Interview Series – TA Report with Magdalena Schneidhofer

Published: October 18, 2021

What are our TAs up to? I took the interview series as an opportunity to catch up with some of our Technical Advisors and see what they have to tell us about their projects, challenges, hightlights, lessons learned etc.

This is how I came to have a very interesting conversation with Magdalena Schneidhofer, TA at Justice Centre Uganda. I really enjoyed speaking about her experience as a TA at her partner organisation and all of the goals and achievements they have reached together so far.

Lena (TA) & Angela (counterpart)

How would you describe the reporting process in general?

Since I had only started my assignment in December 2020 and had to hand in the report a month later, I can only tell you so much about the reporting process: On the one hand, it was a little challenge, as it was only the start of my assignment. On the other hand, it was a great opportunity to record the planning before being hit with the project reality on site.

The orientation provided by the log frame was very useful for the report creation. I find the format for the report quite helpful as well. From my point of view, it covers all of the aspects that should be considered when reviewing the different assignments and projects.

Where there any surprises for you this year? Did you find any unexpected results?

Justice Centre Uganda, the partner organization I work with, informs, advocates and helps marginalised and vulnerable people in Uganda to realise their rights for free.

My predecessor as a Technical Advisor, Julia Pereira, did a wonderful job here. She had built a solid foundation for the activities and projects to follow in the fields of communications and advocacy. I only added two or three additional activities to the plan and currently I’m well on track with the planned activities.

Thanks to a super motivated team, we are now able to come up with some new and quite challenging activities off the usual track of communications: We are planning to launch a documentary on Legal Aid in Uganda to push the implementation of a Legal Aid Bill. First of all, however, we have to secure the funding for this project. This is very new to me, by now I’ve only spent money for my work projects but I never have been in a Resource Mobilisation role. So, this will definitely be a big new experience. Besides, until middle or end of 2022 we want to set up a Call Centre for free Legal Advice. This is a huge project and in the scope of my assignment I will help to build a strong base for it as well.

What were the most important learnings and take-aways so far?

As probably everywhere, communication is key. If you really want to achieve something, you have to address it over and over again – also with different stakeholders and positions. This is where corporate policy comes in. It might be a little more extreme here than what I had experienced up till now but things went very well so far.

Apart from that I am really proud of our team here and I find the collaboration very pleasant and fruitful. The team really gets a lot of things done and my counterpart, Angela Mwanje is a genius in content creation. I highly value the quality of her work. Furthermore, I am learning a lot on a daily basis and my job is very rich in variety and I enjoy the atmosphere in the office a lot.

Could you tell us a bit about your personal hightlights?

What comes straight to my mind is the breakthrough with our Legal Rights Blog. I remember very well, when I turned to Angela in January and told her that we were starting something very big, that requires so, so much work, but at the same time will turn out to be very, very cool. Back then, she wasn’t completely sure about whether it was worth the effort: setting up an entire complex content strategy and getting it out there. Two months in, she looked at me and said: „Lena, we are truly working on something really big here.”

During the lockdown we’ve launched an initiative together with five volunteer lawyers, who supported us with content creation. The feedback we got was more than positive. My previous experiences had taught me that initiatives like that one peter out very quickly. This was definitely proved wrong here! The motivation and enthusiasm the involved persons brought along resulted in the continuation of the initiative: Next week we are launching blog writing workshops whereof 70 lawyers will support us with write-ups on legal issues they are facing in their daily work which will be transformed into further texts for our blog section.

By now, the entire organization stands behind the project. The national coordinator even tries to get other organizations on board as well. In two weeks, we will have a meeting with other organizations from the legal sector that most probably will embed our blog into their websites. This step will boost our range enormously and raise further awareness. I really enjoy observing how this tiny seed launched by only two people having a vision grows into something very big and definitely life changing for some people here in Uganda.

JCU Outreach

Is there anything you want to add? Do you want to share anything else with us?

What’s really near and dear to me is the cooperation and the creation of a network among organizations on a national level. We need opportunities for exchange of expertise and experiences on an open and regular basis. There is so much potential here! As a legal rights organization we can only cover the legal sphere but the people’s problems usually do not end with a verdict.

We already do referrals to further support our clients but there could be done much more: Especially the fields of psychosocial support, sexual and reproductive rights and support for people with disabilities we need more expertise to better handle our cases, support our own staff and of course to refer our clients to adequate partner organizations.

A further topic which is being discussed internally very often is the aftermath that comes along with finishing the legal support of a case: Imagine after 2 years of struggling and a legal back and forth your case, where your husband has nearly beaten you to death, has been resolved and you are finally divorced. You’ve managed to have custody for your children but you lost a big part of your network and since you have relied financially on your husband: how can you make a living now?

We would love to have organizations on our side that we could collaborate with closer in order to take over support after the legal part has been concluded. This initiative serves the aim to provide a more holistic approach to vulnerable people and to empower them to make a positive change to their live.

To bring this on the way we would like to organize topic related workshops with NGOs working in the identified fields: Psychosocial support, Women’s Rights, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Organizations and Organizations for People with Disabilities. Until now, we unfortunately were not able to attract funding for that. In general, I need to say that the financial situation of Justice Centre Uganda is quite difficult at the moment. Our main funding partner DGF (Democratic Governance Facility) is under general suspicion by the Ugandan Government since January 2021. That’s why currently only salaries of the current employees of JCU are secured but there is no budget available for undertaking any activities.

I still believe that this kind of exchange would be very beneficial to all the participants and help us deepen and broaden our networks. Legal support will be more accessible and we can work more holistically in our fields. That’s the reason why I have not given up hope yet for the network to happen.

In general, I really appreciate the assignment; I’m very proud about how far we already reached and I’m looking forward to all the new ideas and projects we will realize during the next couple of months.

Sarah Fichtinger

Sarah Fichtinger

Sarah is part of the Knowledge Management Team in Vienna and in charge of the KNOW-HOW3000 platform. She is eager to provide all the tools the KNOW-HOW3000 community hopes to find on the internet platform. So if you have any requests, questions, recommendations or comments regarding the platform, please get in touch with her. She is always happy to hear from you.

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