MUNYONYO, Uganda, 10 December 2010 - "Today we are starting a three-day journey for creating a shared vision about a Ugandan society in which women and children live with no fear, in dignity and to their full potential."
These words spoken by Silvia Pasti Chief of Child Protection for UNICEF Uganda, opened a conference held in Munyonyo, Uganda, called "The Future Search Workshop on Violence Against Children and Women". It brought together about fifty young people, policy makers, traditional and religious leaders, academics, civil society members, and other representatives, all working together to reduce violence in Uganda.
"The workshop is organized jointly by the ministry of gender and UNICEF," she continued. "But I'm here to speak to you not necessarily as a UNICEF staff member but as a woman. I'm sure that many of you in this room, regardless of your age, sex, color of your skin, have experienced directly – or at least witnessed – a form of violence in your life."
The workshop followed a format that brought people together to tell stories about what they hope to see in the future. They delved into the issues in search of common ground, to build the foundation for concrete action plans.
"We are not as vigilant as we should be in combatting this malaise, which is eating up our society," said James Kaboggoza, who works with Uganda's Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development. " I believe if we tackled this together, we could go a long way in reducing the problem and creating an environment for our women and children to blossom and make our families progressive and better able to contribute to the development of this country."
Among the stakeholders present were young people, including Abdul Galiwango, 24, who is now singing about his former life on the streets. Currently living at a center for street children in Kampala, he is working to help others make the transition off the streets.
"This is time to speak about life," he sang. "Let us speak about life on the streets. They really struggle, they're really crying. No hope, no future for them. Let's get together, united as one."
One of the young people present, Elizabeth Kicarwot, 14, talked about vulnerable children and their plight: "Street children, even children that are in street corridors, they are there crying every day and night."
UNICEF's Silvia Pasti offered her closing thoughts at the end of the conference: "All the things we've identified as problems and as solutions, are coming from all of us. We are owning what we said we would do...We cannot fail the women and the children that are here. We commit, as UNICEF, to really keep this alive, to make it happen."