JRP and the WAN hold dialogue on reintegration of children born of war
GULU – Children born of war and their mothers still face challenges reintegrating into their communities and families in northern Uganda. This was the key message sent during a dialogue between cultural leaders and war-affected women organized by the Women and Advocacy Network and the Justice and Reconciliation Project on 28 April 2016 in Gulu.
The event, which brought together participants from Acholi, Lango, Teso and West Nile, offered a space for women survivors of conflict to share their experiences with representatives of cultural institutions from the Greater North.
The dialogue was punctuated by a presentation from the WAN members appealing to cultural leaders to help reintegrate children born of war into their communities.
Nighty, a member of the WAN, spoke about how when she returned home from the captivity of the LRA she discovered that a child of hers she had been separated from had been mistakenly placed in the home of another family on his return.
“I would like you, my elders, to help let my child come back home,” she asked the cultural leaders in attendance.
The WAN spoke at length about the difficulties they and their children are undergoing today. Many children are unable to trace their patrilineal lines and are consequently unable to access land and other life necessities that are linked to their fathers.
On their return home, some children have either not been reunited with their actual families or have been taken in by the wrong families. As explained by WAN Chairperson Evelyn Amony, this has partly been so because while in captivity their parents would have used fake names to protect their families back home. On return, this has created a problem for mothers, fathers and children eager to trace families that were separated.
Poverty also was cited as the biggest social problem facing children born of war and their children, with facilitating education and health care provision being very hard if not impossible. The issue of land is yet another problem, with children and their mothers landless due to stigma and poor community acceptance.
In attendance of the event was His Highness Drani Stephen Musali Izakare, the Lopirigo of Madi, who appealed to the cultural leaders present to address the issues that arose during the discussion.
“Culture is not static, [it] is dynamic and cultural change is inevitable and welcome where change is needed,” he said, “In Madi, there’s no right way to have a child because children are all of ours.”
At the close of the event, the WAN members and the cultural leaders in attendance worked together to come up with action points for how cultural institutions could be better involved in the reintegration of children born of war.
Some of the commitments generated during the group discussions included to hold clan meetings to create clan laws that would prohibit stigma within communities, integrating war-affected women and their children into cultural leadership at community level and collectively engaging the Ugandan government to address the issues raised.
The meeting was held as part of a JRP project aimed at ensuring the reintegration of children born of war through family reunions in partnership with the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice and the Women’s Advocacy Network.
By Benard Okot, with additional writing from Oryem Nyeko