In June 2019, GCA Associate Professor of Regional + City Planning John Harris traveled to Uganda with students and faculty from across the University of Oklahoma as part of the OU Center for Peace and Development’s ongoing work in the region.

The Center partners with local women’s groups in order to support their grassroots peacebuilding efforts.

According to Harris, these women’s groups “have for years been doing the hard work of community development, and so the goal of the Center is really to help them achieve their goals.”

Another objective of the Center, says Harris, is to bring OU students into that work, and help them learn to put aside their own biases and ideas, listen to communities, and help those communities achieve the goals they envision for themselves.

During this trip, the Center for Peace and Development team helped put on an annual Women’s Grassroots Peacebuilding Conference, focusing on issues of poverty and gender-based violence, that drew women’s groups from across the region.

Participants in a cultural night of song and dance during the peacebuilding conference.

OU students had the opportunity to help with the conference, taking notes and creating reports for the Center’s local partners to use as they move forward.

In addition to helping with the conference, the team also worked with Lango Women’s Peace Development Champions to take surveys and conduct focus groups with grassroots women’s organizations and surveyed local women about their daily lives and their experiences with the organizations.

Regarding next steps, Harris says that the Center will plan to keep helping with the annual peace conference but will first and foremost continue to listen to what their local partners want.

“That’s part of our foundational mission: to not come in with a specific agenda, but to work with our local partners and learn from them where we should go,” says Harris.

Photos courtesy of John Harris