Paul is a passionate, outgoing activist whose ability to speak and relate to people make him crucial in the Local Activism Department. His readiness to learn make him innovative and adaptable which helps him relate to even the most troublesome participants in trainings. He is always ready for a challenge. Through encouraging community members to question their behavior and attitudes, Paul is able to inspire men and women to become activists.
What did you study in university?
I studied social sciences in university and I have nearly completed a master’s degree in social sector planning and management from Makerere University. I finished my class work and am now in the final stages of completing the dissertation with analysis. If all goes well, I could be graduating soon.
Other than that, I have other key trainings like with the Human Rights’ Defenders’ Course, Course in Economics, Social and Cultural Rights conducted by Human Rights and Peace Center Makerere, Human Rights Training of Trainer’s Course and others. Many times, human rights activists are so engaged by their work supporting others that they give insufficient attention to their own security. The gravity of risks or challenges faced by activists on a daily basis compels us to pursue other means to strengthen our security and remain relevant in the work we do. The courses taught me how to keep focused as an activist organization, how to seek support and also how to protect others. It’s always inspiring to create safer space for everyone without compromising our own space.
That sounds like a lot of classes. What were you doing before you came to CEDOVIP?
I was a student. Between completion and graduation, I started working with CEDOVIP as an intern. When I was still studying, I worked with a small organization called Youthful Human Rights International. I was on the committee of trainers of trainees volunteering. We did voluntary work with the local government to see community welfare improvement.
How did you find CEDOVIP?
I was motivated by what I was studying in class. I was taking a course on gender, and development and sociology. We studied many theories, particularly feminist theory, sociological theories and current debates. We sought to understand why people behave the way they do. When you talk about gender-based violence and violence against women and girls, we looked at what they entail and why people behave the way they do. Why people are survivors or perpetrators of violence. I needed an organization that was deeply rooted in addressing these issues, so I could expand my knowledge and make a contribution to creating safer and happier relationships.
Did you always consider yourself an activist?
Yes, I have always been an activist. I don’t believe in doing business as usual, I like questioning the status quo. I didn’t believe in people instructing me to do or not to do something with no space for discussing and appreciating the underlying reasons. I wanted to know, do they promote fairness- meaning are they just for both of us? I’m curious in exploring the reasons behind not doing something. The language we speak the food we eat, the way we dress-- it’s all a result of the people around us and the interactions we make. I have strived to create social change.
Was there a specific time or moment that defined your activism?
Sure. As a child, other kids made fun of me for deviating from the norm. People commanded me to do things all the time, but I wanted the explanations of why I couldn’t do something. One day I was told that I had to be the best in class. If I did not get that position, they would beat me up. I was like, but we are many in class. All of us cannot have the best spot. Can’t we have another way to support me to perform well? I was always seen as someone who was against the rules. I liked questioning things.
My siblings who were going for higher education were expected to be educators, but I said no. I knew I could do differently so I went for what I was interested in.
Fortunately, the people I interacted with started changing perception.
What is your favorite thing about working with CEDOVIP?
I appreciate the informal discussions with men and women to talk about relationships. People can express themselves and speak their minds. They are not telling anyone what they want to hear but expressing their feelings. That is powerful and our organization creates that space.
What is your favorite memory from working with CEDOVIP?
For me, it’s about the organization--how we treat each other. There is not too much bureaucracy. We are all colleagues at work. When we go to the community, we are transferring the same knowledge and skill. Encouraging both men and women are working together to create safer families and communities. Some communities fear that and give us titles like Uncle. But for us, one-on-one informal relations are important.
I also love seeing the successes that come out of our efforts. I didn’t know SASA! could change behaviors and the way people behave, relate and think about violence when SASA! was being implemented. Gradually, I could see how people were shifting i.e. seeing the changes in knowledge, skills and behaviors to the point of making commitments never to use violence was quite powerful.
What is your favorite session to teach people?
All sessions are powerful and they are interconnected, but I like the new planet session. It brings people to the reality of what it means to experience lack of power. All of us have power but sometimes some people use it negatively and abuse others’ rights. That session brings people to that reality of how the community is being divided-- who has power and who does not? How are people’s rights being abused?
I also love the session about violence against women and girls and its connection to HIV. These sessions enable people to understand why we focus on women and men. Violence against women and girls is a problem hurting everyone and is embedded in power dynamics between men and women. These sessions help people make this connection.
What is something about you that others might not know?
I also have a passion for business. I believe in supporting anyone, regardless of who they are so they can learn to support themselves. I am also passionate about children. I wouldn’t want to see any child suffering.
Who is your favorite celebrity activist?
Mahatma Ghandi. I am so impressed by his works during the liberation struggle. He didn’t have a lot of resources by then, but he used his available resources-- the skill to speak and influence others. He had a lot of influence, but he didn’t use violent means to fight for independence. He became a selfless leader. He was caring about others.
I also look up to Nelson Mandela-- all the hardships and challenges he went through, and he didn’t use revenge. He forgave. Even in the field of creating safer and happier relationships, emotions based on revenge do not work but it’s all about supporting perpetrators of violence to understand that what they did was bad, show them how they can learn from it, and how they can change. Perpetrators of violence must take responsibility of their actions, apologize and commit to change.
For a favorite woman activist, I have to say our own Tina Musuya. She is many things. She has the passion for the work she is doing, and she motivates us as staff. It isn’t obvious that she is the director of CEDOVIP. Employees can walk in her office any time; an outsider may not know the director is because we are all colleagues at work. She keeps herself relevant in all situations.