Since I was young, I have longed to travel to Africa. I imagined climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, going on a safari, and peeking at great silverback mountain gorillas. But this summer I am embarking on an even more exciting and rewarding adventure! In just two days, I will arrive in Kampala, Uganda to work with the Kinawataka Women Initiatives (KIWOI). KIWOI is an NGO established by Ms. Benedicta Nanyonga in 1998 that promotes women’s empowerment, community development, and environmental protection. The organization achieves its mission through the production and sale of goods such as woven bags, mats, and even shoes—all made from recycled plastic drinking straws.
As a Peace Fellow, I am thrilled to combine my passion for human rights with my love of travel, writing, and photography in support of KIWOI. I also plan to work with the organization to create a quilt of recycled plastic straws that can be both artistic expression and an advocacy piece, which will hopefully be shared and displayed outside of Uganda to raise awareness and garner support for the women of Kinawataka. A number of AP Peace Fellows have worked with partners to create quilts, which have been powerful tools of advocacy and fundraising. Who knows what kind of quilt KIWOI might make with plastic straws. Nonetheless, I think with some creative thinking, we just might come up with something spectacular!
Although I am the first Peace Fellow to work with KIWOI, I have had the opportunity to learn more about Benedicta and the organization by watching a video profile created by Annika Allman, a 2010 Peace Fellow, during her time working with Vital Voices in Kampala. It was this blog post and video that has helped to inspire the partnership between AP and KIWOI, and I look forward to being the first of hopefully many Peace Fellows to work with KIWOI. I had my first phone call with Benedicta about two weeks ago; hearing her voice was comforting and exciting. I truly look forward to meeting her and the other women of KIWOI, and beginning the adventure of a lifetime.