Activism: An engine that drives change

Andrew Tebandeke

What you need to know:

We should celebrate the selfless individuals that have given their lives to fight for the right causes to ensure that peace and justice prevail in our country

Activists face many challenges and consequences for their advocacy compared to the helpless groups they represent. Being at the forefront to spearhead fights, activists fight for what they believe in and accept being held accountable for whatever outcome. They are also blamed on many occasions for the actions of the groups they represent despite having nothing to do with it.  Most of these targeted groups represented by activists are vulnerable, fear judgment and stigmatisation, among other consequences they might have to experience after publicly talking about their pains and struggles. Many also lack the audacity to speak up or even advocate for what they believe is right.

Because of fear for their lives or persecution, some prefer working in silence or in hiding before fleeing becomes the solution when hunted down by authorities. In our country, Uganda, many things need to change, especially with the way the government runs its house with corruption, nepotism and rampant abuse of human rights.

There are also many patriarchy norms and practices that have oppressed women and children for long and nothing much has been done to curb such injustices. Some bad cultural norms have been in existence for long and the victims have no option but accept and face them.  Who then has the power to change them? Maybe not enough attention is being paid by those with the power to implement the necessary reforms.  Another commonly suffered setback is when one’s efforts of bringing pressing issues onto the table are sabotaged instead of being listened to for corrective actions.

From my experience working in the civil society, I have come across a pile of issues that have been fronted to various duty bearers, especially the government only to be denied attention, it is clear someone is not doing their work. For instance, why would the cries of our sisters and brothers being mistreated in the UAE fall on deaf ears? There is also limited exertion from the government to get them out of that dreaded trap. Why do we still have rampant abductions and several civilians being unlawfully detained and tortured in safe houses? When shall we have fair recruitment in several government positions? It’s now a norm to pay bribes to land a government job. Swamps and forests are being given to investors as land for industrialisation and it all seems right. To date, in many areas women don’t get a fair share from their deceased parent’s property or late husbands. The issues are quite numerous as you observed in different communities.  It is through advocacy and activism that all these grievances can get more public/government attention because many of the marginalised have no idea where to start from. It even gets tougher if the perpetrators are high ranking government officials or investors with an avalanche of resources that takes strong-hearted selfless individuals to take the mantle on. It is a public secret that getting justice while coming against most duty bearers can be an uphill task as they float above the law. Stand up against those with power at your own risk.

We cannot forget to celebrate the activists that have succeeded in their fights in various thematic areas, the efforts have been noticed in different critical fields like environment and natural resource management, politics, social norm change, human rights and rule of law, among others.

We should celebrate the selfless individuals that have given their lives to fight for the right causes to ensure that peace and justice prevail in our country. Thanks to various development partners that have funded several activists and advocacy.

Mr Andrew Tebandeke is an activist and monetary & evaluation specialist