Women and Children 2004). The evidence demonstrates that an “estimated 66,000 young people between the ages of 14 to 30 years had been abducted by the rebels and forced to serve as child soldiers, laborers and sex slaves” (Patel et. al. 2014:1; see also Annan, Blattman, and Horton ). At present, persons living in this region are confronted with a “breakdown in social structures; inadequate income; unmet basic needs; sexual violence; increased drug use, and; a lack of health and education infrastructures” (Patel et. al. 2014;: Ibid).
It would appear that youth are particularly affected by this unravelling of social support systems, and therefore require prudent, practical, and innovative “development” interventions. A large number of youth and women are also engaged in the artisanal mining sector, where they are exploited and their health and well-being compromised (UNICEF 2015). Social-culturally compelling interventions are ethically required in mitigating these risks, so as to address not only the specific requirements and needs of youth and women engaged in the artisanal gold mining sector, but writ large, the more comprehensive development challenges of a population compromised and constrained by recent historical circumstances and the consequences of a weakened and dispirited community. While the response of the Ugandan Government and the larger international community could be interpreted as primarily a symptomatic response (the immediate and short-term humanitarian reactive impulse for action), the affected community of persons in the North has the capacity in the mid- to long-term to marshal the will, agency, intent, and purpose (driven by an emerging leadership) that will actualize a more advanced quality of life for persons and communities affected. As such, the challenge is for Government and donors (together with appreciative NGOs) to respect this capacity for change, and together with those affected, find better ways to “come alongside” so as to appropriately assist.
In southwestern Uganda, our programs were primarily focused on those persons and communities affected by HIV/AIDS (Spittal, Nakuti, Sewankambo, and Willms 1997). SSF assisted the community in the revitalization of the ssenga and kojja programs – a social-cultural institution that was denigrated and unraveled at the height of the HIV/AIDS pandemic – and re-instated its role and relevance in mentoring youth who remain uncertain, at risk, and vulnerable to HIV transmission). In short, SSF’s development strategy is to recognize the “social-cultural DNA for development” (cf. Willms 2015) – through nurturing and supportive processes – so that the community itself can respectfully and properly carve out its own present and future well-being based on what it values and prioritizes as steps towards development change. Ethically-inspired and –driven, affected communities must remain the architects and implementers of their own destiny. Our role as NGOs is to respect this authorship, and bring to the table the capacities and resources that they deem necessary for making their imagined change come true. It then augers for a development scenario of mutual benefit, where all stakeholders authentically and appropriately partner.
As a starting point, we are beginning with the critical needs of youth and women engaged in the artisanal mining sector. It is our belief that an authentic, participatory response to the needs reflected in this sector will be applicable, and of sustained merit in addressing other development concerns and challenges experienced in Abim District.
A Needs Assessment is an essential requirement for measuring impacts and outcomes pertaining to a development strategy. Salama SHIELD Foundation intends to partner with other Canadian-based institutions, and yet primarily, with the communities affected in Abim District, Karamoja Region, Northern Uganda. We would be compromised, however, if from the “get go” we come across as: (1) the usual NGO, with a top-down agenda, wanting to do “good things” in Abim (whatever they perceive our motivation to be), or even worse, (2) as a research project/program that expects these persons and communities to answer questions that simply serve SSF’s interests and not theirs.
In short, our agenda for “getting started” has to be one of (1) sharing our story of how and why we are approaching this opportunity the way we are – i.e., tabling and sharing our assumptive propositions, values, development model, etc., and (2) securing their trust in us as attempting something of “moral beauty” (Kleinman 2006). This is no small task or undertaking.
If we understand the process correctly, the Needs Assessment could be viewed as the first chapter of many following chapters in the SSF story being told and written (while seemingly merely metaphoric, it is actually true in terms of the constructive process for “writing” a shared development narrative). In short, we would begin this Needs Assessment with the following:
SSF would reconvene the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) – established together with Rakai Resources — and spell out our version of what we are wondering about doing together with them (among other things, addressing the comprehensive concerns of youth presently engaged in the artisanal mining sector, and their community of support and concern). We would place this Needs Assessment within the larger story line of what we currently anticipate could be possible (to be modified as we proceed together with them). The intent and purpose here is for them to remove themselves from the usual experience of “here we go again with those guys doing research on us …!”, to a complete and full understanding of who we are in relation with, and potential partnership with them. As such, this Needs Assessment provides a baseline (important for measuring change for good), but also, a justifiable argument to prospective donors who come to see us as providing them with the kind of evidence (at baseline and follow-up) that might generate additional financial support for our shared efforts.
We would want to be certain that the Abim community members and stakeholders understand our motives and intentions correctly. If not, we need to spend more time furnishing and co-creating a shared agenda – where the Needs Assessment is, quite simply, a first step towards shared ends.
The terms of reference are as follows: SSF, together with its partners, will conduct a Needs Assessment that will provide a baseline data and evidence base that will allow for the measurement of impacts/outcomes of Salama SHIELD Foundation’s partnership and involvement with communities affected in Abim District, Karamoja Region, Uganda. Even though we are starting with the specific needs of youth entrenched within the artisanal mining sector, the results will be translated to other concerns and needs experienced in Abim District. With this in mind, SSF intends to ensure that its’ innovative, participatory process model for corporate social responsibility (CSR) is, in fact, working to ameliorate the risk, vulnerability, and uncertainty of young persons engaged in the artisanal mining sector, providing them with alternative employment, and at the very least, ensuring that they are cognizant of how best to enhance their quality of life if they choose to remain working in the gold mining sector
The overall objective of the study is as follows: although baseline data has already been gathered through previous studies (which will be critically and constructively reviewed), there is an imperative for accessing additional information concerning the socio-economic circumstances and livelihoods of community members living in Abim District. SSF aims to do business and development differently – in terms of implementing a participatory process model where businesses can not only succeed, but where communities affected are equitably cared for and were sustainable development models are made possible, It will also be vitally important as a benchmark for subsequent monitoring and evaluation of the proposed and co-created community development initiatives (SSF, in partnership with the CAC of Abim District, Karamoja Region, and through the Rakai Resources initiative).
The findings will help the Salama SHIELD Foundation obtain accurate information about Abim District’s development priorities and funding gaps; a greater understanding of the community to facilitate relevant interventions; and develop capacity strengthening interventions that they can better inform evidence-based policies and strategies within Abim District.