Community conversations continue to guide KRC Uganda’s youth engagement activities for the Young Africa Works-Markets for Youth Program, offering new public forums to identify community development concerns.
Community conversations have brought to light issues that many people may only read about in reports or probably in a history book and enabled us to experience them first hand. From the various encounters and realization that an organized community is a real threat to the incumbent local leaders if they were not serving the people like they should, to the reality that people are fully aware of issues that concern them and have only been waiting for a window to vent out their frustrations. These conversations have also shown that many times, we simply are not fully conscious of some societal issues and take them as a way of life, to the realization that indeed they have the ability to address some of these issues on their own without any external assistance.
There also is an emergence of the glaring reality that certain segments of society for example people living with disabilities and women still do not have the freedom to choose for themselves, to choose what economic and social activities they can be part of, to freely speak what is on their minds. This comes from the sheer fear and threat of what their husbands will do upon returning home or even what society will think of them. Clearly, this is an indicator of many underlying issues like gender-based violence which still prevail in many communities. It also points to the fact that we as a country miss out on the contribution of brilliant minds that continue to be kept silent due to prevailing societal norms. In any case, who stands in a better position to articulate issues than the person who has experienced or seen them like the common adage goes “The wearer knows where the shoe pinches.” Again, many people still believe that development will only come through external aid. To the reality that many Ugandans scarcely have information even as basic as their human rights or existing government programs.
All the above and many other factors indeed still remains a snag to the growth of individuals and entire societies. These also gives room for gross abuse of human rights and a lack of accountability from the various leadership structures. It has proved that the youth can have influence to cause positive change in the community if they are given the opportunity.
Community conversations are revitalizing the collective spirit of communities; a practice that had long been abandoned, with a number of village members especially the youth reporting to have no memory of the last time a village meeting was conducted. The elders could only relate it to what a Local Council Chairperson of Kyakasukule Village termed as "ekoomi" referring to community dialogues that were held in the past.
The community conversations provide a platform where mindsets and deep seated negative cultural norms, beliefs and behavior may be transformed. It allows the opportunity for individuals of a community to reflect on some of the issues that affect them, gives an opportunity to listen and understand issues from other people's perspectives and strengthen relationships and trust within the community. I am very optimistic that the communities will gradually embrace the practice of community conversations and hopefully work around various issues affecting them particularly those that hinder development and seek to popularize those that enhance the same.
Like the popular saying that goes “A family that prays together, stays together.” In the same way like a family, I would like to believe that a community that communes together, grows together. I believe that this is a development approach that should be widely adopted by all development actors.
To have a better Uganda, it is important to have communities that have trust amongst individual village members. Communities that are empowered enough to recognize the resources around them and to identify those factors that can either hinder or enhance their growth. Communities that can engage leaders to have their issues addressed and follow them up. We need communities to visualize a better future for themselves beyond the circumstance they find themselves in and make efforts to achieve it. I see a better Uganda if this becomes a reality. For God and my Country.