Dina Buck

Dina Buck (United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda - UOBDU): Dina’s undergraduate degrees include a BA in Philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a BS in Environmental Policy and Assessment from Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University. In 2010, Dina served as an AP Peace Fellow with the Kampala-based World Peasants/Indigenous Organization (WPIO), now called the East and Central Africa Association for Indigenous Rights (ECAAIR), which advocates for Batwa rights in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the time of her 2011 fellowship, Dina was studying for her Master’s degree in International Human Rights at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at University of Denver, with concentrations in both sustainable development and international administration and law. After her fellowship Dina wrote: “This fellowship has helped me learn more about my capabilities and my handicaps. I also feel I understand better how to sustainably empower people, and work with them in a way that honors their dignity, intelligence, and capabilities.”


06 Sep

As I wrap up my fellowship, and reflect on this past summer, I can easily say I’ve learned a lot. This summer has had its joys and challenges and, of course, it certainly didn’t turn out the way I expected it to, but then nothing ever does, which is to be expected. 😉

Me & the UOBDU Staff
Me & the UOBDU Staff

It’s been interesting getting more of an inside view of UOBDU’s efforts, and seeing why they’ve had success with their programs. Part of the reason, of course, rests on having a skilled staff that is passionate about its mission. Participating with UOBDU this summer, I have been continually impressed the organization in general. Additionally, as I discussed in an earlier blog about grassroots efforts, one of they keys that I think has contributed to UOBDU’s success is their insistence that the Batwa direct them, not the other way around.

In school, and in the news in general, I have learned and read, time and again, about organizations that failed to connect with their beneficiaries, and then put in schools/wells/latrines/etc. where they weren’t wanted; built things that were wanted, but then fell apart within a year or two, with the beneficiaries unable to afford repairs or access materials locally to keep whatever it was running; or started programs that couldn’t be sustained by participants.

Of course the intention is good. And I know it’s incredibly difficult, even impossible, to know ahead of time the consequences of aid, development, advocacy, etc. But I am surprised at how often the voices of those meant to benefit are marginalized, or even excluded. And how often beneficiaries aren’t asked to invest, in some way, in the project or program being implemented, increasing chances that they will simply view it as a big hand-out, and decreasing chances they will take even partial ownership of it. (Of course, aid for acute or emergency circumstances is a different story. I am talking here about efforts that an organization hopes will be sustained over time.)

Something else I have observed is that much of what’s written about the Batwa [rather understandably] frames virtually all of them that have faced forest eviction as absolutely destitute, begging and living as nothing but victims. But, on the ground, one sees there are vast differences in well-being between the different communities. Certainly some of the Batwa communities are hurting very badly, but others are making progress, and are figuring out how to successfully live outside the forests. They are still poor by any measure, but they live in cooperative communities, and with great dignity. Not surprisingly, one of the key factors behind the difference in well-being between communities rests on those that own the land they live on, and those that don’t. Land rights are vital.

Today was my last day, and as I said my goodbyes, I found myself feeling unexpectedly emotional. It’s been an honor to participate with UOBDU this summer. I know Peace Fellows are sent out to lend skills, advocate, and assist however they can, the organizations they are partnered with, but it’s understating it to say I have gained vastly more from UOBDU than I have given.

I encourage anyone who is even remotely interested in indigenous and minority rights, the Batwa, and Africa, to continue to follow UOBDU’s work. Thus, one of the main things I’ve been helping UOBDU with is the creation of a website, which is presently set to “private,” but I went over the website with the staff today, and it sounds like they will review it, and launch it very soon. When that happens, the URL will be: http://uobdu.wordpress.com/. Or just keyword the organization’s name (bearing in mind that they spell “organization” with an “s”). I hope you will keep UOBDU in mind, and check periodically to see if the site is live.

Many thanks.

Posted By Dina Buck

Posted Sep 6th, 2011

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