Country 10 has been decided! After an exhaustive amount of research and multiple contenders we’ve chosen (drum roll please)…Uganda.
Uganda’s history is a roller coaster of highs and lows, both economically and politically. Referred to at one point as the “pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill for its striking beauty, Uganda had one of the most vibrant and promising economies in sub-Saharan Africa at the time of its independence in 1962.
That early promise soon turned as the country devolved with civil war, human rights violations, child soldier stories, mass poverty, and an HIV/AIDS epidemic. Today Uganda is a country at a crossroads. While it is relatively stable politically and economically and has significantly lowered its HIV/AIDS rates, the average adult Ugandan has had only 3 ½ years of education.
This fact would stymie any country’s prospects for development. But one of the most interesting things about Uganda, for us, is that it has the world’s youngest population – over half of its citizens are 16 years old or younger. So we can see clearly how education is going to be such a critical factor for this country. Uganda’s future lies in the success of this generation.
But according to a 2010 UNICEF report, barely 50% of girls who enroll in primary school actually complete it. By the time they hit secondary school, only 17% of those girls remain in school. These numbers must improve if the country is to realize its full potential.
Helping us make sense of this complicated but captivating country will be author Doreen Baingana. She is an award-winning Ugandan writer who earned a law degree, but then in graduate school, found her real passion: writing. She says she realized she could impact change more directly as a writer.
The goal of her writings, Doreen says, is to show the variety of the African experience, especially the African female experience. Like her three main characters in Tropical Fish: Stories of Entebbe, she grew up in a Uganda ruled by the dictator Idi Amin. But her characters are like girls in any country – they come of age, confront realities, discover love, and lose it. The difference is that all of it happens against an everyday backdrop of fear and tension in the aftermath of the Amin regime.
“We hear too much about wars, death, disease, corruption, you name it, and yet our individual experiences are not only about major tragedies…I wanted to show that there are multiplicities of experience in Africa, including urban middle class lives, and I wanted to focus on personal, individual journeys rather than the usual generalized disasters. This is what fiction does well on personal, individual journeys rather than the usual generalized disasters.”
With Doreen’s wisdom and rich perspective we couldn’t be more excited to round out our 10 countries with Uganda. Stay tuned – we make our first visit in May!