Seeds of Change

Nestled away deep within the otherworldly green expanses of East Africa for the past few years has provided perspectives on change, growth and adaptation otherwise unknown to me throughout my life.

Growing up exploring the federally protected natural spaces of the western United States allowed me to develop a profound appreciation for the abundance of beauty with which Mother Nature permits us to engage. Here in Uganda, working as a part of the international development industry, I watch all around me as what we call development rapidly changes before our eyes, often at the expense of the natural world.

About a year ago, I wrote a piece that illustrated the deep connection I have forged with the wilderness of our Earth, and the immense power each of us can tap into through it. On the banks of the River Nile, in the gardens of my former home in Bujagali, I spent over a year in routine communion with what came to be regarded as my Spirit Tree. Through a series of events that corresponded with my own tumultuous life at the time, the papaya tree slowly fell, decayed, and disappeared. Nothing remains today.

Perhaps this is part of the reason I always feel so unsettled when I return to Bujagali Village. Weekend escapes there are often dominated by water sports and relaxation at the source of the Nile’s famous backpackers camps, interspersed with visitations to my families who continue to go about their daily lives along the red dirt roads I once trod upon in much the same way they did when I was a part of their community.

A visit to Bujagali this weekend brought with it a profound realization: this community is theirs, but it is no longer my own.

In much the same way I no longer consider Sacramento, California to be my home, even though it was my birthplace and the grounds for my upbringing, I finally feel after more than a year living in the bustling hills of Kampala that Bujagali is not my home. I feel a deep familial connection with the mothers, sisters, fathers and brothers that took me in as my own, and relish each moment I get to spend with them since the move, but it is a far cry from the sense of belonging I once felt there.

This weekend I learned of changes in the dynamics of the community over the last few months that sparked my realization that I am no longer as connected to the place as I once found myself. This revelation was paired with an overwhelming devastation that sent me on a deeply contemplative inward journey.

With our obsession with development, with change, with the need to grow and strive for something beyond our current realities, how do we maintain our roots in the places we come to call home?

Distraught with the feeling that I had somehow lost the essence of who I am in Uganda, that I by leaving for new job opportunities in Kampala I forfeited my membership in the warm embrace of the most remarkable community I have ever known, I embarked on a walk through the paths and gardens of Bujagali to reconnect. I visited families I had gone the past two months without seeing, I sat with them, held the newest babies, comforted the newly sick, and ate all the food that was generously brought before me. We laughed endlessly, I fumbled with my limited Lusoga, and I smiled as the warmth of the sun and the warmth of those I spent my day with inundated me with a deeply welcoming feeling I feared lost.

I ended my village walk in the place that perhaps meant more to me than any other – the garden behind my old home, my former sanctuary for meditation and reflection, and the former home of my Spirit Tree.

As I meandered through the groves of banana trees and past fields of lush green crops that would feed more mouths than I could count, I found myself at the exact location of the fallen Tree. In its place, to my amazement, I found a fully grown and blossoming avocado tree.

When I had first written about the fall of the papaya tree, I reflected on how once fallen, that tree would allow for new growth and new life, and hoped that with the personal events in my life that corresponded with it, I would find new growth and a new life as well. Placing my hand upon the firm bark of this new avocado tree, I felt pulsating within her a reminder that everything that had happened to me in this place, everything I had learned and lost and loved and lived, it was all a part of me, and it makes me everything that I am today.

With destruction, with decay, comes new life.

This avocado tree, I thought, will provide food for all the families that I have loved for all these years, and the energy of my Spirit Tree lives on in her roots, her leaves, her fruit, in everything she creates for the world around it.

We cannot stop change from happening. People grow, places transform, this country continues to develop infrastructure and ideas and with that development will come new possibilities for generations to come. What we lose along the way can only remind us of what we gain as a result. While Bujagali is no longer my home, it is a part of me, and always will be, and the man into which I transformed while there is the man that so many in Kampala love today.

I finished my walk out of the village to make my way back to Kampala reminded of how blessed I am to have been a part of the experiences I have been a part of in this country, and how grateful I am that those experiences have only just begun. And that gratitude is the one thing that will never, ever change.


Dear Universe…

I love you. And, I know that you love me too. Now I know that may sound silly or even obvious, but then again, you and I have gone some time without really talking, and I felt I should write to you and make a conscious step towards rebuilding our communication. You’ve tried speaking to me nearly every moment of every day my entire life…it took me many years to learn how to listen, and I recognize there are still times when I may fail to, and for that, I am sorry.

Some call it “being saved” or “finding God.” I just called it waking up.

Sometimes the human incarnations of your divinity become far too clouded with what I truly believe to be your antithesis: the human ego. Over the millennia, theologians and self-proclaimed prophets have boiled the great battle of existence down to two forces – good and evil, affixing personifications and names to each category. Of course, you and I both know there is no such thing as evil in this world – that such a wholly negative and destructive energy would not and could not exist, because what purpose would that serve in the grand scheme of this whole big, beautiful, infinite mess we call existence? Ego – the sense of the Self as an independent and disjointed unit floating through life in isolation – yields concepts of ‘rational’ self-interest that fuel actions and behaviors that attempt to elevate Self over the Other. Acts of evil are merely acts of ego taken to their extreme.

Ego is a human fallacy. It is not found elsewhere in the natural world. Ego drove greedy men in power to draft holy texts that they could forever use to oppress those they viewed as subordinate – namely women – under the unquestioned notion that a single male God created man in His image and then created women to accompany him in his journey through life (despite the laughable irony that women are the creators of life, as are the females of every non hermaphroditic species). It is that same ego that has led extremists – from the Crusades of the 11th Century, to the Spanish Inquisition of the 15th to the rise of the Islamic State in the 21st – to wreak havoc on innocent people in the name of their gods.

Maybe I’m just thinking about this because I was recently asked by a younger and equally inquisitive mind – one ostensibly not quite as jaded by the detrimental will of so many men in this world – whether I ascribe to any particular religion. The conversation was laced with clichés (“I’m not like, religious, I’m like, spiritual; I believe in like, energy maaaaaan; etc.), clichés which in my mind are always proclaimed in the voice of a California surfer turned Mohave desert mystic, or that of the sort of individual that declares their love for the Great Spirit and all things ‘new-age’ and then turns around to fuel blatantly capitalist paradigms by buying $200 yoga pants made in sweatshops in some forgotten corner of this world.

The question, however, served as a reminder that my loosely woven but nonetheless abundant system of belief is what pushes me to connect with the fabric of existence in a way that my angsty, goth-rock, “God”-loathing former self was never able to. I walked away from religiosity a lifetime ago, but have since bypassed atheism and agnosticism and found my place within the matter-of-fact connections that unify all of existence, and feel much more comfortable articulating my infinite love for you through that language. To each their own, right?

Ego, sadly, takes other more subtle forms. All too often, regardless of what faith one practices, we find ourselves losing our vision or losing our way, and we fail to communicate with our own concept of the Divine. For some, they stop praying or going to church. Many claim that their god has abandoned them. In times of despair or hardship, those that do not turn to their god for help will often claim they have been forgotten.

When my ego takes over, it’s as simple as just not listening anymore.

Depression, anxiety, fear, doubt, self-deprecation…these states are the work of the ego, and sometimes they just make me a poor listener. So here, now, today, I want to apologize, and let you know that I am back. I hear you. I am not here on this earth to watch the minutes melt away while dwelling on chemical imbalances, or lamenting the hyper-emotionality through which I experience life, or feeling sorry for myself. I am here to help make the world a better place for my future daughters to live and love, and to help build a world where my future sons will be proud to call themselves men.

In the words of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, “life is a festival of disruption.” It is up to us to make sure we are joining in on the festivities and disrupting archaic mindsets and ego-fueled fear of one another to join the world together towards a common goal of coexistence, peace, and love.

I’m not saying I won’t lose my way again, we all do. Ego is a powerful thing, and the propensity for human beings to separate themselves from one another and not reach out, whether to help or to seek help. We all have unique abilities and gifts, ways in which you are living and loving through each and every one of us, and it is our responsibility in life – perhaps even our purpose – to discover and nurture those abilities and use them towards a greater good. Our efforts combined formulate the very higher power that for thousands upon thousands of years we have relegated to an unattainable, external state of being – whether taking the form of heaven, jannah, God, Allah, Nirvana, devas, saints, or Enlightenment.

Paradise exists right here on Earth. It is all around us. All we have to do is let go of our ego and listen.

As for me, I promise to dedicate more time to writing what I hear.

Stanley Kubrick on the Meaning of Life

Playboy:  If life is so purposeless, do you feel its worth living?

Kubrick:  Yes, for those who manage somehow to cope with our mortality. The very meaninglessness of life forces a man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre (a keen enjoyment of living), their idealism — and their assumption of immortality.

As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But if he’s reasonably strong — and lucky — he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s élan (enthusiastic and assured vigor and liveliness).

Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining.

The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment.

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

— Stanley Kubrick, interview with Playboy, Stanley Kubrick: Interviews

Existential Depression in Gifted Children

I was so moved by this piece that I had to share it below. This is a piece by James Webb taken from The Unbounded Spirit, highlighting something that I feel more of the incredible, gifted, talented, brilliant, life-changing individuals with whom I have crossed paths may potentially have suffered from in their youth than any of us realize.

Here’s to you, in all your gifted beauty. Thank you for finding your light in the darkness so you can shine it upon each and every one of us.


“It has been my experience that gifted and talented persons are more likely to experience a type of depression referred to as existential depression. Although an episode of existential depression may be precipitated in anyone by a major loss or the threat of a loss which highlights the transient nature of life, persons of higher intellectual ability are more prone to experience existential depression spontaneously. Sometimes this existential depression is tied into the positive disintegration experience referred to by Dabrowski (1996).

Existential depression is a depression that arises when an individual confronts certain basic issues of existence. Yalom (1980) describes four such issues (or “ultimate concerns”)–death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness. Death is an inevitable occurrence. Freedom, in an existential sense, refers to the absence of external structure. That is, humans do not enter a world which is inherently structured. We must give the world a structure which we ourselves create. Isolation recognizes that no matter how close we become to another person, a gap always remains, and we are nonetheless alone. Meaninglessness stems from the first three. If we must die, if we construct our own world, and if each of us is ultimately alone, then what meaning does life have?

Why should such existential concerns occur disproportionately among gifted persons? Partially, it is because substantial thought and reflection must occur to even consider such notions, rather than simply focusing on superficial day-to-day aspects of life. Other more specific characteristics of gifted children are important predisposers as well.

Because gifted children are able to consider the possibilities of how things might be, they tend to be idealists. However, they are simultaneously able to see that the world is falling short of how it might be. Because they are intense, gifted children feel keenly the disappointment and frustration which occurs when ideals are not reached. Similarly, these youngsters quickly spot the inconsistencies, arbitrariness and absurdities in society and in the behaviors of those around them. Traditions are questioned or challenged. For example, why do we put such tight sex-role or age-role restrictions on people? Why do people engage in hypocritical behaviors in which they say one thing and then do another? Why do people say things they really do not mean at all? Why are so many people so unthinking and uncaring in their dealings with others? How much difference in the world can one person’s life make?

When gifted children try to share these concerns with others, they are usually met with reactions ranging from puzzlement to hostility. They discover that others, particularly of their age, clearly do not share these concerns, but instead are focused on more concrete issues and on fitting in with others’ expectations. Often by even first grade, these youngsters, particularly the more highly gifted ones, feel isolated from their peers and perhaps from their families as they find that others are not prepared to discuss such weighty concerns.

When their intensity is combined with multi-potentiality, these youngsters become particularly frustrated with the existential limitations of space and time. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to develop all of the talents that many of these children have. Making choices among the possibilities is indeed arbitrary; there is no “ultimately right” choice. Even choosing a vocation can be difficult if one is trying to make a career decision between essentially equal passion, talents and potential in violin, neurology, theoretical mathematics and international relations.

The reaction of gifted youngsters (again with intensity) to these frustrations is often one of anger. But they quickly discover that their anger is futile, for it is really directed at “fate” or at other matters which they are not able to control. Anger that is powerless evolves quickly into depression.

In such depression, gifted children typically try to find some sense of meaning, some anchor point which they can grasp to pull themselves out of the mire of “unfairness.” Often, though, the more they try to pull themselves out, the more they become acutely aware that their life is finite and brief, that they are alone and are only one very small organism in a quite large world, and that there is a frightening freedom regarding how one chooses to live one’s life. It is at this point that they question life’s meaning and ask, “Is this all there is to life? Is there not ultimate meaning? Does life only have meaning if I give it meaning? I am a small, insignificant organism who is alone in an absurd, arbitrary and capricious world where my life can have little impact, and then I die. Is this all there is?”

Such concerns are not too surprising in thoughtful adults who are going through mid-life crises. However, it is a matter of great concern when these existential questions are foremost in the mind of a twelve or fifteen year old. Such existential depressions deserve careful attention, since they can be precursors to suicide.

How can we help our bright youngsters cope with these questions? We cannot do much about the finiteness of our existence. However, we can help youngsters learn to feel that they are understood and not so alone and that there are ways to manage their freedom and their sense of isolation.

The isolation is helped to a degree by simply communicating to the youngster that someone else understands the issues that he/she is grappling with. Even though your experience is not exactly the same as mine, I feel far less alone if I know that you have had experiences that are reasonably similar. This is why relationships are so extremely important in the long-term adjustment of gifted children (Webb, Meckstroth and Tolan, 1982).

A particular way of breaking through the sense of isolation is through touch. In the same way that infants need to be held and touched, so do persons who are experiencing existential aloneness. Touch seems to be a fundamental and instinctual aspect of existence, as evidenced by mother-infant bonding or “failure to thrive” syndrome. Often, I have “prescribed” daily hugs for a youngster suffering existential depression and have advised parents of reluctant teenagers to say, “I know that you may not want a hug, but I need a hug.” A hug, a touch on the arm, playful jostling, or even a “high five” can be very important to such a youngster, because it establishes at least some physical connection.

The issues and choices involved in managing one’s freedom are more intellectual, as opposed to the reassuring aspects of touch as a sensory solution to an emotional crisis. Gifted children who feel overwhelmed by the myriad choices of an unstructured world can find a great deal of comfort in studying and exploring alternate ways in which other people have structured their lives. Through reading about people who have chosen specific paths to greatness and fulfillment, these youngsters can begin to use bibliotherapy as a method of understanding that choices are merely forks in the road of life, each of which can lead them to their own sense of fulfillment and accomplishment (Halsted, 1994). We all need to build our own personal philosophy of beliefs and values which will form meaningful frameworks for our lives.

It is such existential issues that lead many of our gifted individuals to bury themselves so intensively in “causes” (whether these causes are academics, political or social causes, or cults). Unfortunately, these existential issues can also prompt periods of depression, often mixed with desperate, thrashing attempts to “belong.” Helping these individuals to recognize the basic existential issues may help, but only if done in a kind and accepting way. In addition, these youngsters will need to understand that existential issues are not ones that can be dealt with only once, but rather ones that will need frequent revisiting and reconsideration.

In essence, then, we can help many persons with existential depressions if we can get them to realize that they are not so alone and if we can encourage them to adopt the message of hope written by the African-American poet, Langston Hughes:

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams.
For if dreams go,
Life is a barren field
Covered with snow.

~Langston Hughes



Dabrowski, K. (1966). The Theory of Positive Disintegration. International Journal of Psychiatry, 2(2), 229-244.

Halsted, J. (1994). Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers from Pre-School through High School. Scottsdale, AZ: Gifted Psychology Press, Inc. (Formerly Ohio Psychology Press).

Webb, J. T., Meckstroth, E. A. and Tolan, S. S. (1982). Guiding the Gifted Child: A Practical Source for Parents and Teachers. Scottsdale, AZ: Gifted Psychology Press, Inc. (formerly Ohio Psychology Press).

Yalom, I. D. (1980). Existential Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.


Source: “Existential depression in gifted individuals,” from, by James Webb
Photo by Claire Gibbs

Listen and Learn

During a workshop this week with the Kigali-based storytelling/mission-branding organization, Resonate, the Learning Team at Raising Voices and I were charged with the task of articulating our values as a team and developing a vision statement to help guide our work towards realizing the world we wish to bring to fruition in the coming years.

Throughout the process, I reflected on my own personal values and how they aligned with those of the team. I found myself both encouraged and inspired by the universality of the values that guided our work as individuals and the unique ways that we were able to articulate them to construct our identity as a learning organization. I found myself incredibly proud to be a part of a team that supports the amplification of voices of women and children who have suffered at the hands of men not only in Uganda, but around the world.

What was more was the pride I felt in that moment for being a part of a team that seeks to inculcate a learning culture in a violence-prevention NGO and inspire such a culture throughout the field as a whole. I truly believe that this process is integral to countering one of the biggest fallacies of development work in general.

I have spent a number of years of my life working and volunteering with organizations that pride themselves in their respective models. So much so that they fail to take the time to listen not only to the individuals their programmes seek to benefit, but to their own staff. I have seen Americans and other Westerners come into East Africa, assuming they know what is best for the local population, paying lip service to contextual programmatic development through conversations with local communities, and then establishing a set of practices that remains rigid and unalterable by the local staff that know the communities better than these outsiders ever can.

A learning organization respects and values the input, innovations and ideas of each and every member of its staff. It recognizes that each individual is a piece of a composite whole, and each is equally capable of bringing new knowledge and new ways of looking at our work that holds the potential to change the entire field of violence prevention. I truly believe if more NGOs operated like this, civil society would be far better positioned to help those that they seek to help in their work, wherever they are in the world.

I am here to learn.

“The most valued love, the most valuable parent, the most valued friend…is the one who wishes to learn. Those who are not delighted by learning, those who cant be enticed into new ideas or experiences, cannot develop past the road post they rest at now. If there is but one force which feeds the root of pain, it is the refusal to learn beyond this moment.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I recently started a job as Senior Programme Officer with the Learning Team at Raising Voices, a Ugandan NGO working to prevent violence against women and children. My role on the Learning Team is to provide technical support to our incredible programme teams to learn more about their work and how it can best contribute to the movement towards violence eradication, while facilitating the flow of research findings and new learning across the organization and throughout the field of violence prevention as a whole. It’s a role I am proud to fill, and a reminder of why I am in Uganda, and why I believe I am alive:

I am here to learn.

This is a mantra I have repeated for years, for as long as I can remember. From personal journaling to group reflective practices in the myriad learning-focused communities in which I have been engaged to blogs that have in some way inspired people all over the world, I have repeated these words in regards to my place in this world. When working in new places, recognizing my place as a stranger in a strange land, I have used these words to remind myself of the importance of humbling my ego and admitting to myself and the world around me that there is no amount of knowledge I can bring to a place that can surpass the power of local knowledge.

Even more, I use these words to encapsulate who I am. I warmly look back to the first tattoo idea I ever had: Descartes’s famous existential quote cogito ergo sum – I think therefore I am (did he actually say that?). I pride (and sometimes imprison) myself in incessant introspection. I view the world through these eyes, hear it through these ears, taste it on this tongue, and breathe it in and out through every single moment in an effort to better understand it. As a great man once said, life understood is life lived.

My mantra is painted on my soul. It is tattooed on my heart. It is omnipresent in my existence, in this life, in every life I may have lived, and in every life I could ever hope to live.

I learn about myself every day, through every experience, and through experience I simultaneously learn about the world around me, and how we all fit within the grand scope of it. I dissect and analyze, I theorize and examine, I contemplate and wonder, I answer and reflect, only to discover more questions worth asking, more unknowns to know, and for that matter, more knowns that necessitate un-knowing. For it is in our learning that we consistently reassess what role our often-static understanding can truly play in a dynamically changing series of realities.

I was a quiet kid. When I think back to my childhood I don’t have many memories of sitting in silent contemplation. No, I remember times with friends and family and hours spent exploring the creek with my childhood best friends and getting in fights over whose turn it was to play Donkey Kong. In nearly every video taken of me before adolescence, it is my sister who is rattling on about the thoughts in her mind, and me who sits by quietly and listens, occasionally offering a small contribution to the banter, then receding into the background. I did well in school – at least once I realized the importance of it (I think Indiana Jones is to thank for that, though I’m sure my parents had something to do with it). I always liked the idea of having questions posed to me, whatever they may be, and formulating an answer. That process just made sense to me, particularly those opportunities where I could pack as many thoughts on the matter as possible into my answer (long essays, theses, etc.). For whatever reason, answering questions about life made life more enjoyable to me. To me, life understood has always been a life well-lived.

Today, my role with Raising Voices allows me to answer questions, to think more deeply (and more broadly) about what questions are really worth asking. I get to wake up every day and help brilliant practitioners strategize how best to think through their questions, the questions that keep them up at night. In so doing, I get to expand the growing wealth of knowledge in the field of violence prevention, and use my passion for learning to make the world a more just and peaceful place for women and children to live. It is truly an honor.

And ideally, it will prove to be an escape of sorts, or at least a refocusing. For years I’ve needed something to take my love of learning and my incessant need to question everything around me into a more proactive space. I tend to think, or perhaps obsess over, far too many details of my personal life, of the characters in it, of the role they play, of my feelings and attitudes towards them, of the choices I make, of the choices they make, of how they fit within my life’s goal of learning, and ultimately, what I can learn from each of them.

It’s almost as if I view my life as a fictional story, written by a higher hand, and I’m simply the self-aware protagonist trying to make sense of the plot. And keeping track of plot points is not generally a strong suit of mine – when watching a film I am more focused on the production of it all, of the writing and directing; when reading a novel I am more concerned with turns of phrase or poetic infusions than the story unfolding. It’s my mind picking the piece apart, rather than being along for the ride I suppose. I wonder which approach is more normal, or more commonly practiced – the overthinking, overanalyzing mind picking apart every moment of one’s life, or the mind that relaxes more rather than engaging and just enjoys the show. Probably the former…perhaps I’m not alone in this.

The feeling of solitude certainly creeps in more often than its absence is observed. It’s somewhat isolating being as introspective as I have a tendency to be. The trick is to balance it out I suppose. Regardless, I’m proud to have the mind that I have, to be the man that I have become, to live the life that I live. It’s messy and it’s baffling to the point of questioning whether it’s all actually part of some narrative written for the entertainment of a distant world. Perhaps it’s just a story ripe for writing. Perhaps it’s my job to tell that story.

For now, I’m proud to tell the stories of women and children across Uganda, and of the incredible individuals who have made it their life mission to ensure that these women and children live violence-free lives. I am here to learn.

I’m just excited to finally be getting paid for it.

Code as ‘Other’: Reducing the Human Experience to a Number

“He came into my house.” == ‘Other’
“He kidnapped me.” == ‘Other’
“I was raped.” == ‘Other’

I recently had the opportunity to run a study on polygamous relationships in rural regions of Eastern and Western Uganda. For each interview with the male respondent and each of his wives, the survey sought to better understand the dynamics of each respective relationship as well as the reason behind each marriage, including how each couple met.

Deep in the daunting task of coding responses that the enumerator recorded as ‘Other’, the dark side of quantitative data collection reared its ugly head.

This was particularly the case for the question “how did you meet?” Many responses that were noted as ‘Other’ actually fit within a designated category for which we had a coded number (ex: “we lived in a village together” receives the code 3, which signifies there was no formal introduction between husband and wife; “he was my friend’s brother” becomes the code 1, meaning introduction via friends). A simple read-replace file makes the switch.

The problem came when I encountered the above responses. “He came into my house…” “He kidnapped me.” “I was raped.” According to the process at hand, each would be a 3 – no formal introduction.

When we code these responses, then the experience of a woman who has been kidnapped, or raped, is relegated to simply a normal meeting between a man and a woman that resulted in marriage. To those who will analyze this data, had I made the coding switch, these respondents would be just like thousands of others, bereft of personal struggle, of personal trauma, of personal tragedy.

I will admit publicly to any PI that looks over this data – I could not make the switch. These stories deserve to be heard, particularly if the woman had the strength to tell them to a total stranger when our enumerators made their way to her village.

This is perhaps my biggest qualm with quantitative data. While it is imperative to gather statistics to draw inferences about populations in order to design interventions that serve them best, this very act leaves out countless stories that demand as much attention (if not more) as the proposed intervention at hand (in this case, an incentive program for men to include their wives on their land titles).

How many women have used these types of interviews as an opportunity to tell a deeply powerful and traumatic story, only for it to be lost in a sea of numbers because their response did not fit within the indicators the question was seeking to measure?

How many stories are falling through the cracks? How many cries for help are going unheard?

I’m not saying quantitative data is harmful (necessarily), although it pains me to know that these women’s stories will do nothing to bring these men to justice. Perhaps I’ll switch over to qualitative soon…