Frontline stories: Pamela Angwech, Founder and Executive Director of Gulu Women’s Economic Development and Globalization (GWED-G)
By: Julienne Jeong (CC '21)
Acknowledgements: Paul Spezza (CC '21) and GlobeMed at Columbia University
“My perspective on global health and social justice takes me back to my experiences in northern Uganda. During a very tense and violent period of war by rebel groups, I had been working with the World Food Program of the United Nations, where I was in charge of general food distributions to camps of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). People were fighting and shooting among civilian streets, but I continued my work. I also often carried injured or dead bodies to our nearest hospital.
Every time I distributed food, I cried. I saw suffering women with their children waiting in the queue. One woman waited for over 6hrs with her child on her back, witnessing many others raiding the food. After I served her that day, she realized that her baby had died. This was a turning point in my life: whatever food I could give her in that moment could not bring her child back to life. I counseled her and talked to her family and began to realize that the problems she told me about were shared amongst most women in Northern Uganda. Women were bearing more of the burden and the suffering in our community.
From talking with women one by one, many women found solidarity in me; they came to me with their problems. I quickly set up a regular venue where women could sit with me for counseling. There was one Mango Tree near my place— that was where we could meet. Many women shared their stories of rape, abuse, torture, and lack of health support. I left my personal work and started figuring out ways we can support women, girls, and communities. I called for friends to help, too. Together, we started Gulu Women’s Economic Development & Globalization (GWED-G). And today, we serve over 150,000 individuals in programs for health, human rights, access to justice, peace- building, psychosocial support, advocacy, and economic empowerment.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now on lockdown, but that does not mean that our work stops. We are now playing an active role on our District’s COVID-19 Task Force and have been distributing food to over 300 food-insecure families. Our Village Health Teams are travelling miles by bike, door-to-door, to continue providing antiretroviral treatment for those with HIV/AIDS and we are actively responding to cases of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in domestic households, which have been on the rise because of the lockdown.
After this pandemic, I hope to reunite with my communities from where it all began— under the Mango Tree.”
To support GWED-G during the COVID-19 Pandemic, please share her story and consider donating via eventbrite or venmo @covid19uganda.
Follow her on Facebook at GWED-G and on Instagram @gwed.g