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Bio - Social Scientist

TWENDE stands for “Tuberculosis: Working to Empower the Nations’ Diagnostic Efforts” and is a consortium of seven institutions that is led by the University of St. Andrews. Twende is a Swahili word which means “let us go.” The theory of change of the TWENDE consortium is that time is now, let us go, and let us kick tuberculosis (TB) out of East Africa, Africa and the World.

Kicking TB out is achievable since there are well researched and proven TB diagnostics and treatments. Sadly, these well researched innovations are not always present where they are need the most – in countries with high TB disease burdens. TWENDE aspires to contribute towards bridging this gap. TWENDE has received grant funding from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) in order to carry out a two-year study in the three East African Countries of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda that will investigate why the up-take of well researched TB diagnostic techniques does not match TB prevalence rates. The TWENDE study is interested in answering the questions: What are the factors that are inhibiting up-take of TB diagnostic technologies and how might faster and wider up-take of such technologies be achieved?  A significant part of the TWENDE study will necessitate an appreciative inquiry in to social cultural dynamics that facilitate or not the up-take of TB diagnostics and treatments. TWENDE, therefore, will conduct a multi-disciplinary study that harnesses synergies from best practise in North to South partnerships as well as South to South partnerships. The lead researchers of the TWENDE team, of necessity, are predominantly pure scientists, but who are supported by a sole social scientist among them. Here is the profile of the TWENDE Social Scientist:

Born on 4th August 1968 of Ugandan parentage, Norah Owaraga is a cultural anthropologist who holds a Master of Science Degree in Development Management and a post-graduate Diploma in Development Management, both from The Open University United Kingdom (UK).  The broad areas of her studies with The Open University were: capacities for managing development; development context and practice; environmental decision making; and institutional development – conflicts, values and meanings. Owaraga also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Studies from Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh, Scotland where she studied information management, media studies, marketing, organisational studies, sociology and psychology. Her experience studying in academic institutions of the UK caused her to interact with a perception of her own people, Africans, as viewed by others from other cultures – of the global west. This experience ignited in her an intense desire to genuinely know her roots from the perspective of Africa and of Africans – a desire to know more about her ancestors, the African peoples, from whence she came. Her major research interests, logically, therefore, include: Africa’s social institutions – culture, beliefs, traditions and practices. Her study of Africa, naturally, has a particular focus on Ugandan peoples. She is interested in human nutrition and food security in Africa and how these are facilitated or not by Africa’s social institutions. She is interested in preventative healthcare through nutrition smart agriculture that is based on Africa’s indigenous knowledge systems and food systems.

The Africa Exchange Programme of the Africa Initiative (AI) of the Centre for International Governance and Innovation (CIGI) is a prestigious and a competitive award which provides opportunities for young scholars of Africa to interact with and to mutually learn from other more experienced scholars of Africa in Africa and in Canada. Owaraga is among scholars who have won this award – full sponsorship - which enabled her to be a visiting scholar with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the University of Guelph for four months in 2011. Her effective participation in the AI programme earned Owaraga recognition as among the promising, young and emerging scholars of Africa. Her research paper “Food Security in Uganda: How culture affects access to food” was among 10 research papers by graduate students participating in the AI exchange programme which were selected for publication in an edited volume, “Africa Rising: A continent’s Future through the eyes of Emerging Scholars” that was edited by Erica Shaw and Hayley Mackinnon. 

For over 24 years Owaraga is a development practitioner who since April 2012 is the Managing Director of CPAR Uganda Ltd, a not-for-profit Ugandan development company that is limited by guarantee and is without share capital. Prior, 1992 to 2007, she worked with the Change Agent Training Programme in Uganda – first under Kvekerhjelp (Quaker Service Norway) and subsequently under the Uganda Change Agent Association, the latter of which she was the Executive Director (2004 to 2007). Her commitment and dedication to improving the quality of life of poor active Ugandans, particularly the majority who live in rural areas, has earned Owaraga recognition as among value-based East African leaders. Her work was recognised by the African Leadership Initiative East Africa Foundation (ALI-EAF) and the Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN). The ALI-EAF selected her and granted her an award – full sponsorship – given to elite leaders of EA to undergone a course on leadership values, in order to propel the fruits of their leadership from success to greater significance. Owaraga successfully completed the course on leadership values (2008 to 2010) – a series of four text-based discussion workshops that were held in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and the United States of America; and she became a Fellow of the ALI-EAF and a member of the AGLN. 

During the course on leadership values, with an elite group of 20 EA leaders, Owaraga engaged with material of the greats, such as Aristotle and Plato; and also of contemporary scholars and leaders of our time. A major result of her fellowship within the ALI-EAF and the AGLN is that Owaraga became a social entrepreneur. Inspired by her experience in the ALI-EAF and the AGLN leadership values course, in 2010, she established her Alinga Farms through which she is enabling famers in her home district, Pallisa in Eastern Uganda, to practice agriculture with dignity for food and for their livelihoods. As an active citizen of Uganda, Owaraga is one of four Ugandans who founded the Kigo Thinkers (KT).  KT is a Ugandan think tank, through which Owaraga and other Uganda thinkers are actively contributing to policy debates on and for Uganda. She is a regular contributor to discussions on online forums, and on radio and television talk shows. She is an active citizen of the World who gets invited to and actively participates in debates on issues that have a global reach – participating in conferences, writing, and more.  

For more on her views and opinions follow her on Twitter; follow her on facebook and her facebook page: The Humanist View; and visit her blog: The Humanist View