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Meet the Fellow Countering Disinformation by Building Human Connections
October 4, 2022

Mandela Washington Fellow Hakim Owiny has over 14 years of experience as a civic educator. He empowers youth in his community to examine community challenges and seek to prevent crises and violence. He coordinates civic discussions in Uganda’s Lamwo district on topics that include: 

  • Building social cohesion between refugees and host communities.
  • Intercultural dialogue.
  • Environmental protection.
  • Diversity and inclusivity. 

His main goal as an educator is to develop safe and inclusive communities for the next generation.

Hakim holds the camera and smiles. In the background, about 20 students smile in the classroom.
Hakim Owiny (left) with some of his youth mentees.

Hakim said youth can be inclusive of others by “organizing youth mindset transformation programs, training government technical personnel on inclusive dialogue, participating in intercultural dialogue, and learning and adopting new cultures that promote inclusiveness virtues.”

Hakim experienced a childhood that was far from inclusive. In northern Uganda in the 1980s,  Hakim grew up in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. Surrounded by conflict and political instability, disinformation and misinformation fueled violence, social division, and unrest largely due to the rampant spread of false characterizations of the people in IDP camps as violent.

“Disinformation is one of the most destructive camouflaged lethal weapons among people living in the shadows of conflict and political instability. When people are subjected to a perpetual state of worry about their lives, it creates fertile ground for mis- and disinformation to breed.”

Disinformation tactics have been used for centuries, but modern technology and social media have increased the speed at which false information is shared. “[Disinformation] is a cancer that eats away our capability to confront the truth. It plants hate among us that can easily spark confrontational behaviors and become an obstacle in building inclusive communities,” said Hakim. He declares disinformation as a crisis that breaks communities apart.

Hakim wants to see more youth build skills to counter violence, conflict, and disinformation and become more accepting of other cultures and communities. This is important to him because “the virtues of inclusiveness are fundamental building blocks for a desirable community.” Some ways youth can advocate for inclusive institutions include:

Hakim stands in front of the class of around 15 students. The flyer behind him reads "National Youth Working Group".
2021 Mandela Washington Fellow Hakim leads a discussion at the National Youth Working Group in Kampala, Uganda.
  • Recognizing personal biases.
    Each of us needs to examine our thoughts and reactions and strive not to act based on prejudice and stereotypes.
  • Considering others’ needs.
    The best way to practice inclusivity is to work on being a strong ally. That means educating yourself on the privileges your own group enjoys to better understand the perspectives of members of marginalized communities.

 Follow Hakim’s nonprofit organization for underprivileged youth, Carry Boys’ Football Club, and his upcoming projects on Twitter and Facebook.
To learn more about disinformation and media literacy, visit the YALIChecks page.