ULA's Educational Approach
in Teaching Inclusiveness
A central goal in all of our educational programs is to open hearts and minds. We do this in order to build increasingly harmonious relationships between members of Ugandan society and beyond. ULA specializes in building bridges of compassion between the "general population" of Uganda and a variety of marginalized groups, such as women, widows, orphans, sexual minorities, those affected by HIV and AIDS, refugees and elders (primarily grandmothers who have become responsible for taking care of their orphaned grandchildren).
We at ULA are consistently solidifying the foundation for our educational outreach by forming and nurturing strategic alliances with institutions as well as faith/cultural/political leaders. We bring our workshops to high schools, universities, churches and communities. We train students, teachers, professionals and leaders how to become advocates for all human beings, including those who live in the margins of society.
Educational Principles & Strategies
used in ULA workshops and forums:
We support people in releasing culturally-conditioned fears that they've developed towards highly marginalized groups.
We help participants find ways to relate to people who seem different from them on the surface. We help people discover that deep down, we all are human beings. We all share the same basic needs and desires.
We model, teach and provide materials that offer concrete ways for participants to give and receive love, to listen with care, and to practice mutual respect.
We find creative ways to cultivate a genuine desire within participants (coming from different sections of society) to communicate with each other and create together. We offer tools and living scenarios that provide participants with ample opportunities to put the teachings into action. Harmony Gardens is a wonderful way for people who wouldn't normally connect to come together, learn about, honor and collaborate with each other.
We provide them with heart-stretching information and empowering opportunities to authentically choose a more accepting and inclusive mindset. Participants are never forced to embrace diversity or practice inclusivity.
We often start where the hearts of participants are already open. From there, we encourage them to stretch. For example, participants may find it easier to feel empathy towards a child who has been orphaned by AIDS. Once their hearts have been opened in this way, they are more likely to take a further step and empathize with an even more marginalized group, such as women who have been widowed by AIDS, or those belonging to a sexual minority.
We believe in giving people plenty of chances to notice and break old habits of relating. Lasting change in relationships requires that people learn how to consciously monitor and examine their habitual reactions, and then to consciously respond to old stimuli in new ways. For this reason, we consistently encourage participants to allow for unfamiliar feelings, try out new behaviors and practice healthier responses to old familiar situations.
We focus on experiential learning
Rather than fostering a combative atmosphere through argument and debate, we believe in the power of dialogue. Dialogue is a rich tradition in Africa, one modeled beautifully by Nelson Mandela. He based his entire life on the principle of dialogue, the art of listening, and the belief that people learn and do best when they are communicated with in a peaceful, compassionate and constructive manner.
We also believe in the power of Drama and Role Play. These experiential tools for social change allow people to try on new attitudes and practice healthier, more compassionate responses towards groups that they would normally avoid or shun. Inclusive Clubs participating in the Opening Hearts and Minds programs are using dramatization and performance as vehicles for social change. They are working!
Words from Turinawe Samson, ULA Executive Director
“ULA workshops are presented to highly diverse groups of people. We are not always sure what their views or beliefs are, so we are respectful and careful in our approach. We usually start by introducing the general topic of human rights. When we sense that participants are ready for more, we move on to discussing the ending of gender-based violence and discrimination of marginalized groups. These topics often resonate with the majority of people, because here in Uganda, almost every family has been impacted by some sort of human rights violation, whether it be HIV discrimination or gender-based prejudice. When we have succeeded in co-creating an atmosphere of safety and mutual respect, we are able to approach one of the more controversial subjects: the acceptance and inclusion of sexual minorities. It gives us great joy when a previously guarded group is able to openly and productively discuss such a charged issue.
We consistently find that once a heart has been opened in relation to one marginalized group, it is better able to embrace another.
That said, we do not tell people to embrace diversity or practice inclusivity; we educate them and offer opportunities. Ultimately, it is up to each participant to choose to take the initiative and practice inclusion towards others.”