In the last couple of weeks, many people around the world were introduced to Joseph Kony, the notorious warlord who has wreaked havoc on Northern Uganda and central Africa for more than two decades. (His sudden rise to fame is of course thanks to a wildly popular film by some young American filmmakers that is itself making news.)
Ashoka East Africa’s Director for our Search and Selection Program, Nassir Katuramu, is from Uganda and observed that,
“Since Kony was ousted from Northern Uganda over five years ago, the challenges of that region have changed from insurgency, brutality, and indiscriminate human rights violations to social and economic development.”
So what areas are ripe for innovation? Where is he looking for leading, local problem-solvers?
“Rehabilitation, peace and reconciliation, economic empowerment, education, healthcare, housing, and food security are the most critical issues today; this is what development efforts must be focused on in 2012 and beyond.”
Rehabilitation and Reconciliation
Through her organization called Empowering Hands, Ashoka Fellow Milly Auma is helping women who were once held captive by the Lord’s Resistance Army return to their communities and rebuild their lives. For ten years Milly lived in captivity and she now uses her personal experiences to inform her organization’s counseling services and economic programs.
Irene Mutumba is challenging the traditional educational system in Uganda by creating a new learning environment where young people are encouraged to think and act like entrepreneurs. Through her youth-led and community-supported clubs, Ugandan youth from north to south get the opportunities to be creative, demonstrate initiative, and lead change in their communities.
Employment Lillian Keene-Mugerwa fights child labor and promotes the rights of marginalized workers in the informal sector in Uganda. James Nguo, on the other hand, is creating an entirely new sector. Through ALIN and his Maarifa Centers and in partnership with Samasource, he is set to open 100 new business process outsourcing (or BPO) employment centers within a 100-mile radius, all in Northern Uganda.
These are ideas that are transforming Northern Uganda today. Going forward, Ashoka is committed to finding and supporting even more leading social entrepreneurs at work in the region. If you know someone with an important, innovative idea for social change, please consider nominating him/her at http://www.ashoka.org/nominate