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Activists marching through Busia to to raise awareness

Activists marching through Busia town  to raise awareness on SGBV

In december 2014 I was in Busia district, Eastern Uganda on a campaign to end Sexual and Gender based Violence (SGBV) organized by the Institute for Social Transformation (IST) and Isis-WICCE in Partnership with Busia Local Government.  The aim of the campaign was to mobilize communities in Busia district to discuss strategies to address the increasing SGBV cases.

According to Police files, on a daily basis at least three cases related to SGBV are reported and over 80 cases a month. These are only the reported cases and remember that so many cases remain unreported.

Over 2000 women, men, youth and local leaders from different sub counties in the district participated in the

discussions.

Dressed in their usual African dresses and non-traditional African attires in different styles, designs and colors with majority putting on head covers, the women listened attentively in the discussions and actively participated in different activities such as the march and group discussions.

Women during listening  to the facilitator during the discussion

Women  listening to the facilitator during the discussion

I kept observing  the crowds of women and then, I remembered that 20 years ago, the Beijing Conference took place and was a seen as major breakthrough in the history of gender struggles and women’s empowerment. The conference came out with what is known as the Beijing Platform for Action. The Platform established twelve Critical Areas of Concern that needed to be addressed in order to achieve political, social, economic, cultural, and environmental security among all people. These Areas are poverty; education; health; violence; armed conflict; the economy; power and decision-making; mechanisms for women’s advancement; women’s human rights; mass media; the environment; and, the girl child. For each critical area of concern, the problem was diagnosed and strategic objectives and concrete actions were e proposed for Governments and others stakeholders.

I asked myself, do these women know that there is Beijing Platform for Action and other human rights instruments that guarantee protection and promotion of women’s rights and gender equality?  As confirmed by Dr. Thelma Awori, the Executive Director of IST, women in Busia are afraid to stand up for their rights, afraid to take advantage of  the laws that are in place and have resigned to violence  that ‘what can I do, I just have to suffer’.

This state of hopelessness is what many women globally experience every day. Statistics from UN Women reports indicate that between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime and most of this violence takes place within intimate relationships.

Therefore as the world reviews twenty years of Beijing Platforn for Action code named ‘Beijing+20’,many questions  remain unanswered.  Why aren’t these frameworks changing the lives of women? What can be done differently? Are there any hopes of breaking through patriarchy? Are women losing the struggle against gender equality?

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A child Mother  with her daughter during 2011 Isis-WICCE PEace Expo in KaseseGender based violence is a global problem which mainly affects women and girls. It cuts across age, class, level of education and social status. A report by WHO, 2013 indicates that more than a third of all women worldwide are victims of physical or sexual violence. Uganda like many other countries violence against women is on the increase. The Uganda Demographic and health survey report indicates that 56% of women have experienced physical and sexual violence.

According to the Police Crime Report 2011,defilement was among the leading crimes in the country with a total of 7,690 cases investigated in the year 2011, compared to 7,564 cases in 2010 and 7360 in 2009. Incidences of Death through Domestic Violence investigated by the police in 2011 were 181cases compared to 159 cases in 2010. Partial Police results in 2013 indicate that 72 people were killed as a result of domestic violence; 2,461 victims and 1,339 cases of domestic violence reported between January and April 2013.

The above statistics show that gender based violence and especially sexual violence is still a big problem to Uganda despite the increased legislation to address it. This therefore calls for more concerted and continuous efforts from both the state and non state actors.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence is one the international campaigns that aim at raising awareness and demanding for action against gender based violence. As such during this period, Isis-WICCE will be holding a Peace Exposition, a creative platform that brings together a broad spectrum of community members to dialogue on unique community concerns but also identifying GBV as a critical issue that continues to impede development. The Peace Exposition has become a space where women and men interface with their leaders and other policy makers to demand for response and implementation of post conflict reconstruction with emphasis on women’s dignity and bodily integrity. This year the Peace Expositon will be held in Kotido district, Karamoja region theme under the theme ‘Healthy Families for Peaceful Communities.’

Karamoja Region presents a unique picture and the prevailing situation and statistics on sexual and gender based violence is alarming. The report by Refugee Law Project (2012) on Gender Realities in Kotido District indicates that 96% women have experienced some form of violence which exposes them to sexual and reproductive health complications.

The Peace Exposition will provide tangible take home for women in Karamoja through cervical cancer screening as well as dialogues between grassroots communities (men and women) and their leaders on sexual and gender based violence and women’s participation. The dialogues will specifically focus on the role of a healthy family as an important element in ensuring peace in homes and communities.
I therefore call upon and encourage everyone to join the campaign to end sexual and gender based violence. TIME TO ACT IS NOW. What are you going to End SGVB in your community?

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