The GWATC was established by Ms Betty Lalam a war-affected women from Gulu in May 2005. Initially, Ms Lalam started to train (tailoring) other war-affected girls from her home veranda with no other resources but the only sewing machine she owned. Thanks to the support from the South African based company Eskom, Ms Lalam could establish a training centre that provided space and training opportunities for many more. Today, the GWATC trained in total 1080 youth in tailoring, hairdressing, catering and business skills. Given that a significant amount of youth is illiterate, the GWATC also offers weekly writing and reading classes.
The centre’s main focus is to reach out to youth who are most affected by the past conflict in northern Uganda, including former abductees, school-drop outs, child mothers, widows or orphans. While the majority of beneficiaries are female, the GWATC also caters for male youth, and youth outside Gulu town including South Sudanese refugees. In Ms Lalam’s view the initiative contributes to the peacebuilding process in the region in that the GWATC
“gives change to the community. We change young women and youth’s lives. We are simply giving them something to do, they now can survive.”
The centre also offers psychological support to students, though capacities and funding for counsellors are limited.
In the scope of our research in 2015, we conducted two FGDs (total 20 participants, 80% female, 20% male) with trainees from the GWATC. In one of our exercises we asked how the initiative has affected their lives in a post-conflict setting, – the most salient answers were:
- Gain skills, knowledge and experience
- Establish a positive social network
- Stay busy and productive
- Pursue their desired plans for the future
- Get a new sense of belonging to other youth
- “Makes their lives easy”
- Engage in other activities than farming
Then again, participants also highlighted several challenges they face at GWATC, such as: shortage of food (note: the GWATC does not have sufficient funds to provide for regular lunch), long walking distances to the centre, lack of water, shortage of staff and teachers, insufficient or inadequate training tools, or training materials are too expensive for learners.
You can read more about Betty’s story here.
If you would like to volunteer with or support the GWATC contact me.