Creating a more inclusive Uganda
How are Ugandans fostering a more loving and inclusive society? Universal Love Ministries (ULM) is hosting a series of workshops, supported in part by Spirit in Action, at schools in Uganda. Their team talks with students and teachers about life planning skills and human rights, particularly the rights of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) people. At the end of the workshop, students are encouraged to form “inclusive clubs” to defend human rights in their school.
Taremwa Kenneth is a Fine Arts teacher and deputy head teacher at Bitereko Vocational Secondary School, where ULM held a recent day-long workshop. In his many roles, he works closely with head teachers, and government and community leaders.
Kenneth sees that the Universal Love Ministries’ workshops are having great impact in his community in Mitooma District. LGBTI youth are safer and more confident. Youth are focusing on inclusion and standing up against hatred. After talking with youth who attended the workshops, Kenneth shared his findings.
Skits are common in Ugandan workshops. They are a more fun and accessible way to talk about social change.
Report from Kenneth, Deputy Head Teacher
“I attended two of the day-long ULM sessions, the one held at my school and another that was delivered at the Kitojo Secondary School. After ULM left Mitooma, the message they delivered in the workshops circulated around the district and reached community members and government officials. This happened by word of mouth as teachers and students who attended the ULM workshops retold what they had learned to others.
“Recently, I traveled to Kampala and spent a week of training at the ULM office. The training opened my inner eyes and ears. It helped me to start thinking in a different way: a way that seeks a constructive solution to the problems faced by people in our communities.
Samson Turinawe, director of ULM, leads a workshop session on human rights and life skills.
What have students learned about being inclusive?
“I talked with students, including those who attended the ULM workshops, as well as those who got word about what happened at the workshop through inclusive club members. Through this I learned how the previous ULM workshops helped the students and teachers who attended.
They learned about human rights. They had heard about human right but they did not know exactly what human rights mean.
Students came to know that one’s sexual orientation cannot be changed.
They learned the difference between gender and sex.
They learned that LGBTI people are not cursed nor are they agents of the devil, as they’ve been told by local religious leaders.
LGBTI youth were happy to know that there is an organization which is educating people to accept them and include them in each and every activity in their communities.
LGBTI students started believing in themselves and accepting who they are. It was their first time to hear someone affirm them.
Some LGBTI students who were in the closet are now coming out openly to their fellow students about their sexual orientation.
Students now socialize in the inclusive club, which meets twice a month. In club meetings, they educate others on human rights, and to accept LGBTI.
Students told me that they would love to have more training because they have more questions they need to ask, and that they are also asked many questions which do have answers.
LGBTI students reported that they are no longer teased and bullied by their fellow students and that after the workshops some students approached and apologized to them.
Inclusive club members. At their meetings they talk to others about human rights and help people accept LGBTI students.
ULM fills the knowledge gap
“They all thanked ULM for the good work. I want to personally thank the ULM team and Samson for the good work that ULM is doing for issues that affect our country. I did not know how to handle these issues beforehand. Many professionals still do not know how to handle these issues. ULM is there to fill the gap. I am committed to use the knowledge I gained at ULM along with my connections and my network of friends to see that ULM’s work and teachings reach many people, directly and indirectly.”