In Cold Water: Women and Girls of Lira, Uganda, the women retell their horrifying experiences in northern Uganda during the 1987-2007 civil war and life after the war. In that war, Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army disrupted lives, destroyed settlements, killed, abducted and raped thousands of children. The contributing authors not only recall the hopelessness felt during the war, but also narrate stories of hope and resilience after the war. Every page is crammed with emotional recollections of personal experiences. The stories show how communities can be rebuilt even where hope seems to be lost. The book makes public the trauma, courage and triumph of the remarkable women of Lira. The women's words are the cold water that provides cool relief to experiences of pain through the retelling of stories of endurance in the struggle that makes life better after the war. The authors demonstrate the importance of culture and cultural values in transcending trauma. The resilience of the women of Lira is rooted in their beliefs in their community, their religion and solidarity of women. They also describe international efforts to empower young women to make meaning of their lives, relationships and hopes after the trauma.
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My Ugandan experiences began when a colleague at the University of Winnipeg, Dr. Jan Stewart, asked me to go to northern Uganda with her to conduct an educational needs assessment. I met remarkable people during that trip, and I vowed I would go back. And so I have, annually since 2010, except in 2014 when I lived in New Zealand, working with refugee resettlement there. I invited my friend and colleague, Dr. Julia Byers, to accompany me in 2012 to conduct some art workshops with girls in several schools: St. Katherine, Barlonyo, and Rachele. Along with the women, we determined that their stories needed an international voice. Thus began the work of Cold Water.In the introduction to the book, we explain the title: "In Uganda, where water supplies are scarce or contaminated, women and girls are the ones who must look for alternative sources of water for domestic use. In many countries of the world, they walk for miles, returning to their homes with containers of the life-saving liquid on their heads to use for cooking, washing dishes, clothes, and bodies; and boiling the rest to use for drinking..."Like the cold, refreshing water we require but barely notice in the United States, the women of Lira, Uganda, have gone unnoticed. And yet, they are as essential to their society as the water they carry..."Although the women's narrations include stories from the LRA war, we chose to go beyond the tragedies to tell the stories of remarkable resilience and growth in these women, which have helped to restore the life of Lira and the Lango sub-region. Aside from our publisher's take, all the proceeds from the book will go to the women authors' helping organizations and to girls' scholarships.About the Author:
The true authors of Cold Water are the women from Lira who courageously tell their stories in its pages: a woman abducted by Kony's LRA for eight years; her mother's fight to find her; women who have created co-ops to help women, children, the elderly, and the disabled; those who created a school in the bush where children had no previous access to education; a founder of a community mental health agency; and much more. My co-editor, Julia Byers, and I had the privilege of getting to know these women and working with girls in several Lira schools - myself since 2010, and Julia since 2012. Dr. Byers is a Professor at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, and the founder of the university's creative arts therapy program. I am an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee campus, and I teach sociological and anthropological aspects of US and international education in the College of Education.
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