Our journey to Lango, Acholi and West Nile sub regions.
The year 2020 emerged with a lot of optimism and zeal for Zishaye CivFund to roll out the aspirations that had been well crafted in 2019.
At the beginning of the year, Zishaye CivFund sent out a call for concepts for civil society actors engaged in natural resource rights work at the grassroots level. The call focused on actors based in Lango, Acholi and West Nile sub regions in Uganda. A total of 128 concept notes were received from various civil society actors. After an elaborate evaluation process, the concept notes of the actors that aligned to the CIVFUND aspirations were invited to submit full proposals in May and June 2020.
The CivFund team, then worked closely with the potential grantees during the process of drafting their budgets and proposals. As a fund that adopts a feminist funding perspective, we aspire to do more than just grantmaking – to include leadership support and capacity building. For this to happen effectively, we needed to understand the partners that we were to fund. This understanding can be enriched with conversations and in-person meetings with the leaders and staff of the organizations.
Our earlier plan was to undertake the due diligence process for the selected potential grantees in March 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, leaving the process in jeopardy. CivFund was not the only institution that was affected. Many systems became paralyzed across the country.
When the nationwide lockdown was eased, the team set out to conduct the due diligence process in the three sub regions of Lango, Acholi and West Nile. Zishaye being a flexible local fund that is intended to cultivate dreams, ignite conversation for effective civic engagement, the due diligence process became more conversational with the following objectives:
· Meet and confirm that the entities exist.
· Appreciate more the work they do and how they do it.
· Understand more how they intend to do what was documented on their proposals and help them understand in detail, how Zishaye CivFund can help them to successfully execute the work they intend to do.
First off, was Lango sub-region. During the last week of July 2020, we specifically visited Lira District, where we met a wonderful team of staff from Foundation for Integrated Rural Development (FIRD). We were captivated by the level of impact their work had had in the region and what they planned on doing with the Zishaye CivFund grant.
Harriet Adong, the Executive Director, intimated to us that having grown up in the region, she had a deep understanding of the level of abuse on natural resources, perpetuated by powerful individuals at the expense of frontline communities, especially the women. She added that one of the organization’s strategic objectives is to advocate for access and utilization of these resources especially by women and children.
We headed out to Otuke District on the second day. While in Otuke, we interacted with Okere Community Development Project. The trip that took about 2 hours from Lira town led us to a deep village that generated a feel of no village ahead. It was beautiful and serene. Like the old adage says, ‘sometimes wary roads lead to beautiful hidden treasures’. When we finally arrived, a group of wonderful women welcomed us from about 200 meters away from the establishment of the entity. They sang songs of joy, welcome and made mention of the work Okere does and how these have impacted on their lives and the entire community. They said Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA) for instance which is engineered by Okere, had helped them educate their children. They continued to say that Okere has helped provide pre-primary education to the community, something the village had not seen in as far as they could remember.
On health, they said persons living with HIV/Aids, who used to move several miles to pick Anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) are in congratulatory mood since Okere now partners with one of the government health center IV, to ensure that the drugs are supplied to Okere establishment, which is nearer to the people who need them. Everything about this organization was exciting because it presented as a typical Zishaye CivFund grantee – with deep grassroots engagement.
The second week of our due diligence tour saw us move further north, to the Acholi and West Nile sub regions, where we held meetings with a couple of potential grantees.
In Gulu district, we met an enthusiastic team from Gulu Women Economic Development and Globalization (GWED-G) led by Pamela Anywech, the Executive Director. She passionately walked us through the work they do with the communities and particularly work around protection of natural resources and access by women and LRA war victims.
She said that, being a daughter of the land, she was moved by the plight of the women and war victims especially towards the end of LRA war in Acholi. She showed us samples of handcrafts (handbags) that former war victims had made, which essentially had become a source of livelihood to them and their families. Ms Anywech said, the women use waste materials like used Kaveera (polythene bags) to recycle and make bags. GWED-G supported them with initial capital, workspace, capacity support and continues to help them to find markets for their products. This has helped improve their livelihoods and that of their families, and that they have managed to send their children to school.
In the afternoon of the same day, we met a team from “Our Tress We Need Answers” which is an environmental activist’s pressure group; that is led by a group of young and enthusiastic individuals from Acholi sub region. They narrated to us their interventions that have led to significant reduction in the level of charcoal burning and extinction of indigenous tree species in Acholi sub region. The team also demonstrated their plans and capabilities to continue building a movement in the region to defend natural resources and advocate for access and utilization of these resources by women and Children (co-existence between the people living around these resources and the resources itself).
Our final leg was in West Nile. We had very fruitful and insightful conversations with potential grantees who were able to articulate the details of the work they intend to implement with Zishaye CivFund grant. We met the teams from ‘Afrikovation in Pakwach District’, ‘West Nile Women in Development in Arua District and the team from ‘Life Concern in Zombo District’.
From our assessment, the two weeks engagement with potential grantees, achieved its objectives. As a fund that adopts a feminist funding perspective, we were more concerned about what the potential grantees intended to do. The journey provided a platform for face-to-face interactions, while observing social distancing as per Health Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This helped put perspective to ideas that had been documented in both concept notes and proposals. The Zishaye team was able to provide technical backstopping to potential grantees to conclude on the proposals.
During the countrywide lockdown, it seemed impossible for us to execute what we had started. But at the end of the two weeks, the comprehensive appraisal with the potential grantees was successfully accomplished. The result of this important exercise will be disbursement of funds to partners whose projects are aligned to the aspirations of Zishaye CivFund.