HUTS FOR PEACE –WOMEN WITH THE ABILITY TO HELP THEMSELVES

Agnes Igoye
Posted June 7, 2015 from Uganda
Agnes Igoye visiting 'Huts For Peace' beneficiaries in their new home
Once homeless Family of 15 happy in their new home
Huts For Peace
Huts For Peace: Inside a family Hut (1/9)

I founded ‘The Huts For Peace’ community based initiative on February 17, 2013 in Paicho, Gulu District in Northern Uganda when I met with members of the group ‘Rwot Omiyo’ literally meaning the lord has given (14 women and 1 gentleman). When I asked why a women group would have a man as a member, they replied… “because he knows how to read and write’ They needed him to put their decisions in writing since none of the women is literate. The decision by the group to unite was to share experiences, having gone through similar experiences including abduction, torture and rape as a weapon of war during the Lord’s resistance army (LRA) insurgency led by rebel leader Joseph Kony. During our first meeting, it became evident that members, most of who were widowed due to the war, took up the burden of taking care of orphans/grandchildren and yet were either homeless or had inadequate housing. One widow for instance had six daughters who had to look for a place to sleep each night, while another (together with her children) was sent away from her marital home by the relatives of her late husband who died in abduction! She was blamed for the atrocities her husband subjected to the community at the orders of the LRA. There were also common stories by the women who lived in cramped huts with several grandchildren and orphans Stigma from the community is also evident for many of these women, who are looked at as ‘rebels’ wives. Every member of the group had a story to tell and one of the things they had in common was a lack of a place they called home. They were displaced, lost their homes, a basic necessity which would shield them, a place they could call home. That’s when I challenged the group ‘why don’t we build these huts our selves’ and then we brain stormed about where we could find locally available materials. I made a promise to save money from my salary to buy the remaining materials that required money and we would build one hut at a time. Together, we drew a roaster, prioritizing the order in which women would get housing (huts) starting with those who were completely homeless, lacked land and with girl children who were most vulnerable to abuse. The local church donated to us some land where we would construct some huts. Before I left on the evening of February 17, 2013, I had left money to buy materials like nails and hard wood which were not locally available in the community. We voted and gave women positions of leadership including treasurer. It was an emotional time for me, the Huts For Peace program was born! To date, with over 22 extended families housed, am inspired by women who have continued building their communities utilizing locally available materials, harvesting grass, molding bricks, collecting water and physically participating in the building. Am also grateful to friends who have since joined me in sponsoring huts including my friend and colleague Jacob Siminyu who together with his bride, rallied friends to sponsor huts instead of buying them other gifts. While building huts, we spread a message of peace and reconciliation (hence the name ‘Huts for Peace’) this minimizes stigma especially that some survivors were forced to kill their own relatives. When we participate in building communities (huts), it therefore changes perceptions and the women are seen as valuable members of the community. Volunteers from the community are welcome and members eat together, share experiences and talk about issues of peace and reconciliation.

Because the Women are taking care of so many orphans (over 100 who lost their parents during the war or to HIV prevalent in the area due to war crimes), Am also excited with the ox-plough I bought for the group, which is helping the women plough their gardens in turns and work together as a team. This enables them to not only grow their own food but also sell the surplus to buy other necessities like medicine and send their children to school.

I remember breaking down in tears when we made the first official visit to the first family to benefit from the Huts For Peace Initiative.

With land donated by the local church, this one hut was housing an extended family of 15 (three generations ie. 3 sisters, ten children and their grandmother).Together with her children, one of the women was sent away from her marital home because of accusations that her husband (who was abducted and joined the ranks of the LRA) had returned to the village and committed atrocities including stealing food and killing his own relatives. He later died in captivity. The inside of the hut (see photos) was separated into two sections- the cooking area and sleeping section. All the 15 family members slept on the floor and their only possessions/clothing hang on the string above their heads. The children did not go to school but survived on tilling borrowed church land, their only source of food. Am happy to note that the church has since provided more land in which we have constructed the family more huts.

This article is dedicated to women in post conflict who are making a difference rebuilding their communities.

Comments 6

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Alyssa Rust
Jun 08, 2015
Jun 08, 2015

Dear Agnes Igoye,

Thank you so much for sharing! I really enjoyed reading your post and learning about your organization Huts for Peace. The pictures were great seeing all the community members helping to build the hut and making the bricks. You are doing such amazing and impactful work. Thank you for sharing this with the World Pulse community and I hope you will continue to share more about this great organization.

Sincerely, Alyssa Rust 

Agnes Igoye
Jun 11, 2015
Jun 11, 2015

Thank you Alyssa Rust!

Appreciate your kind words and support towards the Huts For Peace Initiative.

Agnes

Olanike
Jun 13, 2015
Jun 13, 2015

Dear Agnes,

I am completely touched by your generousity and commitment towards engendering reconciliation and peace in Paicho community and beyond. The moving stories of the individuals families who now have roofs over their heads and means of sustenace gives me hope that with determination, positive change will shape and rule world. 

You are a star and I cannot but pray that your efforts will multiply like wild fire. Keep being the role model that you are!

Love and hugs,

Olanike

Agnes Igoye
Jun 13, 2015
Jun 13, 2015

Dear Olanike,

It is because of Women like you that I love our World Pulse Community. Thank you for your uplifting words of encouragement.Am equally impressed with your dedicated leadership at WISE and beyond, helping the World pay attention and nurture our environment to benefit today's and well as future generations.

More hugs and love  to you!

Agnes

Lily Darais
Jun 13, 2015
Jun 13, 2015

Dear Agnes,

Thank-you for sharing your inspiring and uplifting story. I am so impressed with your efforts and determination to create homes of safety for women and girls in need. May God continue to bless you in your efforts, and may the women in Uganda continue to find refuge through your efforts.

God bless you.

Lily

Agnes Igoye
Jun 13, 2015
Jun 13, 2015

Dear Lily,

First of all, I have a sister called Lily and so nice to meet another sister on line! Thank you for your message of support! Am also excited that we care about similar causes including human trafficking, education, girls and genderbased violence. Am looking forward to learning more from you and the  dedicated women of the World Pulse community. God bless the Women!

Agnes