Uganda: Rosalba Ato Oywa

To me there is no other service one could render to another than to help restore the dignity and confidence of the most powerless person.

— Rosalba Ato Oywa

Rosalba Oywa, a 52-year-old widow from Gulu District in Northern Uganda, is the founding member and volunteer coordinator of People’s Voice for Peace (PVP), a local NGO that assists victims of the war in Northern Uganda. Over a thousand women and men, the most vulnerable victims of the war, have benefited from her work since 1989. A teacher by profession and the mother of three boys and two girls, Rosalba also works at international level and sees it her mission “to turn vulnerable victims into peace agents".

Covered only in rags, the young teacher hastily grabbed her three children and ran one early morning in 1986. Fighting had broken out in Gulu, a rural town in Northern Uganda, between government forces and a rebel movement, in a war that continues until today. “I became destitute, living entirely on charity,” Rosalba Oywa recalls. “But my bitter experience was a motivation to change the conflict situation, especially the life of the victims.” In 1988, the British Agency for Co-operation and Research in Development (Acord) employed Rosalba as a social worker. She was involved in peace building initiatives but she felt she needed to do more. The following year she mobilized women in a public demonstration demanding an end to the war, an activity that initiated a network for the peace process. When concerned journalists documented women’s experiences of the armed conflict in Northern Uganda, their stories brought back the memory of Rosalba Oywa’s own experience. “This forced me to found People’s Voice for Peace (PVP), a local NGO which supports the most vulnerable victims of war, particularly the sexually abused women, land mine victims, the maimed and mutilated.” Currently, more than a thousand women and men are being assisted. They meet, share their horrible experiences and thus break the isolation each person suffers. PVP also secures funds for medical checkups and treatment, counseling services and support for income-generating projects. "The aim is to turn vulnerable victims into peace agents,” says the courageous mother of five children. Rosalba Oywa volunteers with PVP and works part-time for the Coalition for Peace in Africa (Copa) and as a freelance consultant for international organizations. “I do what I feel I should be doing,” she says firmly with a winning smile.

People’s Voice for Peace (PVP) Coalition for Peace in Africa (Copa) Agency for Co-operation and Research in Development (Acord)