An interview with Ugandan peacebuilder Omule Geoffrey, one of the winners of our Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders awards 2014. The 2015 awards are now open for entries.
The War Affected Youth Association (WAYA) was established in 2005 by a student who suffered abduction from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). WAYA focuses on helping returning LRA abductees and preventing mistreatment of children. We also advocate for non-violent conflict resolution in northern Uganda. So far, we have reached around 15,000 people, directly and indirectly, through various peacebuilding activities. Among other things, we have successfully contributed to the release of LRA child soldiers in Juba, supported 105 children with school fees and scholastic material, and provided 5,000 children with psychosocial support, 250 of whom were formerly abducted by the LRA.
It was a very stiff competition and when we heard that we had been selected as winners, our hearts jumped with joy.
The prize money really boosted our activity, because WAYA is an organisation that is still growing. With this money we were able to reach many beneficiaries through various activities – 1,208 in total.
We managed to reach a group of women who had been abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army and then rescued. There are 59 women, who are now mothers. In their community these women are referred to as ‘Mon pa kony’, meaning ‘wives of the rebel leader Joseph Kony’ – and they are rejected for this.
First contact with them was made through our traditional song sessions, which teach about peace and forgiveness for former abductees of the LRA. Then the group of women registered to attend our Annual Cultural Gala. This allowed them to publicly interact with other people, creating the possibility for a life free from ostracism. Their leader Florence said: “We used to be excluded from many programmes within our community. WAYA’s peace activities have really helped to put an end to that.”
We also used the prize money to acquire sports equipment and organise a football tournament for young people under 16. The main objective of this was to get children from different socio-cultural backgrounds, including children that live on the streets, to interact and unite through football and sports. In Uganda, homeless children are often seen as a menace by the rest of the population, so bringing them along was a very special achievement for our organisation.
The football competition lasted four days and was attended by six football clubs, 95 players, 17 local leaders, homeless children and children from Kanyagoga that are known for their anti-social behaviour. Throughout the tournament we held workshops on peaceful coexistence, vulnerable children sensitisation and non-violent activities. The winning team, Holy Rosary Green, was awarded a Peace Trophy.
Finally, we used the prize money to launch our Annual Cultural Gala. We had dancing, theatre, poetry reading and concerts, all highlighting peaceful and non-violent solutions in conflict resolution.
All these things would have represented a great challenge for WAYA if we had not won the prize money.
Winning the prize has provided recognition of WAYA’s work and what we are doing for the promotion of peace. Many of WAYA’s activities are going to be integrated into the government plan, in particular the ones that target the youth and former LRA-abducted women.
Our ambition now is to expand our area of coverage to the neighbouring districts, depending on whether we can get more funding.
Omule Geoffrey, Programme Manager at WAYA, a grassroots organisation that works with former combatants in Uganda.
To enter the 2015 awards, or sponsor them, see here: www.peacedirect.org/tp. Entries are open until 15 September 2015.