Every third Tuesday of the month of March the world marks and celebrates the international social work day. This year 2017, was no exception for the social workers fraternity as memorable events and activities tinted the 21st of March. The goal for the commemoration of this special Social Worker’s day this year aimed at highlighting the role of the Social Work profession and professionals in “Promoting Community & Environment Sustainability” which is the Global theme as formulated by the International Federation of Social Work (IFSW).
The Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development in partnership with the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda (NASWU) provided leadership in celebrating this day under the sub-theme of “My Shade, My Community”. The week long activities attracted practicing social workers, students, training institutions, international and national agencies. The climax of the events was marked by a social work forum at hotel Africana.
The forum was opened by NASWU Vice president Ms. Fatia Kiyange. In her remarks she appreciated the contribution social workers had made in professionalizing the social service sector and preserving the environment. She informed members that NASWU had identified six (6) Strategic Goals in its 5 year strategic plan (2016-2020) that will not only strengthen the achievements but also improve service to individuals, community and the entire country.
She put smiles on the faces of social workers as she pointed out that the Association of Schools of Social Work in Africa (ASSWA) to which NASWU is a member launched a center for research and Innovation in Social Work at Makerere University, Kampala. The center prioritizes social work related research and will be go a long way in bridging the gap of social work related literature.
Other achievements in the social work arena in the country mentioned by the Vice President included the acquisition of premises by NASWU and the appointment of Global Social Workforce Services Alliance ambassadors in the names of Ms. Agnes Wasike of MoGLSD and Mr. Michael Byamukama Country Representative REPSSI Uganda. She informed members that the ambassadors had constituted an interest group (Think Tank) to promote Social Work and Social Welfare in Uganda and in the Region. She further informed the members that NASWU through Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development received a grant to support the process of legislation of the Social Work Council. The planned activities as agreed with the ministry is to undertake district level consultation with a view of gathering information to make a case for Social Work legislation in the country.
She concluded by thanking the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development for the leadership and guidance, development partners including; National Forest Authority for the seedlings that were planted throughout the week;, TPO Uganda, Bantwana World Education, Reach a hand Uganda and Child’s I Foundation for the financial support; training institutions including: Makerere University Kampala, Kampala University, University of Kisubi, Kampala International University, Nkumba University, Kyambogo University, Victoria University, Uganda Christian University (Mbale and Mukono), Africa Renewal University and Nsamizi Training Institute of Social Development for supporting the social work events at their respective regions and national level. Heads of Departments of Social work from the participating institutions, management of Bweya Orphanage and Nakivale Refugee Settlement camp for the practical lessons shared with social work students, Uganda Police Force for providing the security throughout the events, National Executive Committee members of NASWU and individual members.
Mr. Byamukama Michael the REPSSI Uganda Country Representative/Ambassador Global Service Workforce Alliance presented a paper on “The role of Global Social Service Workforce in Society and Economic
Well-being”. He emphasized the importance of a strong social service workforce as being essential to improving social services and well-being of people. “They provide a unique opportunity to amplify gains across the 2030
agenda for sustainable development in poverty reduction, quality of education, decent work and environmental protection”.
“The role of social workers in community service and environment sustainability”. Ms. Anibaya Susan Akol, Lecturer Uganda Christian University Mukono, Department of Social Work in her presentation stressed the importance of social workers as being role models in environment protection and sustainability. “As social workers we should go beyond sensitizing community members and be practically involved … we should plant trees and avoid dangerous practicing like burning forest...”
Mr.Michael Clement Namawa a third year social work student from Uganda Christian University-Mukono also painted the day with his poem focusing on the role of social worker students in preserving the environment.
The guest speaker Mr. Mwodi Martin Kegere-Planting manager National Forest Authority who represented the Executive Director implored the social workers to play their role and implement the call of the theme. “Living sustain-ably means living off earth’s natural resources nature without depleting or denigrating the natural capital that supplies it. Our lives and economies depend on the sun and natural resources (forests) and natural services (natural capital) provided by the earth.” He explained the dangers and calamity of uncontrolled expansion of agricultural land, soil erosion, deforestation, encroachment on forests and overgrazing of range lands. He pointed out that as the population increases these forms are bound to be undefeated without sustainable action at both community and national level.
Conclusively he thanked the social workers for the role they play in environment protection and implored them to embrace the global theme “promoting community and environmental sustainability” by engaging in collaborative efforts with different stakeholders. By this I mean “engaging in awareness creation, provision of planting materials for afforestation and investment in non-consumptive use of the environment (Eco-tourism)”.
Social workers yet had an exciting moment as Mrs. Ogwang Jane Stella-Principal Probation and Welfare Officer, department of Youth and Children Affairs (MoGLSD) the guest speaker who represented Mr. James Kabogoza Assistant Commissioner for children when she assured the association of the ministry’s support and mobilization regarding the social work legislation process. “… NASWU has the unreserved support from the ministry … I know this will expedite the process and strengthen the association even more...” She further requested members and the NASWU secretariat to step up mobilization at national level and to ensure that social workers from the ministry are registered. This will not only increase NASWU visibility but also ease lobbying and advocacy for social work.
She concluded by encouraging all members to use their social work skills and knowledge to promote environment sustainability. She urged the students to be proud of their profession and be ethical as they serve their clients.