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A fascination with Kampala

9 September 2008

MRG’s Fundraiser, Matilde Ceravolo, gets to know Kampala as she promotes MRG’s work in East Africa.

In a few days Kampala managed to fascinate me. Our hotel was placed on the side of a hill, and from the second floor we could observe the green ups and downs, with only a few higher buildings emerging in between the trees, and red rooftops all around. The sky is clear and the light is bright.

I must admit my first impression was not remarkable. Nothing new in Kampala struck me. It just reminded of a larger Bangui, a dirtier Kigali, a Bukavu before the war. But as I travelled around the city, its lively greens and bright people started to affect me. The images around me mixed with the stories I was hearing from Jolly, Head of MRG’s Kampala Office, who explained Ugandan politics and life style to me as we drove past the golf club and the national hero’s memorial. We crossed the city from the busy city centre via the large slums to the luxurious villas with a view in our tour-de-force to meet in-country donors.

In London I work in fundraising, so while the participants of the gender training are busy designing their research projects, what a good opportunity to support Jolly and go knocking on doors at the Embassies based in Kampala. Generally they all have small amounts of money to spend in-country, and while our Gender programme is generously supported by Irish Aid and CIDA, MRG has many projects in the region that still need funds.

Human Rights are certainly not an easy product to sell and the results of our work are often intangible. When you build a school or a hospital, it is easier for donors to see where their money has gone, but building the capacities of civil society and preventing conflict are interventions difficult to evaluate.

We are nevertheless satisfied with our visits. We have opened doors, established contacts and found precious allies for MRG’s advocacy work. Jolly will have time to nurture these relationships with the outputs from our research and community projects. We also found some time to visit MRG’s partners and discuss new project proposals.

Back in the hotel, we heard the reports from the country groups. During the four days of the workshop, members of Batwa NGOs from Burundi, DRC, Rwanda and Uganda have been discussing how to frame their research projects on the situation of Batwa Pygmy women and girls in each of the four countries. The groups from Burundi and DRC decided to focus on barriers to education, while the Rwandans and Ugandans will study the causes and effects of violence against women.

The research will be published in March 2009, when participants will meet again to discuss the way forward. According to the findings in each country, specific projects will be designed to respond to the needs of Batwa women. The workshop is over, but our common work has only just begun.

The road to the airport runs past Lake Victoria, offering us a final glimpse of its immensity. Many times I’ve admired it from above but it felt like a dream come true to be finally driving along its shores. A huge red sun is rising and completes this perfect African vista. Our Ugandan adventure ends here and as the captain says “rain swept London awaits us.”

This article reflects the sole opinion of its author and does not engage MRG’s responsibility.