BOSCO is an organization using wikis and other technology to help give the isolated and war-affected people of Northern Uganda a voice in the global community. They started using Wikispaces Private Label back in 2009 and we’ve been sharing their amazing story of wikis in Uganda on our blog ever since. Recently, we were fortunate to hear an update from the field from Tom Loughran, Vice President of BOSCO and professor at the University of Notre Dame. He shared with us the incredible story of one woman using technology to make a difference.
“You don’t often get a picture of your first meeting with someone you’ll grow to admire, but here’s mine.
I first met Latifah as administrator and subscriber to the BOSCO-Uganda Wikispaces site. Her determination was evident from her first post; the remarkable circumstances that gave birth to that determination emerged only later. BOSCO’s web 2.0 training had found an eager student in Latifah. She quickly emerged as a leader of her site in the city of Coope, managing training around one highly-valued computer in a rented storefront. When she wasn’t training others, Latifah (also known as Akello and Monica as the Acholi don’t make a surname distinction) began to tell her story, online for the world to hear. I began to assist her online to help her with formatting and other technical editing, and became captivated by the tale she told.
Like everyone she knew, Latifah had been a victim of a brutal civil war, inheriting the aftermath of 20 years of cultural scouring. Like tens of thousands of Acholi children, she had been kidnapped and enslaved by the Lord’s Resistance Army. As she indicated, much of her experience was too painful to describe, a reluctance that must be measured against what she could bring herself to share: of being beaten to within an inch of her life for refusing to beat another child to death for the crime of attempting to return home; of forcible wedlock, in a group of young women all of whom faced a common life with promise of a common death if any of them escaped; of surviving and escaping through a government attack on the rebels; of returning home to shame and marginalization; of young teen pregnancy. But she also told of a father who loved her and urged her to take every challenge in life as an opportunity. And so she has.
In March of 2010, after months of online interaction, we met ‘again for the first time’—this time face-to-face—as I toured the BOSCO Coope community site that continued to elect Latifah as their leader. Latifah showed me their one computer, one printer, and one solar-charged battery used to power both this hardware and a few small entrepreneurial activities (like cell phone charging) with what surplus power remained. In her attempts to train and engage the youth of her village, the scarcity of computing resources was a challenge. Latifah was helping Coope make the most of the opportunity.
During this time, Latifah continued to post regularly to the Wikispaces site. Writing about what she knew, she told of her hopes for law school to advocate for women’s rights, and shared at length about the cultural practices surrounding childbirth in traditional Acholi culture. Just this summer, she reflected on the press of isolation and hopelessness in the aftermath of the civil war, but how ICT (Information and Communications Technology, a phrase that most of the world uses to talk about computing) has been a source of hope in the lives of young people in the BOSCO-Uganda network. Latifah lives that hope. She summarized her intentions in one of her very many memorable posts:
“This knowledge that have got from BOSCO i will always use it by posting in the Wikispaces, keep the togetherness, i will always try to work hard so that my life change and the life of my child change too and to always train the youth both sexes but i will also emphasize on the ladies who seem disadvantageous and i will make sure they learn the web 2.0 so that they can say all they have in their hearts so that they are relief from the pain by saying it out.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
I met Latifah a third time, quite unexpectedly. Having taken employment in Gulu, she was volunteering in a new site—BOSCO’s Bardege Library—where I was installing a new computing center this past August, one of four such installations donated by HP as part of an Accenture supported partnership between BOSCO and the University of Notre Dame’s Initiative for Global Development. This project is a collaboration to create ecosystems where young people can receive entrepreneurial and ICT training in the presence of sufficient solar power to support the connectivity and catalyze entrepreneurial uses of renewable energy. During the past year as this partnership has emerged, I often remembered Latifah’s account of the hope that a single solar-powered computer brought to Coope. In many respects—by responding to the opportunity to learn, by training others, by telling her story, and by sharing local needs—Latifah brought these new HP computers to Northern Uganda. In the hands of determined young leaders like Latifah, they will be instruments of hope for many others.”
Latifah has documented her journey and healing from the war on her wiki page for 6 years. We hope you’ll read her accounts here: