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VOF Month 1:Warrior Woman: Winiferd A., a Woman of Action, Passion and Compassion

Winiferd Adio has been a teacher, social worker, journalist, broadcaster, freedom fighter, politician, writer and now peace builder and mother to over 27 children. Yes, this is the African Amazon mother who was born in the mid 1950’s in Kitakwi, Uganda among the Ateso ethnic group in a family of 13 children. Many people have heard of the Lord’s Resistance of Uganda, however there are many other armies that have existed to fight against the oppression, suppression and terrorizing that sometimes characterizes our government’s policy, but few have known of the good people who fight for freedom.

Such war torn conflicts often cause mass displacement, both during and for some time after, the cessation of hostilities. Conflict-induced displacement is a reoccurring phenomenon with poorly understood consequences. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in 2005, there were 23,700,000 internally displaced people1 in 51 countries worldwide. Uganda had the third largest population of internally displaced people in December 2005 with 1,740,498 people internally displaced according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

Winifred, though a freedom fighter demonstrates the compassion that is necessary to keep such movements from becoming atrocities to the very people they are fighting to free. She was at one time a member of the Uganda People’s Army as in Teso, Uganda for three years. She relates her involvement in the army “When I was a rebel, I never fired a gun, I was in the welfare department in charge of looking for food, medicine and I opened a clinic called Achoa Medical Aid Post in 1987-88. I also taught the Bible to the rebels to tech them morals and to develop ethics which kept them from looting, rapping. I began this clinic by using local herbs to heal the people. At that time, I also delivered many babies.” A whole community of people had been uprooted in the Ateso community who were pastoralist and agriculturalist, but during that time their livelihood mainly came from the thousands and thousands to cattle’s they owned. But during this high conflict time, the soldiers of the government came to assist the people but also hurt them by driving away their cattle and hence their livelihood, hence they formed an army to resist being from their homes and way of life.

Not only is she courageous, but she is also a pioneer, politician and peacemaker. Due to here many activities as an advocate and voice of the people, she was called to help write the constitution for the present government. She has been a founder and co-founder in many organizations, such as the Teso Initiative for Peace a local NGO set up to specifically deal with “peace building that came as a post-war initiative”, to build peace between the two warring factions of the Eteso and Karamajan people. Additionally she helped to found the Northern Uganda Amnesty Commission that deals with disarmament, resettlement, demobilization and resettlement that occurred due the fighting between the LRA and the Allied Democratic Forces.

Winifred is also an artist, journalist and play writer having taught drama, music dance and written books for primary students from first to third grades. She is one of the founding members of the Uganda Historical Memory and Reconciliation Council, Women’s Media Association, Executive Director of the Uganda Broadcasting Council, previous Executive Directive for the Uganda National Theater for two terms, and Executive Director of a radio station in Kumi. In 1980, she won for best local play of the year and later went on to win the national first class Census Competition award for best play in the country.

We shared our conversation over bowls of millet porridge, as an appetizer, and by the middle of the interview we had tea, roasted peanuts and boiled cassava, sitting on her veranda overlooking the crops she’d grown this rainy season, under the cloudy sunny sky. It was here on her 1.5 acres of land, that she purchased while her husband was in exile, that I came to know the motivations and motivators behind her heroic actions. “My grandmother Dontila, inspired me, and taught me to be hard working and always be disciplined, and not to abuse others, although she was not learned she taught me through domestic work, and told me to get good results in school and encourage me to work hard until I became a teacher. Sometimes I go and stand at her grave and cry. If I could blow breath back into her, I would”. I have also admired Frances Akello, our first woman Minister of Parliament. Dennis Churchill who founded Great Britain, Nelson Mandela, Marcus Garvey and Professor Nabudere who has done a lot of good things for our people.”

What would motivate such a great woman to perform so many acts of kindness, and bravery,” I do it because I am enlightened to become light. When you are ignorant you suffer a lot of things and you remain poor, and people keep exploiting you and you remain underdeveloped. I am courageous, I preserver a lot and I pray a lot silently in my own way. I am kind and generous that is what I am told by my friends and this makes me different. I do it with the little resources I get from the funds I am able to lobby and because the bible says freely you get, so freely you give.”

For a woman who has achieved so much in life, her greatest achievement in life “has been my ability to help educate 27 children and given birth to five children of my own singly handedly.” Her husband had to go into exile because of his involvement in the previous government, which left her to make the best of a challenging life. However, winning a gold medal in the 800 meters as a young woman, at Dar Salem University during the Eastern and Central African University games, put her in the winning lane for a life filled with victories.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are learning to speak out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.

  • Leadership
  • Human Rights
    • Africa
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