Cultural engagement for change: A case study of the Otuho people

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Michael Comerford
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This case study sets out learning from programmatic engagement from the UK’s Peacebuilding Opportunities Fund (POF) among the Otuho people of Eastern Equatoria State. The programme promoted a cultural engagement process aimed to strengthen women’s peace and security at a time when Otuho society undergoes a 22-year cycle of generational change when leadership structures are renewed. This case study draws on POF experience from this engagement, sharing learning associated with influencing cultural processes through public discourse, and the development of bylaws adopted by the community. The learning paper outlines an approach to working with communities from within, while also reviewing social norms and practices which negatively impact women’s participative and leadership roles within society. The programme, working with local advisers, negotiated the consent of community leadership and facilitated public discussion on changes that would positively impact the community, to be adopted as bylaws.The case study shows the potential for change inherent in this community-led approach, outlining a change process that is internally driven, which builds on the positive dimensions of particular cultures, while affirming the need for change.

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