A public art intervention
Forced to settle: Giving a voice to women and youth in Karamoja, Uganda
Women and children have been forced to settle for less.
In contemporary conflicts, as much as 90 percent of casualties are among civilians, most of whom are women and children. Women in war-torn societies can face specific and devastating forms of sexual violence, which are sometimes deployed systematically to achieve military or political objectives.- UNIFEM
Karamoja is a region in northeastern Uganda with people sharing ethnic roots and livelihoods with pastoralist groups in Sudan and Kenya. It is the poorest region in Uganda and a combination of forced settlement, drought and underdevelopment have led to a reliance on small arms use in cattle raiding, virtually their only source of livelihood. This has caused insecurity in the region which has been exacerbated by forced disarmament interventions by the Ugandan government, who have been accused of gross human rights atrocities.
Traditional movement patterns and the freedom of movement that is essential for a nomadic pastoralists way of life has been halted by the privatization of land, national borders (which have no meaning to the Karamojong) and forced settlement, breaking down their traditional life structure and resulting in consequences such as hunger, increased value in cattle and increased raiding. This current complex problems of poverty and insecurity are rooted in decades of political and economic marginalization, poor governance and quickly changing cultural norms. Current interventions have only worsened the problem and until a rights based approach is taken the people will continue to loose their rights, safety and cultural traditions.
The Karamojong have historically resisted attempts by colonial and post-colonial governments to force western ways of life including dress, sedentary lifestyles and western style schools. They have been forced to settle in a land where they experience drought, a land without any development of alternative livelihood than cattle raiding.
Women and youth in Karamoja are responsible for doing a bulk of the manual labor while they are left out of the decision making processes. In this art intervention photographer Katharine Sidelnik collaborates with women and youth, letting them have control in the process of representing themselves in text and images where they express their view of self, home and community. By presenting the works as large scale images in the very communities they were produced in, the community becomes a gallery, the historically silenced artists are given a voice and the community as audience is encouraged to discuss the current sociological issues the work raises with family, friends, neighbors and members of national and international institutions. Community based public art shows have been proven as a culturally inclusive way to effectively sensitize communities in conflict and post-conflict zones about relevant issues by empowering community members and giving them a voice.
By challenging traditional ideas about what it means to be women and youth in Karamoja, an international audience is offered a rare and genuine self-representation that transcend the stereotypes of "warrior nomads" and gives insight into thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears of an often misrepresented people.
Ayakatar ayong aperdor (I have rights).
Ayeni atemar ebus ayong (I feel beautiful).
Women from AWARE UGANDA (formerly the Kaabong Women’s Group). AWARE-Uganda was founded in 1989 to create local awareness of HIV/AIDS and combat domestic violence, discrimination against women and lack of government support to curb abuses of women’s rights in rural areas.
Acaka ngulu alalak kotere aremo (I have lost many in my family to raids).
A child rights worker meets with a family to discuss the importance of their adopted child continuing to attend school. She shows the Uncle a photo taken of the boy sleeping outside in a army protected kraal and discusses the dangers involved in sleeping in an area that sees frequent cross fire.