During one of my visits to Uganda, I attended a fantastic conference in a village near the town of Masindi. The Villages in Action conference was the inspiration of Teddy Ruge. His home village of Kikuube was strategically chosen to host the event. Teddy is a social entrepreneur who lives a nomadic life travelling between the United States and Uganda and other places.
Teddy and Project Diaspora were motivated by a meeting that took place in September 2010 to discuss the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in New York City. World leaders, diplomats, academics, and development industry people came together to discuss the state of the poor in Africa. The poor according to them are similar to the people of Kikuube village. They spoke about poor people in their absence, like they didn’t have a voice and referred to them as numbers.
Teddy decided that if global leaders in New York City didn’t want to invite the poor to their conference that the best thing to do was to bring the conference to the village so that the poor can tell the world who they are, how they live, and the solutions that they come up with to their daily challenges.
It was absolutely brilliant.
Teddy and many others mobilized people and technology to give a voice to the silent majority. Hundreds of local people gathered to listen and be heard. Village business owners and farmers had the chance to finally represent themselves to the world and use their own words. Panelists discussed topics regarding technology, education, farming, small business, entrepreneurship, and health. The keynote speech was given by Milly Businge. She is the local government representative for Kikuube village. She was surprised that as a government representative she had never heard of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) even though they had been launched in 2000 and created for the benefit of villages like Kikuube.
Here is an excerpt from her keynote speech:
I welcome the world to Kikuube today. Today is a historic day because for the first time in history, Kikuube gets the microphone to share with the world about how it is developing. We would like the entire world to know simply that we exist, and that we are empowered, we live, and we are real and not just a story. We would like you to know how we stand, how we survive, how we study, how we grow, our successes and our failures.
I will never forget the people that I met and the voices that I heard at the Villages in Action conference. There were many people that made the event possible. They deserve the highest praise for their efforts to make the event a success. I also want to recognize the main sponsors of the event. Orange™ Uganda provided the technology that made it possible for the world to hear the voices of Kikuube village and to watch the conference via video link and internet access. Business Fights Poverty is a global network of people who believe that the best way to improve lives is by helping entrepreneurs succeed and sharing practical ideas a bout how to fight poverty through good business.
This is an interview that I did for Villages in Action.