Student Justice Shorter on the shore of Lake Victoria. Photo: courtesy Justice Shorter.

Peace and Conflict in Africa

Student Justine Shorter Travels to Lake Victoria Basin to Explore Survival and Social Justice

Justine "Justice" Shorter lives a life with a sense of adventure, purpose and a passion for social justice. Although only a college senior, Justice has already collected a diverse range of life experiences. These include writing for the teen magazine Gumbo, her high school newspaper and the JS Online as a teenager, and interning for WPR and WISN during college. Last year, Justice studied abroad in South Africa. This summer, she spent several weeks visiting Uganda and Rwanda to learn about the complex cultural and socioeconomic issues of the region.

"My heart was pulling me there," Justice explains of her decision to visit the African countries. She first learned about the opportunity through the Marquette University Study Abroad fair, where she met with representatives from the School of International Training (SITU). When she heard about SITU's Peace and Conflict program in Africa's Lake Victoria Basin, she knew instantly that she had to take part.

Justice explains the importance of visiting the African continent and seeing firsthand the everyday challenges and realities of residents in the area. The program opened her eyes to the complex issues faced by people throughout the region, such as education, disease prevention and the need for a sustainable food supply.

"It's unfortunate how little people truly know about Africa. The continent consists of several countries with bustling economies and progressive policy initiatives. Politicians make decisions about people (living in Africa) all the time, but have never visited the area. I want to meet the people we're trying to help; to see their faces, look at things from their perspective and ask for their input in solving complex problems."

The program allowed Justice to meet many like-minded people who shared her passion for social change. The group met with NGO leaders and politicians and local residents during the eight week course. They visited genocide memorials and learned about the continuing impact of warlords such as Joseph Kony, and traveled to refugee camps to meet with survivors of war.

The adventure, however, was not without challenges. Justice, who is visually impaired, describes the challenges of navigating a foreign terrain with little to no disability access, while at the same time dealing with language barriers. Some of the trickier aspects included getting around roads with no sidewalks, lined with steep concrete ditches. While visiting rural areas the electricity also went out frequently.

"No matter how much planning goes into it, there's only so much you can do with a cell phone and a laptop," she says of the experience. "You can't let the small things stop you. At some point you just need to get on the ground and go."

Justice credits her ability to forge connections with others and "fierce faith" with helping her to get around. She is thankful for the assistance of those with whom she interacted during the trip– the program directors, home stay families, drivers and other students who helped her get around.

"I spent lots of time praying that God would put good people in my path, " she says. "I don't know how I would have done it without them."

After graduating this December, Justice wants to use her talents to help people overcome poverty. The Journalism senior is currently hard at work building a consulting business to work with organizations, governmental agencies and businesses seeking to provide opportunities for growth and self sustainability among disenfranchised people. She hopes to be a "woman of service" in her career, and credits traveling overseas with helping make a connection between global problems and similar issues on a local level.

Although Justice describes leaving college as both "exciting and scary," she adds that she is optimistic about the future.

"I'm ready to move on and see what's waiting for me next. I'll go where God leads me."