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How hard work earned me ‘big man’ status

In 2017, I was appointed the secretary to our small clan system called ‘DOGOLA’. During that time when the Chief was making his appointment for me to be on his cabinet, some elders said: “the position of the secretary needs someone who is matured and married.” And since I was not married, those elders were of the view that instead, I should be given the position of youth leader.

The Chief told the meeting that he had seen some quality of hard work in me, and that I am better than many matured and married people. He said:

“This young man has managed his business for more than five years, he has skills in record keeping, he is educated, he is leading a youth group in the village, he is also teaching, he is intelligent and anytime he will marry and even develop our clan PALAMYEK, so let us not talk about marriage only.”

Chief of Palamyek Clan

From there, in 2018, I was again elected the secretary to the main clan council at sub-county level. By that time, it was Lira Central Division, but now city status brought East Division, with other sub-counties annexed to Central Division.

I, Opolo James (right in black suit), with my fellow clansman, Oyuku Felix, for whom I was the Chairperson at his traditional marriage which took place in December 2020. I coordinated activities for Onyuk’s traditional marriage with our Lango culture and it was very colorful. His dad called me and appreciated me for helping his son.

Another example of how being a ‘big man’ is earned through hard work, is that in Lango culture, it used to be the eldest son always to be a big person. That thinking is no more. At our home in the village, my grandfather died and his eldest son was chosen by the clan as the ‘big man’ to head others. But later, my dad who is the second born was seen by his siblings as their head.

The elder son said that for him he is now having some ailments and needed someone to help him, so my father has since then been seen as the ‘big man’ at our ancestral home. and in-charge of most family activities, though he can delegate where he is committed.

Opolo James is a beneficiary of our CPAR Uganda programme, “Mentoring Young Adults into Innovators against Poverty,” and for that reason he is currently also participating as an innovator, a research assistant really, on our project, “Challenging Categories: Educated Unemployed Youth as Institutional Innovators in Rural Uganda,” which we are implementing in partnership with Lira University and the University of East Anglia, UK. His testimony herein was in reaction to a blog post: “To be a ‘Big Man’ in Teso is earned not inherited” posted by Norah Owaraga on her website; a post which discusses findings of empirical research that was conducted by Dr. Ben Jones in Teso. Dr. Jones is the Principal Investigator of our Challenging Categories project.

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