Young girls in northern Uganda face incredible barriers attending school due to the conflict in the region. Photo Credit: Project Trust, October 2009.
The following post was submitted to the WPSN-C by Angela Atim Lakor, a young woman and peace-builder from Northern Uganda who has been working in collaboration with our member organization, Children/Youth as Peacebuilders (CAP). She will be in attendance at the Global Summit and will be delivering a presentation about her experiences being abducted and held by the Lord’s Resistance Army, her escape after eight years in captivity and the work she does fighting for the rights of female returnees and children born in LRA captivity.
“Our organization is called Watye Ki Gen – this is Acholi for “We have hope.”
Watye Ki Gen is a membership group – we are all formerly abducted females. We came together to develop a collective portrait of our experiences in the bush – called The LRA Forced Wife System. Then we decided we wanted to continue to work together and focus on children born in captivity.
We decided to work together because of what the children are experiencing.
When girls and women came back from the bush there were some people who were helping them with vocational skills and other programs. But no one came for the children who were born in captivity. This was needed because some of them have been psychologically broken, especially those who came back when they were six and above. They know what happened in the bush and they still have that memory that keeps them fearful. There is also the stigma against them; the children are often not welcomed in the school or with their neighbours. So the children were asking, “Why do people do this to us? Why do they hate us?”
They also have problems in their families: they often are not accepted. Some of the children really want to know where they come from, about their fathers. For many mothers this is difficult, they don’t want there to be any connection to that biological father. But the children want to know – some will say, “I know that my father maybe died but I still want to know his family. However many bad things he did, he is still my father.”
At the start it was difficult. In the bush there were levels of wives and some of them mistreated others so much so there were a lot of bad memories and feelings amongst the women. Then when we started Watye Ki Gen we were working together, putting that history behind us. But that wasn’t easy to do.
Step by step, we started to realize that what happened amongst the wives in the bush was really a trick of Joseph Kony and the LRA system to control us, to ensure that no one could escape because everyone was watching each other. Now, the biggest benefits is that we understand that. Yes, people are still really wounded and hurt because of the past but when we talk it out we come to understand it.
I can say for myself there are some people on the committee who were cruel to me in the bush but right now we are one, we work together. And when others look at us and see how we are learning to be together, it encourages others to forgive and for women to be together. We are definitely a step ahead. That doesn’t mean that there are not problems, but we are learning to sit down, to talk something through together and to learn how to solve things ourselves – that is good.
We help each other.
It is useful for other women to see how some mothers are able to cope. There are difficulties but they keep on going on, so the mothers are learning how to talk to each other and get advice from each other. The committee has taken the step of doing home visits for those who are having trouble. We go and share and it is really so good, you feel at home with each other. Also, we have also started a system where if someone is sick then some other women from Watye Ki Gen will go to visit and to provide help. It is really so encouraging, especially for the women who were giving up.
We are starting to get more respect in the community. But it is still 50/50. People are beginning to understand why we are doing this and also to respect us as an organization.”
For more information about Angela’s work with Watye Ki Gen, please see this report published in partnership with Children/Youth as Peacebuilders (CAP).