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Dimitra Workhops

Dimitra East Africa meeting and exchange visit

Meeting in Uganda from 5 to 10 February 2008

Based on the importance that networks and partnerships play in the strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), WOUGNET and Dimitra organised a five-day working session in February 2008 to discuss Dimitra’s work in Eastern Africa and to explore strategic direction and actions under which ICTs can be effectively used to address and improve the socio-economic status of rural women.

Dimitra's East Africa partners © Dimitra

The Dimitra East Africa partners

In Eastern Africa, Dimitra covers the five countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia and Ethiopia. To coordinate the Dimitra network and its activities in the region, Dimitra has established a partnership with Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), which in its turn works with Focal Points in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania. To strengthen the links between these different partners to the Dimitra project, WOUGNET invited the project’s Focal Points to a five-day exchange visit in Uganda in February 2008. Martha Nemera of the Women Support Association (WSA) in Ethiopia; Noah Lusaka of the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) in Kenya; Habiba Jimale of Kalsan Voluntary Organisation for Women in Somalia; and Amandus Chitopela of Dodoma Environmental Network (DONET) in Tanzania thus attended WOUGNET’s Annual Members Meeting (AMM), which was co-financed by Hivos, followed by a Dimitra Partners Meeting and a field trip to Lira and Apac Districts in Northern Uganda.

The objectives were to introduce the Dimitra partners in the region to each other and to establish networking between these partners and strengthen links between them and rural women’s networks and organisations in their countries. Together, they also explored the various ways rural women can use ICTs to develop relevant local content.

Participation in the WOUGNET Annual Members Meeting

The WOUGNET AMM addressed the organisation’s activities during 2007 and its future plans, as well as topics such as “Making our voices heard: the changing landscape for NGOs in Uganda” by the Uganda National NGO Forum, and “Networking in Uganda: benefits, contributions and challenges”. The meeting also addressed the strategic use of ICTs and, during a particularly lively and intensive “speed-geek” session (inspired by the Western “speed-dating” concept), some participants shared their organisations’ experiences in using ICTs. During the one-hour session, nine speakers had five minutes only with nine different groups of three to four people. It was a fun and efficient way to getting up to speed with different organisations and their ICT initiatives! 

Testing the new WOUGNET website at the Annual Members Meeting © Dimitra

The AMM was immediately followed by the Dimitra East Africa Partners Meeting, bringing together the different Dimitra partners in Eastern Africa, the Dimitra Brussels representative, as well as some interested Ugandan organisations. The meeting started off with a presentation and discussion on Dimitra and the importance of information, communication and networking for empowerment and development. Then WOUGNET and each of the Focal Points summarised their achievements in their participation to Dimitra, as well as the challenges they faced. Several recommendations were formulated for better cooperation, which will be taken on board by the Dimitra team to improve further collaboration. The main challenges, and hence recommendations, were related to the enormous task of covering a large region with limited means. However, participants also felt that the meeting had been useful in getting a better understanding of what Dimitra is all about, and how it could be integrated better in the respective organisation’s other activities.

Field visit to Apac and Lira Districts

Following the two-day meeting in Kampala, the Dimitra East Africa team and the Dimitra Brussels representative went on a field visit to Apac and Lira Districts. 

In Apac District, the group visited two of the twelve women’s group supported by WOUGNET’s Kubere Information Centre (KIC), the Orib Can Women’s Group in Atana parish, Maruzi county, and the St Luke’s Women’s Group in Adyeda parish, Kole county. Despite their name, the women’s groups also have active male members, who participated in the meetings. The members of the women’s groups talked about the activities and projects they have engaged in since linking up with KIC, for example bee-keeping, poultry farming and planting crops such as soya beans, cassava and maize.

© Dimitra

Through support of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP EU (CTA) to WOUGNET/KIC, both groups have also received mobile phones (and training on how to use them) from KIC, which has markedly improved communication among group members and with the outside world. They also mentioned the useful agricultural information they receive through the KIC’s weekly radio shows, which they listen to on air or on recorded audiotapes, using a radio-cassette player they have obtained through KIC. They listen to and discuss the information, ideas and questions broadcast as a group – it has given them a lot of useful information and feedback as well as some ideas to try out new methods or tools.

The visitors in turn presented experiences from their countries in the field of agricultural tools and improvements, bee-keeping, women’s groups, the use of ICTs, access to land, etc. Both parties asked each other questions, which made it an enriching experience for all concerned.

In Lira, the delegation visited a team of the German NGO Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB – Workers’ Samaritan Federation) which implemented a pilot Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) project of FAO in Lira District. The JFFLS aim to train orphans and vulnerable children from 12-17 years of age for 12 months using a combination of traditional and modern agricultural techniques (for more information on the JFFLS, see Dimitra Newsletter 13 or contact jffls@fao.org). It was interesting to talk with the coordinator and facilitators of this project about both accomplishments and challenges related to the project, which is now under revision. 

A fruitful visit

In conclusion, in the words of Noah from Kenya “The one week we were together was a very educative and enriching experience. It’s my hope we all move faster in implementing some of the suggestions for the way forward with Dimitra in our respective countries. I also gained further knowledge when we visited the staff at ASB as they narrated their pilot experience with the JFFLS and the visit to the two women’s groups. I was very touched by their hospitality and frankness in discussing development issues. This is a good start and congratulations to WOUGNET for reaching out to the needy… I look forward to working more closely in advocating gender concerns.”

Contacts for the Dimitra East Africa partners:

WOUGNET: www.wougnet.orginfo@wougnet.org 

ALIN, Arid Lands Information Network: www.alin.or.keinfo@alin.or.ke 

DONET, Dodoma Environmental Network: donet95@yahoo.com 

WSA, Women Support Association: wosuorg@ethionet.et 

Kalsan, Voluntary Organisation for Women: kalsanorg@yahoo.com