During a recent qualitative evaluation I conducted of the successes and challenges of the GREAT project, respondents told me that the Community Action Cycle helped transform their community in two important ways:
The Community Action Cycle brought together many people from different levels of society, such as the young and the elderly, and sub-country government with parish government. This produced a more harmonious decision-making process and action. In an interview, a local elected leader talked about how sending a cadre of change agents into the community, and then facilitating a process of reporting back, allowed him to better understand the important issues in his society and to be a better advocate for the needs of youth in the community. The Community Action Cycle was able to reach previously unheard voices and facilitate cross-society cooperation to tackle pressing issues. As one extension worker from Lira District told us:
“When the change agents came in, many people said they wanted to see school dropouts reduced, so girls would be performing equally like boys. The community urged these change agents to sit down and write a bylaw at the parish level as one way forward to address this issue, which stated that each parent within the community should ensure that his or her pupil goes to school. It was a combination of the CAGs, going to the local counselors, within the village in that parish. After its passage, the schools reported that the number of school dropouts was reduced, both girls and boys.”
- The Community Action Cycle helped communities restore traditions lost to war. Prior to the Lord’s Resistance Army’s (LRA) incursion into northern Uganda, families and neighbors periodically gathered around a large community fire at night, called “wang-oo,” in the Acholi language. These fires provided opportunities for intergenerational discussion, for education, and community gathering. However, during the time of the LRA’s occupation, it was not safe to be outside at night. While the LRA’s exit in the late 2000s meant that over one million people could finally return from refugee camps to their homes, important pieces of life from before the war—like the wang-oo—have been slower to come back. The GREAT team, however, identified wang-oo as a potential structure to build on to foster/catalyze intergenerational discussions on gender equality and healthy adolescent development. Respondents we talked to underlined the importance of the Community Action Cycle in not only reinforcing positive messages about gender equality, but also restoring cultural traditions like the wang-oo.
One parent from Lira District told us:
“The greatest significant change that I feel Community Action Groups achieved in the community is that the intervention reconstructed and reinstated the eroded cultural practice of wang-oo, which has now provided a platform that parents use to gather youth and sensitize their children on life skills and sex education.”