My first visit to Kitgum, a dusty town in northern Uganda, was in 2006, when there were still curfews on the roads to prevent rebel attacks, and countless thousands of Ugandans were confined to squalid displacement camps. My second trip was a week ago. This time I came to visit two of our partners who are building homes for their families. Everything has changed.
Christine and Esther are two of the elders of our partner group. Both are extremely bright and entrepreneurial, not to mention hilarious. And both fled their homes to save their families during Kony’s war. I found them on Christine’s in-laws’ land. Across the street was a site where, a few years ago, thousands of people were stuck in an IDP camp, malnourished and without opportunity. Today the land is planted thickly with tall, green stalks of maize.
Christine led us away from the road, on a footpath through clusters of mud huts, and finally to her big concrete house. She gave us a tour, pointing out the sitting room, the kitchen, the master bedroom, the garage. It’s not yet finished, but already it’s the nicest house in the neighborhood.
Next we jumped on motorcycles and rode to Esther’s land, where the foundation and the first height of brick walls outline her new home’s floor-plan. She walked us through the house and motioned out to the big garden surrounding it, growing food for her family.
Out there, looking over Esther’s land in the sunset light, I thought about the staggering victory this moment represented for these women. They overcame two decades of war, displacement from their homes, a culture that denies women most opportunities offered to men, and the quicksand of poverty. And now they stand proudly on land that they own, in front of homes that will invite their families into peace and security for many years to come.
These are women I deeply admire.