Latifah’s Story

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.

Notification of Latifah's first post to the BOSCO wiki

Notification of Latifah’s first post to the BOSCO wiki

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.

Latifah welcoming me to BOSCO's Coope ICT site

Latifah welcoming me to BOSCO’s Coope ICT site

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.

The computer Latifah managed in Coope

The computer Latifah managed in Coope

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.”

Students in the Bardege Library in Gulu gather around a cluster of energy-efficient HP thin client PCs, powered by a local solar micro-grid.

Students in the Bardege Library in Gulu gather around a cluster of energy-efficient HP thin client PCs, powered by a local solar micro-grid.

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:

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11 Comments

  1. Posted September 21, 2013 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    Good day. I am very impressed with your efforts and determination. I am a missionary who has been recently in Northern Uganda working on setting projects such as schools, a hospital, a vocation training center and Water wells. My desire is to meet your women just like you on my trip back to Uganda this November 2013. Then I will be hosting a Youth Empowerment and Leadership Conference.

    Soon, with the sale of our books, JR Terrier and Friends, we will be able to build the facilities over in Uganda. My main desire is to build the ALEKA Global Leadership Development Academy starting September 2014. You can visit our sites at http://www.nsccmissions.org to see some of the work we have done or go to http://www.jrterrierbooks.com and see the books that will make a difference around the globe!!! Blessings. Daktari Upendo

  2. muramuzi robert
    Posted October 12, 2013 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    you are such a determined lady. your experience in torture by LRA and ur strategies to erase the past memories out of yourself and set a new, prosperous and hopeful future for your gulu people is such a great achievement. may we one time get a president from there.

  3. Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    Latifah, We are firm with you! And surely she has undergone hard situations as Tom as said and some couldn’t be put in writing but we hope for is the best future for her and her child.

    I am lost for words, But most has been put in writing by Tom; We take credit for the services BOSCOUganda is offering to the people especially the youths who had nothing to do, but thank God, most of them have acquired ICT Skills and WEB 2.O and are able to spend time here, in BOSCOUganda Bardege ICT Centre. However, some are still out there, ain’t going to school either because they are not able to pay themselves at school or intentionally do not want to go to school. “If the training materials that is the computers could be added and more resources put to use; the people especially the youths would change their focus and will develop insight of the kind of future and family they would want to have .”

    once when i wasn’t able to go to school, BOSCOUganda Bardege was the only place i would go to after Church. And now i am blessed; can’t deny. I’ve acquired alot from the centre and the Intern Students to mention Chas and Joey added alot of meaning to our lives….. Of recent the taught us Basic html…….And with tireless efforts I and Isaac have tried to put it in use: You can view my site at; http://ictuganda.com/fred as well as Isaac’s at :http://isaac.ictuganda.com

    I have to say we are Proud of BOSCOUganda and the Intern Students of Notre`Dame University.

    Fred.

  4. Alena Radtke Gabriel
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I have shared your blog with my students. Thank You.

  5. Posted November 20, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    I am glad to read the story of latifah God has brought her this far, live for God Latifah and you will be more blessed. I would like also to contribute and learn more from other people.

  6. Posted November 26, 2013 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    i learned so much from this website! I find Latifah’s story unremarkable! it’s so educational, i love it!

  7. wendy
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Kaila! We do too.

  8. wendy
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Awesome Irene!

  9. wendy
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    So lovely! Thanks so much Alena!

  10. wendy
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much Alena!

  11. wendy
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Robert for sharing this with Latifah!

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