A «small» Project with growing impact in Uganda. New NGO!!!


Community women and their children in Mubende District, Uganda (Source: http://empowered-voices.org)

This is a post I wanted to do since last year… fortunately the delay to post is in the opposite direction of success for this project which has been growing steadily since then. The beginning was the final project for a fall term course in Harvard Extension School: Introduction to Sustainable Development (E-115) with professor Kazi F. Jalal – PhD from Harvard University, former CO of Asian Development Bank, with vast experience on development projects in Asia- and Johny Chaklader –social entrepreneur and former CEO of SHAPNA Project- as one of our Teacher Assistants. A group of five people researched and conceptualized a sustainable development project aiming at poverty reduction in a developing country. After evaluating other options in Latin America, we decided to focused our efforts in Africa and the result was: “Women’s Empowerment: Building Self-confidence and Economic Independence in Uganda’s Mubende District” built upon ideas an initial contacts of Lene Martinsen, a Norwegian Biology PhD and Postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University; one of our colleagues in the course.

Some of the initial goals were: “i) to combat gender bias, empower women to experience financial autonomy and greater political participation within the community; ii) to reap greater profits for the villagers so that their livelihoods are increased; iii) to increase agricultural yields through environmentally sustainable farming training, and iv) to address family planning and health concerns within the community” (Araripe, Balatka, Martinsen, Padilla and Sweeney, 2011). As the project developed and took form based on feedback and contacts from Ugandan community leaders and other partners in the NGO world, new visions and possibilities arose and a visit to the community became a priority. Kaley Sweeney –American journalist and A.L.M., International Relations at Harvard University- and Lene Martinsen went to meet the community in Uganda on the beginning of 2012, it is located about 3 hours drive from Kampala, Uganda’s capital.

Since then, amazing things have happened, like the self-motivated formation of a women’s group in the community named “Kaley and Lene” right after their visit, the launch of other projects based on the most critical needs detected and the foundation of a new NGO “EMPOWERED VOICES, Catalyzing development through community empowerment.

Kaley and Lene with a Community leader in Kyakasangulu Village  (Source: http://empowered-voices.org)

I strongly believe in «small» projects; little ideas that filled with passion and hard work are able to generate options for many, changing lives for better and expanding scope beyond expectations. This project matches perfectly with the volunteering and leadership spirit that I’ve been promoting in Colombia, Brazil and other countries -through lectures and courses- about the amazing power of small projects with strong community involvement. It is well explained in the following post where it is demonstrated that commitment and passion are more important than money when the challenge is sustainable development, please read more here: “Who needs major up-front funding to have success?” http://empowered-voices.org/2012/03/28/who-needs-major-up-front-funding-to-have-success/

DONATIONS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME, Click below to keep making it happen: http://empowered-voices.org/how-to-donate/

I just can say that I feel very proud and happy for my participation in this project and the ongoing great efforts of Kaley and Lene to make it real.  Congratulations… Keep up the great work!

Kaley and Lene with the Kyakasangulu Village’s Community (Source: http://empowered-voices.org )


Araripe, Luciana; Balatka, Andre; Martinsen, Lene; Padilla, Fabio; and Sweeney, Kaley. (2011). Funding proposal: “Women’s Empowerment: Building Self-confidence and Economic Independence in Uganda’s Mubende District”.

Visit Empowered Voices web page: