Ruth Ojiambo Oching, ACTIVIST
Ruth Ojiambo Oching has been involved for many years in international women’s rights efforts and most recently in the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. Ruth has worked for over two decades to advance women’s rights and promote peace and security across Africa—building vibrant support networks of women activists across borders.
As the Executive Director of Isis-WICCE (Women’s Cross-Cultural Exchange), she promoted women’s leadership and has documented women’s experiences of armed conflict in Uganda, Liberia, Nepal and South Sudan. She herself had experienced the trauma of armed conflict in her home country of Uganda and has since dedicated her life to working with women who been victims of conflict to become leaders in their communities. With her team at Isis-WICCE, Ruth provided holistic medical, psychological, and social support to survivors of sexual violence in Uganda and documented their stories. Through the power of storytelling, she gave a voice to those who have traditionally been unheard. Although she has recently retired from her position in Isis-WICCE, she continues to work on giving voice to African women.
Ruth also played a key role in the development of a Ugandan women’s peace coalition that successfully mobilized women to intervene in peace talks between Uganda’s government and the Lord’s Resistance Army. After the collapse of the Ugandan peace agreement, Ruth helped mobilize women to review and support the development of the Uganda Government Framework on Peace and Recovery Development Plan: essential action to bring women’s voices into the peace process. Ruth has also contributed to several global policy groups, including the high level independent panel reviewing UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
It was a beautiful week in Boulder with Ruth Ojiambo Oching. We woke at 6:30am every morning for a silent walk to the mesa. This ritual was done in honor of the tradition established in 2014 by WHW residency co-Founder, Angela Ellsworth. Grounded in the fostering of relationships between people, land, action and site, Angela's Museum of Walking (MOW) has become a central component of the WHW Residency program.
Walking in silence was, at first, a challenge for me and Ruth. On the first morning we yearned to connect with words. This yearning was dissipated in time by the sound of our feet plodding along on the crunching gravel and the smell of alfalfa being bailed at the farms surrounding the mesa. We stopped to feel the prickle of the purple thistle and to look curiously into one of the many prairie dog holes.
Later, back at the house when our silence was broken, Ruth and I spoke about the memories and feelings the walk brought up for us... for Ruth, the years of long walks to and from school in Uganda and stories of neighbors she passed and experiences she had on these walks.
Ruth shared with me how she was feeling about retiring from her work at ISIS-WICCE, the feminist NGO in Uganda she has worked with for the last fifteen years. Years of women's suffering she has witnessed, senseless conflict, courage shown, justice so rarely served.
In Uganda fifteen years ago when Ruth first returned from speaking with women in the countryside she retold their stories to parliamentarians in the hope that justice would be served. However, Ruth soon learned that without video documentation these stories were not believed.
This only had to happen once before Ruth began to travel to the field with a filmmaker.
For fifteen years, Ruth visually recorded women survivors of armed conflict. The brave voices of these women would never be heard if it not for Ruth's thoughtful and compassionate recording of their stories.
Ruth and her organization Isis-WICCE has video documentation of women survivors of armed conflict in Uganda, Rwanda, Liberia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Kashmir and Nepal.
It is Ruth's wish to find a safe Academic Institution to digitize and archive this precious, invaluable video documentation. Women Have Wings is in the process of working with Ruth and ISIS -WICCE to find a home for this footage. Together it is our hope that these voices are shared with the world at large in order for truth to be told, further justice to be served and lessons and healing to occur.