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Navigating Identities in Uganda

Peace Corps’ ICDEIA approach seeks to reflect and support the diversity of the United States through its staff and Volunteers, who represent a broad collection of social identities, including race, ethnicity, color, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, marital status, and socioeconomic status, among others.

How might a Volunteer’s social identities impact their service?

The information below provides additional context about how different social identity groups may experience service and what types of ICDEIA-related support you can expect from the Peace Corps.

Accessibility and disability considerations

Peace Corps Uganda will work with Volunteers with disabilities to support them in training, housing, job sites, or other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.

In Uganda, as in other parts of the world, some people hold prejudicial attitudes about individuals with visible physical disabilities. There is very little infrastructure, like ramps, railings, and elevators, needed to accommodate individuals with physical disabilities compared to the United States. Staff are committed to exploring creative and innovative ways to support accommodations to ensure Volunteer success.

Gender role considerations

Service in Uganda will require Volunteers to understand the cultural dimensions of gender roles in Uganda.

During pre-service training, Volunteers receive an introduction to gender awareness. Volunteers are encouraged to examine their own perceptions about gender roles and how they impact their interactions. Volunteers learn how to use a gender lens to better understand gender roles in Uganda and how these roles can impact opportunities and behaviors of individuals of different genders—both from a personal standpoint and in relation to work and relationships.

In Ugandan culture, men and women play distinct roles and have specific responsibilities. Volunteers identifying or presenting as women often encounter extremely conservative attitudes regarding gender. Likewise, the behavior of Volunteers identifying or presenting as women is more scrutinized than that of peers identifying or presenting as men.

The Peace Corps emphasizes sensitivity toward other cultures. Volunteers may occasionally have to explain why they believe something or behave a certain way. Only the Volunteer can determine if and when such an explanation is relevant and appropriate.

In Uganda, men and women are not considered adults until they are married and have children. Volunteers can expect curiosity from Ugandan friends regarding their marital status and whether they have children, or when they plan to have children.

LGBTQI+ considerations

LGBTQI+ Volunteers have served successfully in Uganda. However, a safe and successful service requires a clear understanding of the dynamic LGBTQI+ cultural, political, and social context.

Uganda is a religious and socially conservative society. In general, Ugandan society views same-sex relationships as unnatural, immoral, and imported from the West. Acceptance of LGBTQI+ individuals in Ugandan society remains low.

The U.S. State Department provides the following guidance to LGBTQI+ travelers to the country: consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized in Uganda. Social acceptance of homosexuality is very low.

LGBTQI+ individuals or suspected LGBTQI+ individuals could face harassment, imprisonment, blackmail, and violence. Individuals or organizations viewed as supporting LGBTQI+ rights also face harassment. Applicants should review the State Department website for more information.

In March 2023, Liberia’s parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act. It was signed into law by the president in May 2023.

For their own safety and security, LGBTQI+ Volunteers should not disclose their identity with anyone in their communities. Volunteers who identify as LGBTQI+ allies must refrain from discussing the topic in Uganda. Volunteers should not use dating sites, feature any LGBTQI+ support language or imagery on their social media, and should not participate in meetings and advocacy efforts.

We recognize the hardships and challenges of serving in a country which both criminalizes and is intolerant towards LGBTQI+ individuals. Therefore, Volunteers who apply to serve here should weigh the expectations and reality of serving in Uganda and its implications on your emotional well-being and decide accordingly.

Racial and ethnic diversity considerations

Due to limited exposure, some Ugandans will expect all Americans to be White and are unaware of the diversity of the United States population.

White Volunteers may experience privileges due to the legacy of colonialism, including being treated particularly well, served first, or greeted warmly. Volunteers of color may experience the opposite and report not being acknowledged or having their identities as Americans questioned.

White Volunteers often stand out and receive unwanted attention. Navigating this attention can be challenging during service.

Some Black diasporan and African American Volunteers may be presumed to be Ugandan or from other African countries and therefore may receive less unwanted attention.

East Asian and South Asian Volunteers may not be viewed as Americans. It is common for people of East Asian descent to be referred to as “Muchina.” South Asian American Volunteer may be referred as “Muhyndi.” Microaggressions around martial arts abilities or language/accent may be common.

ICDEIA issues are discussed at length during pre-service training and Volunteers are trained to be reflective, to navigate across differences, and to serve as allies to their peers.

Age considerations

Older Volunteers may find their age to be an asset in Uganda and will often be treated with respect and deference that is not afforded to younger Volunteers. Younger Volunteers may not be accorded the same respect and may be viewed as young and inexperienced.

Uganda communities may assume that an older Volunteer is an expert in their field, which may or may not be true.

Pre-service training can be particularly stressful for older Trainees, whose lifelong learning styles and habits may or may not match training expectations. Some 50+ Volunteers may find it difficult to adapt to a lack of structure and clarity in their role after having worked for many years in a structured environment.

Volunteers who are 50+ may feel a lack of belonging due to age differences with younger Volunteers.

Religious considerations

Uganda is a very religious society. Whether Volunteers practice a religion or not, they may find the Ugandan approach to religion is different from what they know. We provide appropriate language to respond to questions about religion and or invitations to attend religious ceremonies. Attending religious observances can aid the integration process and will be valued by community members.

Volunteers will encounter open discussion of religion and may be questioned about whether they are Christian or if they are “saved.” Volunteers who are agnostic or atheist may find it challenging to be in this environment.

Knowledge of religious traditions other than Christianity and Islam is very limited.

Peace Corps Uganda often uses training facilities which may have a religious affiliation, and therefore may have certain rules such as no alcohol and no mixing of genders in the rooms.

Prayer before public meetings and gatherings is commonplace and should be expected.

Considerations for Volunteer couples

Couples often face pressure from host country nationals to conform with traditional gender roles.

Host country nationals may not understand American relationship dynamics and may be openly critical of relationships that do not adhere to traditional gender roles. It can be helpful to think about how pressures to conform to local culture can be challenging to different genders in different ways.

Ugandans may address and direct questions to the man rather than the woman in a heterosexual couple,

Married couples without children may be questioned about why they do not have children.

Types of ICDEIA support available in country

Peace Corps Uganda works to create an inclusive and supportive environment. The team works with the Volunteer committees and affinity groups to promote inclusion and belonging.

Staff have been oriented and trained on numerous issues and are prepared to provide support with a myriad of concerns around identities that Volunteers may have.