This school and cultural institution in rural Uganda will level the playing field for women and girls
I first heard about InteRoots' work in Uganda through recent articles that featured their work in connection with decolonizing philanthropy and ethical storytelling, so I happily agreed to share their guest post on how they work with/in communities!
By The InteRoots Initiative
The Tat Sat Community Academy Project (TaSCA) is underway in Kasasa, Uganda, and while it seeks to improve the livelihoods of all community members, there is a particular emphasis on uplifting women and girls.
Mrs. Namayega Agnes, a TaSCA community board member, says the project is a “generational quest to turn around our livelihoods – and by livelihoods, I am referring to our social norms and values, and our communal ways of life – letting our social communal abilities blossom for a happier Kasasa.”
In Uganda, access to secondary education is extremely limited, with only 19.7% of children attending secondary school (4.9% for Uganda’s poorest girls).
Agnes says many girls in the community get married at a young age, stunting their education and potential to contribute to the economy: "In Kasasa, women and children have not been given an equal chance for financial progress, development, and contribution to the wellbeing of the community. The TaSCA project creates a gender balance – a shift in the current perceptions about the women and the girls in our community to being equally productive members of our communities.”
TaSCA seeks to change some of these outcomes. This will be achieved through equity in education, access to financing and financial support networks, and preservation of cultural practices. Additionally, community members also receive support with access to microlending through the Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization (SACCO), which will provide community financing, student/family financial support and economic education. The Graduate Enterprise Fund, managed by the SACCO and funded by student tuition, will allow students, upon graduation, to submit a plan for set-aside funds for purposes that will further their goals. This may include continuing their education or starting a business. The community board must approve the plan, and graduates will receive financial support for around one to two years, providing economic stability beyond graduation.
Communication with community members relies heavily on liaisons. In the case of TaSCA, this is Ronald Kibirige, co-founder of InteRoots Initiative.
“The liaison is a trusted member of the community with the skills to translate norms, language, and cultural expectations,” says Scott Frank, executive director of InteRoots. “They work as a buffer between the deliberative bodies, working to mitigate dynamics of communication that have proven to be problematic for nonprofit work in the past. Essentially, liaisons have the agency to translate, omit, imply, or emphasize in the manner they think will best move the project forward in a way that preserves the autonomy and agency of the community. We, InteRoots as an organization, rarely communicate directly with community members, and if so, it is only with expressed permission of the liaison as well as with their consultation.”
Many people in the wider Ugandan community do not know about InteRoots’ relationship to the project since all work is carried out by a local nonprofit in collaboration with a community board, and this is ideal in InteRoots’ view, because the organization prefers to work behind the scenes and let the community drive the project.
However, they do use formal letters that are passed back and forth between the relevant InteRoots subcommittee and a project. These are created in consultation with the liaison, who is also part of the InteRoots Board of Directors.
From the perspective of InteRoots, in these interactions we strive to follow a strict protocol of: (1) only asking questions, (2) only making direct requests in material matters or matters needing clarification, (3) offering support but never prescribing solutions.
Due to this innovative structure, the community drives the conversation as well as decision-making on all levels and stages of the process.
As InteRoots works to uplift community members, it strives for clear communication. Follow along for updates on TaSCA at InteRoots.org.