So, I did not post a blog last week because I had spent time (with a steep learning curve), on creating my first video interview of an older Mutwa woman named Mauda Nyiravuguhenda (what a surname!), and when I uploaded it to YouTube, the quality was terrible, so I’m a bit behind. While I get that sorted out, this is a good opportunity to discuss the events UOBDU has been putting on in the last couple weeks, and post some photos of the first community visits I’ve been able to join in on.
One reason I wanted to do this Peace Fellowship with UOBDU is because I am very interested in grassroots efforts and, from everything I’ve seen, UOBDU is an excellent example of successful bottom-up advocacy and capacity building, and the recent events they’ve held have been really inspiring.
On July 14th, the Batwa here in Uganda invited up Batwa from Rwanda to show them their mapping project, and talk about the process of creating it, to give the Rwandan Batwa an opportunity to do a mapping project themselves. They showed a video of the 3-D map project the Bwindi map was modeled after (created in the Philippines), and discussed among themselves how their own process compared. They then sat around the map itself and talked about it, and the legend, and how different community members helped contribute, via their memories, and through consensus. Then they had a Q and A session. While UOBDU helped with the logistics of getting the Rwandan Batwa to Kisoro, the exchange was largely led by the Batwa themselves.
Then, on July 20th, there was a presentation of the map for the project’s funder, local council leaders, and other organizations that have an interest in the map, such as the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The Batwa, again, presented the map, and answered questions. Chris later pointed out that three Local Council 5 (LC 5) members attended (LC 5’s are considered very important people in local government), and one of them even put an arm around one of the Batwa at one point. Apparently, this has never happened before, and was quite a significant moment for Chris, who has been working with the Batwa for more than a decade now. He told me the LC 5 members, in the past, have often failed to even RSVP to Batwa events they have been invited to, let alone attend them, and many would never have made an effort to associate with the Batwa in any way. So UOBDU is seeing progress…as they say here “pole pole” (slowly slowly).
Something else that has struck me, from my visit this last December, and this time as well, is the different levels of well-being within the different communities. Certainly some of the communities in the region are struggling quite a lot, and relatively speaking (especially through Western eyes), all the communities live in challenging conditions, but some of them are doing okay, and are figuring out life outside the forest, which is not the message I got through the literature and academic papers I have read on the Batwa in Uganda. If I were to only go off written material, I would only have a picture of utter destitution. One thing that seems to make the difference in well-being between the different communities is whether or not they own the land they’re settled on. No surprise there.
At the same time, even those that have land can face other struggles. For example, in one of the communities we visited this last Friday, a woman, who had been given a piece of land with her husband, was struggling with her neighbor because she can only access her house by walking through her neighbor’s field. She is completely surrounded by private property. Her neighbor apparently is angry that she and her family walks through his/her (?) field. But what else is she supposed to do? This same woman’s husband also struggles with alcoholism, and beats her when he is drunk. He has tried to kick her and their children out of the house, but because UOBDU has discussed with the women their rights, she has resisted her husband’s efforts and insisted that, since the land was given to both of them, he can’t just boot her out.
Progress, “pole pole,” but not without many challenges. Below are photos from the mapping exchange, presentation, and community visits. Hopefully, I’ll have the video interview posted soon.
Posted By Dina Buck
Posted Jul 25th, 2011