This country needs a lifetime commitment to social change

Tuesday March 20 2012

By Peninah Kansiime

Today, we join the rest of the world in marking the World Social Work Day. It is the first day of a Social Work week that has been termed a ‘week of action’. It will be capped by the presentation of the global agenda for social work and social development to the United Nations by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and its partners on March 26.

For those of us in this noble profession, it is the annual opportunity for all social work organisations to promote the important role of social workers and of the social work profession. But what exactly is social work? In simple and precise terms, it is a helping profession.

Lawyers, doctors, accountants and all other professions may, however, argue that their professions are helping professions as well.

To elaborate further, the IFSW, which is the global federation of national social work organisations in 90 countries representing over 750,000 social workers, defines social work as a profession that promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance wellbeing.

Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the point where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.

Social work is not a new profession on the global scene and neither is it new in Uganda. Living in a country that is bedevilled by all kinds of social problems, the relevance of this profession cannot be overstated.


One only needs to watch the news on television every evening to be aware that social injustice and disrespect for human beings is so rampant in this country. Reports of corruption and misuse of public funds dominate our media while hospitals remain is a sorry state leaving hundreds of patients in need of emergency care. The nodding disease patients who have inadequate care, portray our healthcare challenges.

Given the gravity of the social problems we are facing, it is clear that Uganda does not need just a week of action but rather a lifetime commitment to positive social change. Important to note, however, is the conspicuous silence of the social workers in this country.

In my humble opinion-- and I stand to be corrected-- social workers should be taking the lead in providing solutions to the various social challenges in this country.

There is so much work for us today, work that we have left to self-seeking politicians and people without the knowledge or skills to understand or even handle human beings in their different capacities.

If lawyers in this country can direct all judicial work towards opposing police brutality towards citizens exercising their rights, why can’t we as social workers put our leaders to task over the issues of street children, domestic violence, high unemployment rates, high maternal mortality rates and many other social ills?

We can steer Uganda in an acceptable direction only if we unite as professionals in a body that regulates the profession through accreditation and that fosters partnership with other professions. We also need to become better social entrepreneurs and carry out research on various social issues with the aim of coming up with long-term solutions.

I appeal to everyone to embrace the social work global agenda by committing ourselves to supporting, influencing and enabling structures and systems that positively address the root causes of oppression and inequality.

Our priorities should be in promoting social and economic wellbeing, promoting dignity and worth of people, work together towards environmental sustainability and strengthen the recognition of the importance of human relations.

Lastly, let’s commit ourselves wholeheartedly and urgently to work together, with people who use services and with others who share our objectives and aspirations, to create a more socially just and fair Uganda that we will be proud to leave to future generations.

Ms Kansiime is the coordinator of the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda.