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Africa

The Greatest Gift of All

Merry Christmas everybody, and Happy New Year! Can you believe it’s the start of a new decade!? It’s been a little while since I’ve written a personal post, so there may be a little bit to catch you up on, so buckle up, here we go.

I’m writing this post after doing battle with some new housemates, they don’t pay rent, they eat my clothes and they’re a bugger to get rid of. My new roommates happen to be termites. Yay! Sadly, I’ve had to say goodbye to some well-loved clothing today (RIP shorts). Luckily (not for me) we think they’ve been confined to my wardrobe, so hopefully we were able to stop the spread before it got too bad. Next stop is an exterminator and hopefully that will be the end of that! What a gift!

Despite that disheartening development, life has been full of kindness, craziness and joy in the lead up and throughout the festive season. The weeks before Christmas were full of mayhem and lots of running around for our office. We had trainings and meetings scheduled back to back Monday through Wednesday, with Thursday and Friday resulting in the final administration tasks before the office closed for the Christmas week. Just thinking about those two weeks makes me flustered and a bit of a nervous wreck, but we made it through as a team.

On the Monday and Tuesday of that hectic week, IJM in conjunction with MEGA FM (a local radio station), ran trainings for over 400 local chairmen (LCs). The LCs are often the first point of call when disputes over land or cases of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) arise. These trainings aimed to educate and equip these leaders in the proper management of these cases, giving them a platform to ask questions and become clearer on their rights and responsibilities within society. It was wonderful seeing these leaders gather together with a willingness to learn, to gain insight into the justice system and discover how they can work alongside police, rather than against. I truly believe that this is the first step to initiating change in the Gulu District. It starts at the grassroots within communities, leaders know their roles, what to deal with and what to transfer to the police or justice system. They can then encourage, inform and educate others about their rights and work together to seek justice.

On the Wednesday, we held a meeting with 25 high-ranking stakeholders from Gulu District to help address gaps within the District Case Management system for cases of Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC). We had the big guns from the police, judiciary, local government, health system, traditional leaders, NGOs and religious leaders come together to help improve and discuss the gaps within the current system. It was such an instrumental time with breakout sessions and seeing different factions working together to solve issues. The next step now, is to take their feedback, create trainings for target groups, and run them, and that’s what we will be working on for the next few months! Another great step in uniting, equipping and instigating change.

Other Pro’s since my last post:

  • I got my work permit, I’m finally legal! Woop woop!
  • One of the Gulu Magistrates was transferred. This Magistrate told our clients that “your husband beats you because he loves you” so seeing him on the transfer list was a true blessing, hopefully making way for a new, more empathetic, less biased Magistrate to take his place.
  • Christmas in Africa! I spent Christmas with wonderful friends, cooking up feasts, relaxing, playing games, laughing. Though I missed home, my beautiful family (I think I called them every day), friends and Christmas in Australia, being in Uganda for this season was a great experience and one I will remember for a long time.
  • New Years. I can’t quite believe we’re in 2020, but we saw it in, seated around a bonfire, with laughter, great friends and beautiful fireworks.

People have been so wonderful with their donations, helping me stay here, afford the increased rental price and continue working with vulnerable women and children. Thank you so, so much. If you would like to pitch in, you can donate here.

Our Ali girl has grown so much. She’s definitely still a puppy, but a big one now! Unfortunately, she’s going through her teething phase, so any tips for dealing with a teething pup would be greatly appreciated! But she’s pretty flipping cute, so we’re quick to forgive.

So that’s the quick wrap up from the last few months. Things have certainly gotten busier, but it’s a good busy. I know we’re working towards things that will have a lasting impact on the people we work with and work for. These trainings are the first step, and I’m incredibly excited to see the effect it has on the community and the women and children we work to protect. And that’s one of the greatest gifts of all, hope (cheesy I know).

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year guys, here’s to 2020 and all the adventure, new beginnings, change and growth this year will bring. Stay safe, be kind and do good.

May xx

Mayrose Rolley is from Melbourne and currently serves as a Legal Intern at IJM Gulu in Uganda. She’s pictured second from the right in the header image.

Since 2012, IJM has been working on behalf of widows and orphans in Gulu who have lost their source of shelter, food and income because of land theft, and in 2018 IJM Gulu began responding to cases of domestic violence.

This post was first published on Mayrose’s blog: mayroserolley.com.

Learn more about IJM’s Interns & Fellows Program here.

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