The Promise and Peril of Working with Governments: A Global Gather/Chicago Peace Fellows' Roundtable

Last month, Jamal Alkirnawi and Lo Ivan Castillon led a discussion on March 16 for Global Gather and Chicago Peace Fellows entitled “The Promise and Peril of Working with Governments,” about the challenges and opportunities non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can face when seeking to partner with states, and local officials.

Both members of the inaugural Global Gather cohort from last summer, Jamal Alkirnawi leads New Dawn in the Desert, a Bedouin-Jewish organization in Negev Desert, while Lo Ivan Castillon is based in Cotabato City in the province of Maguindanao in the Philippines. Lo Ivan is a Peace Program Officer in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

At the outset of the conversation, space was created for attendees from around the world to share updates and personal feelings about the emerging, world-wide COVID-19 pandemic and its impact in their respective communities. Many were still adjusting to government-sanctioned “shelter-in-place” orders and the reality of physically distancing in crowded areas.

Jamal led the conversation with a detailed, highly informed PowerPoint presentation entitled “Head-On with the Governor.” In it, he identified three primary models of NGO engagement with governmental entities: 1) Nonprofits as supplements to government; 2) Nonprofits and government as complements; and, 3) Nonprofits and government as adversaries. While offering concrete, sometimes personal examples of the challenges and downsides of NGO-government relationships, Jamal was careful to highlight the upsides for both sides if certain frameworks principles are adhered. As he noted, NGOs may often be at odds with elected officials and government agencies over resources, influence, strategic approaches to shared challenges, but they don’t have to be. He pointed out what he sees as the “Four C’s” of NGO-Government Relations, including cooperation, complementarity, co-optation, and confrontation, with the first two being the preferred frameworks on which engagement should be built.

As a “Peace Program Officer” in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Lo Ivan is well equipped to speak from the perspective of governmental agencies’ experience with NGOs. He’s also worked closely with Global Gather Fellow Susana Anyatin on creating access to clean water in the most rural, isolated areas of the Philippines and understand the stresses on community-based efforts.

Global Fellows Meet in Kenya

By Geoffrey Waringa, Goldin Global Fellow, Kenya

On Feb 3rd, 4th and 5th, GATHER global alumni from Uganda Miss Diana Alaroker and Geoffrey Omony of Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development (YOLRED), the first organization designed and run by former child soldiers, attended an Anti-Slavery Knowledge Network workshop in Nairobi, Kenya.

During the workshop, they made time to link up with me, GATHER Global alumni from Kenya Mr. Jeff Waringa, and it was a very joyful meet-up for people who have virtually know each other for more than a year but never met physically.

The three of us had very fruitful discussions centered on the possibility of working together on a regional scale. We noted the challenges of real time communication with all GATHER fellows from the East African region due to engagements and access to online communications amongst them. However, we made a commitment to start the conversation and get something going that the rest of the East African fellows could join later.

They made arrangements for a further meeting the next day which was the Ugandans’ day of departing. They made time to meet in between other meetings and on the ride to the airport. On the last day, they visited Goldin institute’s partners Arigatou Kenya offices in Nairobi, where they also had very pleasant discussions with Dr. Dorcas Kiplagat about the YOLRED projects in Uganda. Dorcas and I also had a pleasant meeting, and I updated her on my work in Kenya and the challenges I’m facing in combating the wave of violent extremist radicalization on the Kenyan coast.

The meetings ended well and commitments were made to remain in constant communication towards further collaborations.

Celebrating the Achievements of 2019

By Ethan Michaeli, Senior Advisor

Happy New Year from the Goldin Institute! 2019 was a momentous year with the debut of the Chicago Peace Fellows, our fellowship for grassroots organizers in our home town, and numerous accomplishments for the international graduates of GATHER, our integrated curriculum and tablet-based software.

Below we’ve created a month-by-month timeline with links to articles celebrating the achievements of 2019.

We’re certain you’ll agree it was a momentous year for all of our partners, and we’re so grateful for your support and attention. Thank you for sharing the journey with us:

January - The year began with a conversation with key civic leaders and community stakeholders who helped shape the Chicago Peace Fellows program to be a truly unique approach that would provide training and resources as well as an expanded network to organizers working in city neighborhoods contending with disproportionate levels of crime and violence.

Malya Villard-Appolon, a Global Associate at the Goldin Institute based in Haiti who co-founded KOFAVIV, the Commission of Women Victims for Victims, wrote a moving reflection on the decade since an earthquake devastated her homeland.

February - We published an array of commentaries to mark International Women’s Day. Cynthia Austin, a California-based graduate of GATHER, wrote about her work empowering survivors of sexual violence and trafficking. GATHER alumnus Michelle Kuiper related her experiences getting legislation passed in her state of Kentucky, while Uganda-based GATHER graduate Diana Alaroker described teaching women and girls in a region recovering from civil war.

The founder of the Goldin Institute, Diane Goldin, reflected on 16 years of collaboration with grassroots leaders and especially on the foundational role of women in our work.

The same month, Jimmie Briggs, the Goldin Institute’s coordinator for community learning and collaboration, led an online training for all the GATHER alumni on fundraising.

GATHER alumnus Geoffrey Omony, the founder of Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development (YOLRED), the first organization in Uganda designed and run by former child soldiers, and Global Research Fellow Jassi Sandhar released a graphic novel about the lives of young people in the Gulu region who were forced to become participants as well as victims of the long-running civil war.

March - The month began with “Confessions of a Rebel Architect,” a provocative essay from Goldin Institute Chief of Staff Oz Ozburn calling for a greater sense of social responsibility in her profession.

Just a few days later, we announced the names of the Peace Fellows, 18 community leaders from 14 different neighborhoods who had gone through an extensive application process and were committed to learning together and intervening in the violence that impacts too many of Chicago’s families.

The Peace Fellows hit the ground running, using the tablets with the pre-loaded GATHER software for their on-line lessons, but also coming together in person to absorb the principles of the course and share their own expertise.   

In the middle of the month, the Fellows attended the City Club of Chicago’s conclave on Crime and Criminal Justice and then later did a group tour of the University of Chicago Hospitals’ Trauma Center, where they met with staff and discussed new strategies to promote healing and recovery as well as the interruption of violence.

The Peace Fellows capped off their first month with their first online group meeting with the international graduates of GATHER, a workshop with Rebekah Levin, director of evaluation and learning with the Chicago-based Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

April – At the beginning of this month, the Peace Fellows continued their work on evaluation by participating in a presentation with another longtime Goldin Institute ally, DePaul University Professor Lisa Dush, who is conducting a formal evaluation of the GATHER software.

To study how art and social justice can inform and strengthen each other, the Peace Fellows met with  artists Tonika Johnson, Jane Saks, Rahmaan Statik and Cecil McDonald.

Individual Peace Fellows took the initiative to host their peers. Alex Levesque at the Automotive Mentoring Group invited the other Chicago Peace Fellows to visit his organization to determine the principles and practices that empower shared learning.

The Peace Fellows are all veteran community organizers, and Dr. Sokoni Karanja shared his thoughts about the program and his connections with the other Fellows.

In the middle of the month, the Fellows came together to share asset maps of their communities that include all of the leaders, informal institutions and other resources.

Peace Fellow Jeannette Coleman, director of I AM MY BROTHER’S KEEPER UNITY DAY, a not for profit community outreach program in the South Shore neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, wrote about the history of her organization and about the positive alternatives they provide for young people.

The circle of advisors the Goldin Institute assembled at the end of the month to review the Peace Fellows’ progress.

May – The Peace Fellows began the month by touring Breakthrough Ministries, a facility on the West Side working with people returning from prison. Program Coordinator Burrell Poe wrote that the Fellows met on site to learn about Appreciative Inquiry, an essential technique the Goldin Institute has employed successfully with its fellows all around the globe.

To help them amplify their voices in civic affairs, they attended another City Club of Chicago luncheon, this time featuring Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

In the middle of the month, Peace Fellow Robert Biekman, a pastor on Chicago’s South Side, authored a personal essay in which he described his personal experience with the curriculum, which had increased his personal capacity as a leader as well as the capacity of his organization, the Chicago Alternatives to Incarceration Collaborative.

Delasha Long, the Goldin Institute’s Media and Content Specialist, profiled Peace Fellow Jamila Trimuel, who hosted the 2019 Recognition Ceremony to honor high school and eighth grade graduates involved in her innovative, highly recognized program Ladies of Virtue.

Among the international alumni of GATHER, a special honor was accorded to Jamal Alkirnawi, CEO of a New Dawn in the Desert, a Bedouin-Jewish organization in Rahat, Israel. Jamal was named as one of 12 prominent torch lighters for Independence Day in Israel.

At the end of the month, the Peace Fellows came together for a powerful meeting with the staff of activists at the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, who are teaching non-violence techniques in some the neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence.

June – Peace Fellow Gloria Smith reflected on her unique path to becoming executive director of the Black Star Project based in Chicago’s South Side. Smith took the helm of the Black Star Project after her brother, the organization’s founder, passed away.

In a dispatch from Uganda, Geoffrey Omony described the ‘Community Parliaments’ YOLRED organized to create a space for discussion, truth and healing in his community.  

GATHER Alumnae Cynthia Austin wrote an essay to celebrate the first anniversary of Shyne, the organization she founded to help survivors of sex trafficking build safe and productive futures in San Diego and other parts of Southern California.

Peace Fellow Robin Cline, assistant director of NeighborSpace, wrote about exciting new concepts to reform philanthropy and make more resources available to those working at the grassroots.  

In the remote, impoverished town of Mthatha, South Africa, Dieudonne Allo shared excited news about being selected for the 2019 Red Bull Amaphiko Academy and about new partnerships between his organization, the Global Leading Light Initiative, and other GATHER alumni in Chicago and San Diego.

Peace Fellow Maria Velasquez hosted her peers at the Telpochcalli community organization, which is based in the Telpochcalli Elementary School in Little Village, a neighborhood with a high percentage of Spanish-speaking residents and immigrants from across Central and South America.

The Peace Fellows conducted a series of meetings with key institutions to assess how they could establish partnerships to reduce violence in the city’s neighborhoods. The Fellows spoke with top officials at the Chicago Park District to discuss how that agency is using its facilities and staff around the city. At the Field Museum of Natural History, they were invited to inspect and comment on a controversial exhibit that is being revised to reflect current standards as well as its historical legacy.

July – Sokoni Karanja wrote about the Family and Youth Peace Day, one of eight summer projects the Peace Fellows collectively planned and funded. More than 200 people came out to the event in the Bronzeville neighborhood for positive activities.

The Peace Fellows returned to the Institute for Non-Violence Chicago for a specialized, intensive training session in Non-Violence as it was practiced by Martin Luther King Jr.

Continuing their discussions with civic leaders, the Peace Fellows met with Ald. Walter Barnett, one of the Chicago City Council’s veterans and a principle advocate of new approaches to stopping violence in the city.

In the interest of discovering best practices across the Midwest, the Peace Fellows visited an innovative anti-violence program in Indianapolis.

Late in the month, the Peace Fellows presented their progress through the course, and their plans for summer projects to staff and grantees of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a grant initiative that pools funds from multiple area philanthropies to try and obviate violence in the city.  

Finally that month, the Fellows attended “Black and Brown Lives in Green Spaces: Race and Place in Urban America,” a panel discussion at the DuSable Museum.

August – GATHER alumni Lissette Mateus Roa from Colombia, and Diana Alaroker and Geoffrey Omony from Uganda led an online conversation about mitigating trauma for former child soldiers with the other GATHER alumni as well as the Chicago Peace Fellows.

Peace Fellow Jeanette Coleman recounts the experiences she had during the Youth Exchange, a summer project which brought together teenagers from different Chicago neighborhoods together for an overnight retreat in a Wisconsin forest.  

Peace Fellow Gloria Smith described the robust on-line discussion with Edgar Villanueva, author of “Decolonizing Wealth.” Villanueva’s ideas for a major overhaul of the priorities and procedures of major philanthropies found a receptive audience among the Peace Fellows and GATHER alumni.

In addition to meeting on-line with the GATHER alumni, the Peace Fellows toured additional sites and institutions in Chicago to expand their network and amplify their voices. At the Rebuild Foundation's Stony Island Arts Bank, they met with Studio Gang's Urbanism and Civic Impact team to explore the Role of Urban Planning and Design in Peace-building and Violence Prevention.  A few days later,the Fellows toured the University of Chicago Urban Labs to learn more about the work of the Crime Lab.

September – Early in the month, GATHER alumnus Michelle Kuiper led an on-line discussion on women’s issues with GATHER’s global alumni as well as Chicago Peace Fellows.

Program Coordinator Burrell Poe reported on the Passport 2 Peace events, which were part of the Peace Fellows’ collaborative projects. Fellow Robert Biekman, who hosted one of the events in his neighborhood park, described a fun-filled day that drew hundreds of residents for activities focused on healing and development.  

With the Peace Fellows moving into the final phase of the program, the Goldin Institute convened the civic leaders who have served as a circle of advisors and reviewed the Fellows’ progress.

In Cameroon, GATHER alumnus Alexander Gwanvalla hosted a workshop on how to build on community assets for grassroots leaders of Nsongwa Mile 90, an area with high levels of recruitment of child combatants and separatist fighters.

Lo Ivan Castillon, a GATHER alumnus based in the Philippines, sent an update on the organization he founded, the Volunteers’ Initiatives in Bridging and Empowering Society (VIBES), which is involving young people in various projects all designed to rebuild and heal a region that his wracked by civil war and natural disasters.

At the end of the month, GATHER alumnus Dieudonne Allo from South Africa stopped in Chicago during his American tour, and met with Peace Fellow Jacquelyn Moore to plan their youth robotics projects. Dieudonne’s visit fortuitously coincided with the arrival of Ceasar McDowell, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has been a senior advisor to the GATHER program since it was first conceived. Ceasar was in town to give an inspiring lecture at Depaul University entitled “Dialogue in Demographic Complexity: Overcoming Our Discriminatory Consciousness.”

October – Goldin Chief of Staff Oz Ozburn wrote about a partnership between the Peace Fellows and DePaul University's Technology for Social Good Lab to create a city-wide “Living Asset Map” which will connect grassroots leaders with a range of civic institutions dedicated to peace building.

This month also saw the fruition of the Goldin Institute’s partnership with the Voices & Faces Project and Brothers Standing Together, an organization founded by GATHER alumnus Raymond Richard, to lead “Testimony & Transformation: A Writing Workshop for Returning Citizens.”

In a special report from Kenya, Gather Alumnae Mariam Ali Famau announced the launch of Women of Faith in Action, a new program to stop the recruitment of children into armed conflict. A single mother herself, Mariam teaches young women self-empowerment and entrepreneurship in a community where there are perilously few economic opportunities.

November – The Goldin Institute celebrated the graduation of the inaugural class of Chicago Peace Fellows on November 14, culminating months of collaborative learning and implementation. The Peace Fellows immediately joined GATHER’s global alumni network, and have already started working on joint efforts across borders.

GATHER alumnus Yusuph Masanja from Tanzania contributed a special essay to commemorate a major milestone in his life, a journey to the Arctic Circle with explorer Sir Robert Swan. In the first episode of “The Polar Bear Talks,” Yusuph describes the support he received from many for his journey, including anthropologist and primatologist Dr. Jane Goddall. In the second episode, Yusuph narrates the journey itself. Don’t miss the video of Yusuph’s dip in icy waters!

December – GATHER alumnae Lissette Mateus Roa wrote a dispatch from Colombia, where there are mass protests against systemic problems afflicting the nation; a failing health care system, an ill-equipped, under-resourced education system, inequality, impunity and rampant corruption.

South African GATHER alumnus Dieudonne Allo finished the year on a note of a triumph, reporting on a highly successful Acceleration Summit he hosted to boost the youth programming of the Global Leading Light Initiative.

Thank you to our global network of grassroots champions whose support made this momentous year possible!  We look forward to your continued support for community-driven social change in 2020! 

South African Acceleration Summit Update

By Dieudonne Allo, Goldin Global Fellow, South Africa

Dear All,

Our Acceleration Summit was a remarkable success. I am writing to share a few highlights and pictures of the event.

The head of CSI of IDC (our current donor) IDC’s portfolio manager, IDC’s Mthatha-based staff, representatives of the local municipality, Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Boston College, New and Old Board members, staff, volunteers, beneficiaries, a few of their parents and a student from our Student Innovation Lab made up the list of participants. A representative of the Daily Dispatch Newspaper was also present.

During the summit, certificates (cisco-accredited) were awarded to beneficiaries of the project, as well as in-kind start-up capital in the form of hand tools.
Each beneficiary highlight their LL-Tech Academy journey, presented their businesses and made an ask. A student from our school programme, the Student Innovation Lab, presented a game she created which is helping students improve their pass marks in economics. Her idea started at a Design Thinking session last year which GLLI organised during the student innovation winter school. We (Zona and I) presented an overview of the LL-Tech Academy and our plans for the future, which includes the construction of an Open Innovation Hub in Mthatha.

The NYDA representative offered to sponsor each of their businesses with amounts ranging from R55,000 to R200,000. They will go through a formal application process to get these grants from January.

The IDC were upbeat about GLLI’s professionalism, creativity, accountability, ability to deliver and the LL-Tech Academy model. They requested that GLLI and IDC start discussing the post pilot project as soon as possible.

Gratitude to our Board Members for your support. Special thanks to Mr Dyeyi who was our Programme Director, Mr Wopula, who welcomed our guests on behalf of the Board and Mr Sejosengoe and Mrs Mabija who handed our symbolic gifts to the visitors. Special thanks to Sharon Ries, who accompanied me to IDC to discuss our proposal last year and helped with parts of the proposal. Thank you all for your words of support, even to those who couldn’t make it to the summit in person. I cannot thank you all enough.

Due to the success of this summit, we plan to make the Acceleration Summit on rural tech entrepreneurship an annual regional/provincial event, which we plan to co-organise with IDC. It will be a Launchpad for grassroots technology entrepreneurship in the Eastern Cape (and eventually nationally) and catalyse growth in the tech economy of the province. I will have a chat with Travis Rejman, Jimmie Briggs and Cynthia Auston, our US-based advisory members to explore the possibility of involving U.S acceleration partners who may want to join us next year at the summit.


GATHER Alumnus Previews Chicago to Mthatha Robotics Collaboration

The Goldin Institute was thrilled to welcome GATHER alumnus Dieudonne Allo from South Africa to our hometown in Chicago September 29-October 1, a visit that fortuitously coincided with a visit from Ceasar McDowell, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has been a senior advisor to the GATHER program since it was first conceived.

Dieudonne was in town as part of a whirlwind tour of the United States that took him to New York City and Philadelphia to meet with entrepreneurial incubators as part of his fellowship with Red Bull’s Amaphiko Academy.


In Chicago, he spent time with Peace Fellow Jacqueline Moore to talk about their international collaboration bringing together young people from their respective programs in robotics, STEM education, and entreprenuership. Goldin Institute staff put together a reception for both Jackie and Dieudonne as well as for Ceasar with a select guest list that included Peace Fellow Gloria Smith, John Zeigler, director of DePaul University’s Egan Office of Urban Education and Community Partnerships, DePaul Professor Lisa Dush, who is conducting a professional evaluation of GATHER, and Goldin Institute Founder and Board Chair Diane Goldin.

Dieudonne spoke about the history of his organization, the Global Leading Light Initiative (GLLI), which he founded in 2014 on the “concept that every person has a light.”


Based in Mthatha, a town in the Eastern Cape province, the GLLI hosts a variety of workshops and training courses, including Iziko, a community and school-based parenting program aimed at building healthy child-adult relationships. Dieudonne explained, however, that they were in a poor town in one of South Africa’s poorest provinces, such that economic reality undergirded many of the issues they are trying to address.

[quote]“As much as we want kids to have this light, the parents are under pressure of poverty. Through GATHER, we learned that their problems are not technical, they are adaptive. When you solve something, something else comes up.” -- Dieudonne Allo [/quote]

Dieudonne continued, "It was necessary, therefore, to intervene early as well as consistently, to provide opportunity as well as skills."

To that end, the GLLI recently launched a tech academy for young people this summer with special funding from the South African government. They received 333 applications, and were able to select only 6 young people, who are currently in the midst of their curriculum. The students are being trained in digital skills and entrepreneurship as well as learning to act as mentors.


When Dieudonne mentioned the tech academy to Goldin Institute Executive Director Travis Rejman, Travis thought to connect him with Peace Fellow Jackie Moore, who has a quarter-century of experience working for the finance industry supporting systems software and currently has dedicated herself to training young people in robotics.

Jackie and Dieudonne met on-line, discovered areas of common interest, and decided to work together to facilitate conversations between their respective groups of young people. They are jointly applying for funds to bring Jackie to South Africa to provide training to the students in the tech academy face-to-face, which Dieudonne thinks will be inspirational, particularly to the young women in the program.

[quote]“I’m very excited. Being a woman of color doing robotics – it’s not common.” -- Dieudonne Allo.[/quote]

Jackie said her collaboration with Dieudonne was based on a shared commitment to making sure young adults, in particular, have programs that provide them with a bridge from childhood to adulthood. She was excited to create a robotics team that was physically located around the globe.

[quote]“The Big Picture vision is for young people from Chicago and young people from Mthatha to recognize their similarities. If one person in one city can do it, a similar person in another city can do it. We’re not taking American values to South Africa or South African values to America, but to see that teens are teens.” -- Jacquelyn Moore[/quote]

Jackie continued, “No city is superior to any other city.”

Travis said the collaboration between Jackie and Diedonne realized one of the goals he set for the Goldin Institute’s fellowships:

[quote]“It’s great to have a global GATHER Fellow working with a Chicago Peace Fellow, a fulfillment of all our hopes that as the alumni network grows, there would be ways to meet, work and grow together. It’s a dream come true for Diane and me.” -- Travis Rejman[/quote]

That sentiment was echoed by Ceasar McDowell, who teaches urban planning and community development at MIT and coordinates cross-department initiatives that leverage technology for community engagement. Ceasar advised Travis at various stages of GATHER’s development, and understood that its success was the result of tenacity and continuing adaptation.

[quote]“It’s not often you see a set of digital tools of embedded with the principles of community.” Ceasar McDowell.[/quote]

GATHER Alumni Focus on Women’s Issues

On Thursday, September 5th, the Goldin Institute hosted its first ever women’s-focused joint discussion with GATHER’s global alumni as well as Chicago Peace Fellows. A lively and informative conversation unfolded over 90 minutes with GATHER alumnus Michelle Kuiper, Yale University researcher and field consultant Jillian Foster, as well as St. Louis, Missouri-based Pamela Merritt of Repro-Action. 

At the outset, Pamela and Jillian gave full background descriptions of their respective journeys working in the fields of reproductive justice, and the impact of conflict on women’s general health and well-being. Earlier in her life, Pamela dealt with endometriosis and fibroids, and she spoke movingly about her challenges seeking consistent medical treatment, spurring her to advocate on behalf of poor, Black American women after a stint at Planned Parenthood USA.

[quote]She noted that while access to safe reproductive health and maternal care is a global crisis, the United States, surprisingly, has the worst outcomes for women in regards to infant mortality and maternal health in the so-called “developed world.”[/quote]

Jillian, a host on the “Radicals & Revolutionaries” podcast, works at the intersection of gender, violence, and health, focusing especially on the African continent, and recently returned from a spring of field research and consultation in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Ethiopia. When she learned the Goldin Institute works with GATHER alumni in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, Jillian spoke of her recent findings and experiences in those nations. In Somalia in particular, she noted that constant armed conflict among multiple warring groups has drastically impacted the physical lives of women and girls, but also diminished the services available to them. She recommended that community “gate-keepers,” especially those in the faith-based spaces, were as-yet untapped leaders in gender protection. Regarding Kenya, Jillian felt that much of the sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls was a result of tumultuous elections, and that many female survivors have been silenced.

Kentucky-based GATHER alumnus Michelle Kuiper followed the two guest speakers by talking about her work supporting survivors of rape and sexual assault. For the past several years, Michelle has worked in her state and across the United States to mandate greater processing of rape testing kits as well as holistic, sustained support of women and girls dealing with the aftermath of violence.

[quote]Michelle pointed out that someone is a target of sexual violence every 92 seconds and one out of every three women globally will be a survivor of some form of sexual violence in her lifetime. [/quote]

Cameroon-based GATHER alumnus Alexander Gwanvalla shared with the speakers and attendees on the call that the issue of women’s health was particularly relevant to him as he lost his grandmother to excessive bleeding from menstruation. He asked the three women speakers, “In my community, we have medical crises, poor health systems and corruption. We also have various cultures within Cameroon with everyone valuing their own culture. Women's health care is very bad, often based around cultural herbalists that prevent medical treatment. What can I do to help my society in situations like this?”

In response, Pamela recognized how complex women’s reproductive health can be because of cultures and community belief systems.

“The first thing is to think about it in terms of public education which respects and honors those beliefs,” she said. “It is not about disproving but more about modern medicine supplementing [those systems]. It is hard to talk about it, but if we don’t, we have huge percentages of the population living in pain.”

From Somalia, Abdiweli Waberi weighed in by recounting that in 2017, when he spoke about gender-based violence in a public speech, it was shocking for a man to be discussing women’s issues. He noted that for every 10,000 mothers in his country, 1,000 die in childbirth.

[quote]“In Somalia, there is no domestic law that protects women from sexual violence, it isn’t seen as an issue that needs laws and punishments,” he explained. “Often, change is seen as ‘western,’ and rejected.”[/quote]

“You’re right,” Jillian responded. “It is extremely difficult for men to speak about women's issues. Talk about how men are not acting appropriately, and ask, ‘In our community, what does it mean to be a good man?’ When you’re doing this, speaking with religious and cultural leaders, weave into that [narrative] how violence against women is not a good thing and does not make a good man. Use the social structures to help change the behaviors.”

We invite you to learn more by viewing this recording of the conversation:

GATHER Alumni Focus on Child Soldiers, Mitigating Trauma

On August 6, Global GATHER alumni Lissette Mateus from Colombia, and Diana Alaroker and Geoffrey Omony from Uganda engaged in an online video conversation about child soldiers and war-affected children for their peers among the inaugural Gather Fellow cohort. They were joined by Theresa Betancourt, a Boston College professor who’s been performing a longitudinal, intergenerational study of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone.

GATHER Global Fellows Geoffrey Omony and Lissette Mateus Roa preparing to travel to Kitgum, Uganda to lead a training on Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

The hour-long conversation included reflections and questions from GATHER alumni Jeff Waringa from Kenya, Alexander Gwanwalla from Cameroon, and Emma Rutikanga from Rwanda, who shared their experiential knowledge as well as shared challenges.

Lissette, the co-founder and visionary behind Serendipia, spoke to everyone on the video call about the challenges which she faces supporting de-mobilized female fighters as well as how she helps train communities in the “ESPERE” model for reconciliation and healing. From Gulu in northern Uganda, Diana and Geoffrey highlighted their concerns regarding the stigma which make it difficult for former child soldiers of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) to successfully integrate into civilian life. Employment and housing demands often force young people into homelessness or extreme poverty, but YOLRED is uniquely positioned to address the lives of former child soldiers in northern Uganda as an organization created by ex-combatants such as Geoffrey, who spoke movingly about the impact of his experiences.

GATHER Global Fellow Lissette Mateus Roa leads a training on Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Gulu, Uganda with the Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development.

Theresa Betancourt directs the Research Program on Children and Adversity at Boston College, having formerly worked for international non-profit organizations such as the International Rescue Committee in places such as Uganda, Bosnia and Sierra Leone. She and her team of students in the college’s School of Social Work are undertaking research projects in countries throughout the world, including several in which GATHER Fellows are the principal organizations. Dr. Betancourt emphasized the need to understand and mitigate intergenerational trauma, especially when conflicts unfold over decades, or post-conflict mental health systems are not developed.

Following the video conversation, several Gather Fellows were connected with Dr. Betancourt ‘s program to continue the conversation and collaboration.

The full video of the webinar can be viewed here: