Six months ago, my team and other innovators received grants to come up with technological Innovations that could help communities in Uganda End Violence Against Women and Girls. Through a hackathon, we formed teams, brainstormed a few ideas and came up with several proposed solutions.

A group of women in Gulu trying to understand how web systems can help them

Through this hackathon session organized and facilitated by the RAN team, we were privileged to be among teams that were selected to benefit from support from UN Women.  Our proposed solution to ending violence against women and girls among others was taken up to receive incubation support additionally benefiting from RAN’s innovation incubation program.

It is now a couple of months since I and my team have been working on “Tuyambe Ba Maama”, a project aimed at helping women and girls report cases of violence using both smart and non-smart phones. We expect to collect reports and incidents of violence against women and girls have this data analysed, visualized and mapped on a map on our website.  This can help authorities and potential stakeholders take action on trending cases. We also expect to use the technology to provide relevant statistics from crowdsourced reports that we collect from communities to help the government and other Humanitarian organizations understand where to channel resources to help in ending violence against women and girls in Uganda.

To better understand the problem, ResilientAfrica Network  (RAN) Lab helped us to plan and organize a needfinding survey in Gulu District, northern Uganda. We thought Gulu would be a perfect sample region for our innovation because of the post-violence history and the repeated prevalent cases of violence against women and girls in this area.

Our journey from Kampala to Gulu started on a rainy Tuesday, delete not necessary.

My Unforgettable Experience in Gulu

Gulu town is not very rural as we had thought, in fact, I loved the roads particularly in Pece sub-county, I had never seen such nice-looking roads in any up-country district like those we found in Pece. Hotels in Gulu are affordable and with good customer care service, we spent the night together with other innovators at KSP hotel which is almost within the heart of Gulu town. After settling in the Hotel, we had a brief meeting later on at around 7 pm EAT with RAN Staff, Research Assistants and other innovators preparing for the following day’s activities.

Day 1: Visiting Paicho sub-County

Paicho is about 32km from Gulu Town, we set off from our hotel after breakfast at 9 am through a 40-minutes long drive. Paicho is a rural area characterized by the many grass thatched huts.

We had scheduled to have our first interviews at the sub-county quarters which went on well and had finished everything by 3 pm.This time around lunch was at 5 pm and had our daily de-briefing session at 7 pm to review the key insights from the field activity.

The first day was not the very best, as we struggled to explain our innovation to a Focus Group of girls.

Maggie Atala,Research Assistant (in purple flowered blouse) engaging the Girls in luo

However, what stood out best for me was the comment Mr. Aleti Daniel the Community Development Officer (CDO) shared, he advised us to consider continuously training locals if we expected such a new technology to work in his community. Therefore community engagement is key for the success of any innovative solution.

Engagement with Daniel Aleti

Day 2: In Pece

Pece was just 3km from the hotel we were residing in.  The area was part of urban Gulu, we visited Pece to test whether our innovation could have some impact in an Urban Area too.

We set off for Pece at 9 am East African Time and traveled deep to the Chairman LC1’s home about 1Km from the sub-county headquarters. The elderly man ushered us into his home and we had a long engagement discussing issues related to efforts towards ending violence against women and girls in his community. He was excited about our technology, however, he also cautioned highlighting the need to train and sensitize locals before we can even think about launching it.

Next stop was Pece Nursery and Primary School where we engaged a focus group of women to garner what they thought about our innovation. By observation, these women were excited about the technology but lacked an understanding of how to use of the technology.

Day 3: Departure

Day 3 was our last day of engaging with the communities in Gulu and therefore after the last interview, we took a few pictures and set off for Kampala.

As an innovator, there was a lot for me to learn. Need Finding is very helpful for any innovation, talking to your customers or beneficiaries can save you a lot of time and resources that you would have used to build products people might never use.

I would love to extend my thanks to Makerere University ResilientAfrica Network (RAN)- and UN Women for the support towards supporting innovation or creativity. Thank you for trusting us through-out this process.

We also acknowledge support from other partners, mentors, coaches and RAN staff towards further supporting our creativity to reality.  

Initiated by Tumusiime Martin, Innovator at ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) and Team Leader for Tuyambe Ba Maama 2018. (Martin is also a Computer Science student at Makerere University and is passionate about developing technology solutions to support rural communities.