“Working with LRA Survivors”
President ASA Social Fund for Hidden Peoples
Joseph Kony led a group of rebels that fought a civil war against the Uganda government of Yoweri Museveni from 1986 to 2008. The Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, waged a cruel and nasty revolt against the Uganda government. It is typical of rebel groups all over Africa, where despite some legitimate grievances, they mostly attacked civilians and used the torture, murder and mutualization of people to put fear into the hearts of civilians and the members of the group itself.
One of the most horrific characteristics of African Civil Wars is the use of children as tools of war. Of these, the most shocking is the kidnapping young girls to be used as “child brides,” married off at 12-14 to commanders to serve the needs of the rebel leaders. Most of the members of the Women’s Advocacy Network (WAN) suffered this fate.
|Joseph Kony and LRA Commanders
The fate of the child Brides? After several years serving the commanders and their older wives as child servants, these girls at 12-14 were “married” and raped by their “husband.” This resulted to their pregnancy. A child bride could have three to five children during their time in captivity.
Aside from the psychological and social impact, the long term of the captivity, the result was the lost time they were without education (creating an educational gap). The children were kidnapped in pre-teen years and were held in usually held in captivity for ten to twelve years. When they were released as young adults, they were illiterate and had no skills to earn a living.
How do the former captives bond together? The women bonded during their years in captivity as they experienced a common growth to adulthood. Many of them joined together and formed an organization, the Women’s Advocacy Network. There are over 900 members of WAN most of whom were held in captivity. Their bond has held firm as they have used their organization to try to restore their lives and those of their children. They gather together socially to support each other, keep the memory of their experiences alive, and inform the world of their experiences.
The major question they faced was could these women create a semblance of a post-captivity life. Through WAN, they support each other to restore some kind of economic independence through income generation. They make and sell things that can be sold locally or crafts that can be sold to visitors.
This is where the potential of micro-loans comes in. The Gulu branch of WAN currently manages four income generating micro-loans supported by ASA Social Fund for Hidden Peoples. These groups provide support to over thirty women. Though there have been problems of repayment of loans during covid and the economic crisis that followed it, the vast majority of the loan recipients have paid back their initial loans and are now on their third or fourth loan. WAN and ASA Social Fund would like to expand the micro-loan groups, to include many more of their members.
Below is a shop owned by a WAN micro loan recipient