Diakonia - People change the world
Children participating in a training session regarding HIV/AIDS in Kasekulo, organized by Diakonia's partner organization Church of Uganda.

Uganda: Kasekulo - a transformed village

Over the past years, the village of Kasekulo have transformed itself into a safe place. The village people now know their rights and have hopes for the future, thanks to Diakonia's Lake Victoria Programme.

5/8/2012 Publisher: Linda Hammarberg

The biggest landing site in the Kalangala district - with a bad reputation

Kasekulo is the biggest landing site in Kalangala, Ssesse Islands. Ssese is a group of 88 islands that form Kalangala district in Uganda. The indigenous people on the island are called the Bassese.

Before the Diakonia started its Lake Victoria Rights Programme (LVRP) in Kasekulo and the villages surrounding the landing site, the place was described as having been filthy, characterized by disease and death, lawlessness and ignorance.

Kasekulo was known for its recklessness. Apart from fishing, fish trade and provision of other services, many people in Kasekulo are said have engaged in drinking, fighting, sex etc. They lived in a filthy environment. The hospital in Kalangala is far, the nearest clinic is about eight kilometres away. Many people who fell sick just died.

Sensitization about HIV and AIDS

The trained community workers took the villages by storm. They carried out sensitization of communities about HIV and AIDS through community meetings; songs and drama, and individual approaches. They reached the old and the young, women and men, boys and girls; they traversed the whole area and preached the gospel of prevention and protection from HIV infection. They encouraged community members to go for testing and supported those who declared their positive status. Youth formed groups of peer educators and reached out to young people on the landing sites and villages around. They sang, they danced, and they acted out to educate people about the dangers of the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

Religious leaders were also involved

Home-based care providers visited homes and talked to people about HIV/AIDS. They provided counselling and encouragement. They encouraged people to go for testing and followed up after the testing to provide psychosocial support. They gained the trust and the confidence of the people.

Religious leaders were brought on board. They were trained as a group and exposed to issues concerning HIV/AIDS. They realised they had been opposing prevention methods in ignorance. They opened up and spearheaded the fight against HIV/AIDS preaching behaviour change and prevention.

Joining hands, the people on Kasekulo were united in fighting against HIV/AIDS. Many people have undergone testing and declared their status, if found positive.

Human rights training

Community representatives were trained in human rights and the rule of law. They were trained to become paralegals. This was exciting for them – seeing that though they were ordinary people, they may not have been t so educated, but they wereable to understand issues concerning the law.

The paralegals started mediating in community disputes, monitoring law enforcement at the beach and other villages around. In a community where there were no lawyers, they became the community lawyers. They are seen as crime preventers and human rights promoters. They are legal counsellors and ‘judges’.

"Keep Lasekulo Clean" days

All this has changed the face of Kasekulo. The community has come together to clean their landing site. A place which was filthy and stinking is now clean. People have constructed latrines and bath shelters. They voluntarily take up tools and clean the landing site twice a week during what they call “Keep Kasekulo Clean” days – Wednesdays and Saturdays, they all come and clean every little corner of the place. This has been going on for the last three years and the people are faithful to their commitment to live in a clean environment.

A safer and happier community

People in the community have understood rights and legal issues. Fighting and stealing of all manner of items and property has reduced. They have learnt to respect other people’s property. The bad people are said to be in the minority, unlike in the past when they were the majority. Crimes are reported and followed up by paralegals. Rape cases have reduced. Police holds paralegals with respect and consults them on legal and criminal matters. Local Councils, Beach Management Units and Paralegals are all working together.

People now treat one another well and they are generally a happy community. A school which was used as brothel was fenced and now is a clean environment for happy children, some being supported by the project with scholastic materials and uniforms. The people say that they now know how to do business and their conditions have changed.

In the words of one community member:

“We used to work so hard and get very little profit. Now we are making more money and able to save and expand our businesses and do many other things”.

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