Mar 2012 20

What’s in a Name? Local pride in northern Uganda

Posted in Featured, News

By Federico Rodriguez

Grassroots Reconciliation Group has been supporting over 35 groups through locally designed projects ranging from farming and animal husbandry to brick making and local village savings schemes. When a group is formed their members choose a name in their local Acholi language. These are not chosen at random. Much thought goes into finding a name that will represent who they are and how they see themselves as a community. For example, one of our groups in Opit is called “Gengo Loyo Cango” which means “Prevention is Better than the Cure”. The name reflects the group’s understanding of taking preventive measures and of good forward planning in order to carry out successful projects.

One of our new groups on the border of South Sudan is called Konya Dongo or “Help Me So I grow.” Betty Ageyo, one of their members, says that the name is a call for unity and, as it implies, a desire to grow out of poverty. “I expect togetherness and unity in order to grow and strengthen ourselves”, she says. The group is interested in raising animals such as goats and sheep, as part of their community development project.

Not far from Konya Dongo more than 30 people gave birth to Bedo Dano Tek, a group willing to highlight their daily struggle for survival through a name that means “Being a Human Being is Difficult”. “The difficulties that people go through made us pick the name, because of what we’ve been through and what we’re suffering now”, explained Geoffrey Komakech, one of their most outspoken members.

Names are often selected as a reminder of their former lives and past experiences. Atoo Piya is another newly formed group in Lamwo. The name means “I Die for My Stomach”. Members explained that it came as a result of life in the bush when many of them were forced by the LRA rebels to leave their camps and go into people’s gardens to look for food. They were often found by government soldiers who would shoot at them leading to injuries and fatalities. Today, they no longer have to fear death by bullets but they struggle against hunger and starvation.

A similar feeling is shared by a group called Gwoke Tek or “Taking Care of Yourself is Hard”. The name is also a reflection of their former life in the bush. “That time was hard. We were dodging bullets and to take care of ourselves to this point and to stay alive is really hard”, said one of their members.

In Acet, Can Deg Kun means “God United Us”. Twenty eight members, mostly women, picked the name to express their desire and faith to work hard and in unison on their forthcoming projects putting behind their bitter past. A desire echoed by members of Cimo Tok Rac in Koc Goma. Their name means “Let’s Join Our Hands Together”.

Some groups select names that are more self-explanatory. Two groups in Palaro call themselves Tam Pi Anyim or “Thinking of the Future” and Waneno Anyim or “Focus on the Future”.

Some names are interesting manifestations of the local culture’s beliefs and ancient wisdom. Lagem Oran is the name of one of our new groups. It means “The One Who’s Jealous Never Succeeds”. It is based on their traditional belief that the one who is jealous will never profit. “If somebody is mean and jealous and wants everything for himself, he will always lose because he will never get anything. If you give, you get more in return”, said the members. The name has an additional interpretation: that “jealousy gives blessings”. This means that those who become the targets of jealousy will be blessed since they will be the ones working together and making the profits, while the jealous person simmers in his or her anger and loneliness without reaping the benefits of working with the group.

Members of a farming community decided to call themselves Waweko Bwola. The name means, “Stop the Lies”. The members chose that particular name to point a finger at NGOs that have come and gone without delivering on their promises. The group’s leaders argue that in the past they have been disappointed by NGO’s that have approached them with promises of aid but have never returned to implement their projects. They’re now putting their hopes and expectations on GRG with a name that they believe empowers them to take the bull by the horns and take the lead without having to wait for an organization to hand them everything.

Finally, we have a new group whose name not only embodies their reality but also what GRG is all about. They’re called Timokica Ber meaning, “Forgiveness is Good”. They chose the name based on their belief that reconciliation is needed in order to move forward. The group hopes to leave their tribulations behind to focus on their economic development. And GRG will be there to give them a good start and the tools to pave the way to a promising future.


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