Sunday, August 28, 2011

Exploiting the Karamajong

In working through the mindset about workshops and skill straining, I sensed that the Karamajong are hardened. I felt disappointed that they had this pattern of expectation and that if someone didn’t follow that pattern they had no use for them. By questioning the women in depth, I got a glimpse of why they might feel this way.

The Karamajong are National Geographic-like. They live in mud huts, wear wraps, carry sticks, and seem somewhat primitive (for lack of a better word). This kind of life is interesting to people in more developed countries and as a result many groups establish non-government organizations here. Those groups take photos, tell stories, write proposals, and get lots of money to help infuse the region with skills, materials, and food. Then, those same NGOs use the money for themselves and not for the Karamajong…or so it seems to the people who live here. The Karamajong are exploited for the money they bring in. Alternatively, as with the soap-making NGO, skills training is delivered but that training is not sustainable when the NGO leaves.

Even Ugandans exploit the Karamajong. They travel this far distance to purchase stones from their quarries, and because they know how desperate the people of Karamoja are they pay well below any standard of living. They know the Karamajong will accept the tiny amount of money they’re offered simply because they haven’t eaten all day…nor has the grandchild seated next to the jjaja who pounded stones all day. The choice? No sale and no food or sell below market price and eat today only to return to the same problem tomorrow.

Sad. I wish I could fix the world for these people and all the people who are exploited. I wish I were just that big and at the same time am thankful I’m not.