RLP's Community Interpretation Unit @10 Years (2008 - 2018)

Ten years ago, when the Refugee Law Project decided to establish a team of Community Interpreters, it was because we realized that the use of ad hoc interpreters could be detrimental to the service to our clients (forced migrants). Skilled interpreters can make the difference between an individual client accessing justice, health care, psychosocial support, and being turned away. They can be the key that unlocks the doors of prison cells for detainees unable to explain themselves. They can also assure that the voices of forced migrants more broadly are heard in critical dialogues, research and policy fora.

With funding from the Legal Aid Basket Fund administered by DANIDA, the RLP in 2008 recruited 10 refugee community interpreters and also trained about 25 interpreters alongside RLP officers in community interpretation. Since then we have become a one-stop centre and reference point for training and the provision of quality community interpreters for many institutions in Kampala and beyond. A total of 176 people have so far been trained, marking a quantitative and qualitative shift in provision of services in areas where they are working.

The Community Interpreters’ work involves the provision of day-to-day interpretation services to thousands of individual forced migrant clients in sessions with lawyers, counsellors and visiting researchers. Additionally, over the last ten years, they have interpreted during hundreds of group discussions and community information sessions as well as translated numerous documents for our clients.

As RLP has grown, so has our team of Community Interpreters. Since October 2008, we have established trained and employed Community Interpreters in Kiryandongo, Palabek, Adjumani, Gulu, Arua, Yumbe, Palorinya, Kyangwali, Mbarara and Nakivale. See the presence country wide

The languages currently interpreted include: English, French, Kiswahili, Lingala, Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, Somali, Tigrinya, Juba Arabic, Dinka, Nuer, Acholi and Madi. 

84% of our Community Interpreters are themselves refugees

Significant additional milestones include:

  • Training interpreters for the International Crimes Division of the High Court of Uganda in 2011 
  • Conducting trainings in community interpretation across Uganda
  • The individuals trained in Kyaka II refugee settlement have since formed an association - Kyaka Interpreters, Translator Association for Development (registered in Kyegegwa district) comprising of 58 members serving both refugee and host communities 
  • Keeping in mind that some concepts in English do not have equivalents in other languages, the team has embarked on a lengthy linguistic research on terminologies commonly used in RLP’s thematic areas of Conflict, Transitional Justice and Governance; Access to Justice; Gender and Sexuality; Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing; and Media for Social Change

As we celebrate this 10th Anniversary of our Community Interpretation Unit, we wish to thank DANIDA who enabled us to kick start the process! We also thank all our other funders who have continued to support the unit by supporting the RLP interpreters to impart their skills to others in need of enhanced service delivery to the ever increasing refugee numbers in Uganda. 

RLP would also take this opportunity to thank and encourage its current and former interpreters, some of whom have since moved on and been resettled, for their tremendous work and their dedication to professionalizing community interpretation. 

Thank you!


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