Empowering women and children in Lingira

by Tawi Inc.


One of the goals of the EDGE Project, which remains a facet of the values held by Tawi Inc., is the empowerment of women and children on Lingira Island in Uganda. Most women in the community have long been oppressed and are generally limited to the restricted life of a subordinate to their male counterpart. This past summer of 2012 we worked alongside Women’s Rights Initiative, an NGO local to the Jinja, Uganda area. They serve to empower and educate youth as well as provide trade training to women who have fled from domestic abuse relationships. During our stay we hosted WORI on Lingira and under their direction, taught a lesson on HIV/AIDS. Through this lesson, several misconceptions and important fact about sexually transmitted infections, AIDS, and basic human rights were exposed. Children were able to anonymously ask any questions they had regarding sexual health or health in general. We received hundreds of questions ranging several topics and after gathering the questions we were able to draft answers to most which we explained during the lesson. Once and initial barrier had been crossed – several students, both male and female, actively participated in the discussion of these topics which otherwise may be considered taboo.

Several of the female students who live and attend school on the island are forced to choose between finding whatever means to pay their school fees or returning home uneducated. For many, prostitution can be the only solution to paying for their tuition. There remains a constant dilemma between the necessity of education and the preservation of human rights.

Groups like WORI who have themselves faced such issues and have been born and raised in these communities are a great asset to the women and children of Uganda and communities elsewhere. They continue to remain a great partner to Tawi Inc.

A view of the camp we visited on Lingira Island
A view of the camp we visited on Lingira Island

This morning, my colleague Katherine and I took a beautiful 30-minute speedboat ride from Jinja, Uganda to Lingira, a small island about five miles around, where the EDGE project partners with a group called SHIM to provide clean water, agriculture, education, and more to the several thousand residents of the island.

About three years ago, EDGE was part of a program in partnership with GlobalGiving, the Rockefeller Foundation, and InnoCentive, an organization that crowdsources innovative solutions for business, social, policy, scientific, and technical challenges.  This program was opened to all GlobalGiving partners, and EDGE was one of only five organizations selected to present challenges they are facing to the InnoCentive community.  The challenge submitted by EDGE was to find a water purification solution for the residents of Lingira Island that filled three requirements:

  1. Removed a sufficient amount of bacteria from the water to make it drinkable;
  2. Affordable for the local community;
  3. Could be produced locally

After sifting through the almost-100 potential solutions submitted for the challenge, the EDGE team selected a clay pot filtration system that seemed to have great potential for the Lingira community.  The team purchased over 100 clay pot filtration systems to pilot the solution over the summer.

While talking with the team and community on the island, I struggled to determine whether this project was a success or failure.  In the end, it was both.  While the project was not a success in a traditional sense – the solution did not meet the three requirements listed above – the team quickly experimented, was honest about the challenges, and learned from the pilot in a way that will help them be more successful going forward.

As previous reports have discussed, the clay pot filtration solution removed about 98% of the bacteria in the lake water.  However, the water contains such high levels of bacteria that even just 2% of the bacteria remaining leaves it unsafe to drink.  The remaining water would be safe for cooking or bathing, but training people to only use the filtered water for cooking/cleaning and not for drinking would be too risky.   Second, this filtration system cannot be produced locally on the island.  Currently they are being imported from Kenya, which makes the product overly expensive.  Third, the cost remains too high for the families on the island, as compared to other potential solutions.

About a dozen clay pot systems were distributed to families on the island.  We visited one camp where four of the pots had been given out, although currently only one is being used.  The other three have never been used.  The women we talked to who own the unused pots said they were not used because the women did not have the buckets and taps required to use the system (this would cost them about Sh30,000, or just over $11).  We did talk with one family using the system, which seemed pleased with the result.  We were told that the family saves about Sh36,000 a month (about $13.50) because they are not required to buy firewood to boil water, which is how most families in the community currently purify their water. 

Despite these challenges, we were impressed with the team on the ground.  Their quest for a solution that is both innovative and appropriate, coupled with their honesty about the challenges faced showed their passion and commitment to a sustainable solution for the Lingira community.  They are currently making plans to distribute the remaining clay pots to another NGO that can use them on the Uganda mainland, and are continuing to search for better solutions for the communities on Lingira Island.

A woman who received a clay pot filtration system
A woman who received a clay pot filtration system
The source of drinking water for the community
The source of drinking water for the community
One family using their filtration system
One family using their filtration system

Dear EDGE supporters and friends,

In the past month, the EDGE Project has officially reassembled on the UW-Madison campus, with members returning from their hometowns, jobs and internships, and from countries throughout the world. We are also thrilled to welcome many new members to the organization. The student organization fair gave us an awesome opportunity to talk to many fellow students about the EDGE Project, international development, social issues, and our work in Uganda. We are excited to continue to grow and work with both new and old members in the coming year.

The past few weeks we have heard from partners and friends in the developing world, who gave us perspectives to think about as we go forward with our own discussions and project plans. Last week, Barry Driscoll, a graduate studentin the UW-Madison Political Science department shared his perspective of international development work from his experiences working and studying different aspects of the development field. The knowledge he shared, as well as the discussion he facilitated, helped us think how the EDGE Project fits into the world of international development and how our projects and direction may evolve and improve in the future. In the coming weeks, we will be hearing from other professors and speakers to help us think about broader questions concerning development. This sharing of knowledge will allow us to continue to effectively support community led change in Lingira.

Additionally, we have been happy to hear updates from Lingira and continue to support the community in which ever ways we can from Madison. In the coming weeks, Women Rights Initiative (WORI), will be returning to the island to facilitate counseling training for teachers at the secondary school. We are excited to support this training and help ensure that students have access to resources and an academically supportive environment. The counseling training will also help build upon the knowledge and awareness about health and rights that WORI shared during a workshop at the secondary school this summer. We look forward to hearing about the progress of this project and the results of the trainings. 

As we move forward into the semester, we are thankful for your continued support. You may follow us on our blog for more details about our progress. Please keep in touch through wisconsin.edge@gmail.com or by talking with any EDGE member. We love hearing from you!

Thanks again,
E D G E | Project

School garden. Founded 2011.
School garden. Founded 2011.

Dear Supporters and Friends,

On June 26th our travelers returned from Lingira Island, marking the EDGE Project’s fourth successful year implementing our projects on the island. Projects from this past year covered several different goals of ours. The diversity in our ideas was enabled by the number of travelers we had, that is, eight people in contrast to three from last year. The increase in both human power and brainpower ensured the completion of work on this trip that we can all celebrate. Claudia, David, Elise, Eric, Katie, Kristin, Leeza, and Paul send their thanks to all of you!

Many of our projects this year were self-contained enough that we can report on them fully, now. The manual water pump we installed in the secondary school garden falls into this category. The pump was utilized several times while we were there, and will surely increase the likelihood that the garden will come out of the dry season in good health. We were also able to “hand over the keys” to the secondary students by creating 8 plots for student management. To give structure to that, we worked with teachers to establish the Student Farmers Club to facilitate involvement and learning in the garden. We’re very excited about these students having an opportunity to own a resource and learn how to develop it.

Girls’ football, a former project of ours, was meant to be researched this trip for possible re-implementation after a falling out. To our surprise, the EDGE ladies were invited to join the secondary school girls’ team as they prepared for a match they had set up themselves against Lingira Girls Football Club. We were able to speak with the female leaders at both institutions about the sustainability of the teams, and even moved into Lingira camp to speak with the younger females involved with the original LGFC. After a very successful, well-attended match, it seems that we may have a role in supporting both teams’ activities and their rivalry.

In contrast to the rest of our projects, one of our larger projects, Quench Lingira, took a lot of time while on the island, and will continue to be well monitored. The technology performed as expected, collecting around 97% of E. Coli bacteria at peak. If someone has no means, such as chlorine drops or charcoal to boil water, that number would be a fantastic improvement on the lake water they currently drink. However, 97% effectiveness for kegs, or even the 98.5% for just a pot filter will still result in occasional sickness. Therefore, both of these household systems pale— mildly, next to the community chlorination systems that SHIM promotes in the region. Given the relatively low density of residents taking water direct from the lake, we elected to not send and inferior solution into competition with our hosts. A more recent development will see the SHIM water team take up the filters to new territory where the frequency of residents that would actually gain water quality is higher.

Other intervention we were happy to bring to bear were hosting WORI (Women’s Rights Initiative) and putting on first-aid training sessions at the secondary school. The duo of women from WORI, Rose and Annet, who are the lifeblood of the Jinja-based NGO were wonderful enough to come out to the island twice and plan a third return. Prior to their arrival we placed anonymous question boxes and found a lot of material to gauge what we could address in a seminar. Together with several EDGE members, they led a two-hour interactive session that involved the entire school, including the teachers. Topics included Sexually Transmitted Infections, HIV/AIDS Awareness, and Sexual Harassment. Women’s and children’s rights and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS were highly stressed and discussed. The anonymous questions and a couple medical emergencies inspired our own team to put on first aid workshops to fill an unacceptable void of information. Through playacting and real-life examples we did well to transmit the principles known as common knowledge. In the future we hope to be training people to train others in first aid and basic emergency medicine. While there are further, mostly smaller interventions, space and time make this a good point to close.

Overall, the projects this summer were able to touch on many different issues on the island, and we were extremely lucky to have such a great group that was able to be both creative and flexible in their solutions on the island. We will have a lot to work with during this upcoming year, but we have the advantage of having many returning members that have traveled. Check the blog for more updates, and more information about the rest of our trip. We thank you all so much for your support of our mission! Be in touch as you are able; feedback and company is always welcome.


    E D G E  |  Project


Dear Friends and Supporters,

We thank you for your continued contact and taking time to stay in touch. This is the time of the year when both writing and reading reports gets to be fun.

Since the last report, we’ve been working to reopen lines of communication with our friends and EDGE supporters abroad. There are now only six short weeks before our traveling group begins their 30 hour journey to Uganda and we’re intent to hit the ground running. Our marquee project, Quench Lingira will ultimately be our priority, but will not overshadow our other projects. Among them are plans to revamp the garden project from last year. We know that it has successfully produced some foods, improving the school’s diet, but we hope to better connect it to the community and push it as a learning center. Another team is looking at the grain mill building, which EDGE commissioned for a project several years ago. The hope is to inaugurate this space as a public and secular space where children and adults can learn, share, and do things without the pressures associated with other public areas. In this space and others, we will also be posting large-scale maps of Lingira and the surrounding area. This has nothing to do with navigation, but rather is meant to help Lingirans see their home with a new perspective. For more on these, please email. We will provide a final listing of our projects and planned activities as the trip nears.

On campus, we have two more events planned for the semester. Coming in less than two weeks is a benefit concert and bag-o tournament (Beats and Bags Benefit) at Varsity Hall. We hope to have several relevant organizations at the event. That will be on April 21st. Shortly after, we will be hosting the first of a series of annual student organization soccer tournaments. This is partially self-promotion, but is more so an effort to push the idea of a student organization community where fellow do-gooders can informally share their goals and how they pursue them via friendly relationships.

We also welcome back Sam Matthews and Elise Buchbinder who represented EDGE at the Clinton Global Initiative University in D.C. last weekend. They will bring back lessons learned from fellow students all the way to the musician, Usher. These two, along with Paul Atwell and Kristin Harrington, conference with the EDGE Project founders. This was especially productive as an evaluation of how EDGE has fulfilled its vision and how its vision has and will change in the future. In light of recent criticisms directed at developmental organizations, we also discussed the mission and integrity of EDGE. As always, feedback, criticism, or encouragement are always welcome. Emails us at wisconsin.edge@gmail.com or any friend or contact you know in EDGE Project.


E D G E | Project



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Organization Information

Tawi Inc.

Location: Arlington, VA - USA
Website: http:/​/​tawiuw.org
Tawi Inc.
Project Leader:
Paul Atwell
Madison, WI United States

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