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Posts Tagged ‘Uganda’

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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In my previous post I wrote about the research study that is being undertaken by Isis-WICCE to examine the effectiveness of female Members of Parliament and Councilors in influencing decisions for gender equality. In this post I am sharing key finding from the field in Agago and Pader districts, Northern Uganda with women councilors at the local government level.

The system of Local Government in Uganda is based on the District as a Unit under which there are lower Local Governments and Administrative Unit Councils. The  Elected Local Government Councils are made up of persons directly elected to represent electoral areas, persons with disabilities, the youth and women councillors. The Local Government Council is the highest political authority in its area of jurisdiction. The councils are corporate bodies having both legislative and executive powers. They have powers to make local laws and enforce implementation. The Local Governments in a District rural area are: the Sub-County and a Parish.

Given the patriarchal nature of our societies, women still find it very challenging to take up leadership positions. For example in Acholi culture, if a woman wants to contest for political leadership, she has to first ask for permission from her husband, If the husband accepts, the  husband has to consult the clan leaders for approval. The clan leaders will then task the man to tell them how he will manage the family when the wife is away. The clan leaders in most cases will label a woman a prostitute because they assume that she cannot manage to contain her sexual emotions when she is surrounded by men in council meetings. All this is meant to humilate and frustrate the  woman and her husband to give up the political leadership

Joyce Banda

Isnt this  patriarchy at play? Her Excellency Joyce Banda,president of Malawi kneeling to greet her fellow presidents

Source PAWA254

Despite all those challenges, women have braved and a handful have taken on political leadership but their level of participation and engagement is very low and has been reduced to the  ‘3s’ syndrome (Second, Support and Sign) motions  during the council meetings. This has also been attributed to their low level of education and limited knowledge since most of them are primary level graduates. They are easily manipulated, threatened and sexually harassed by the male councilors.

Women Leading to Change

On the other hand, women leaders at lower levels especially at Parish level, have demosntrated the potential and been made a difference in their communities. For example in Agago, three parishes which are chaired by women have been able to make bylaws to curb down child marriage, defilement and reduce maternal death. I a woman delivers at home, the husband is made to pay Ugshs. 250,000; an equivalent of US$100. If a man marries underage girl he pays a fine of Ug shs.100,000; and equivalent of US$40 and is subjected to a community service for a period of one month. A teacher who defiles will lose his job and cannot be employed anywhere in the district. I must say that this is what is called Feminist Leadership and it goes without saying that If the women ruled the world, it would be a better place for all.

The above example clearly shows that women have the potential and the capacity to  lead but Patriarchy which has entrenched our societies for ages cannot allow them to do so. Its high time we dismantle the powers of patriarchy and give women a chance to lead becasue they are better leaders.

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Globally, women make up over half of the world’s population and are often the backbone of societies. Women hold up half the sky… except in decision making. Over the years, the number of women  taking up public offices and political leadership including the highest offices has gradually increased. Today, Africa has two female presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Joyce Banda of Malawi while  several countries such as Zimbabwe and Gambia have female vice presidents.

In July, 2013 I attended a meeting, actually a focus group discussion with  Women Members of parliament in Uganda under their umbrella organization Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) as part of the research study that is being undertaken by Isis-WICCE to examine the effectiveness of female Members of Parliament and Councilors in influencing decisions for gender equality. It was well attended with over 30 women members of parliament representing different districts/ constituencies in the country.

The purpose of the  discussion  was to find out the achievements so far made, what enabled them and the challenges. The discussion was facilitated by Prof. Josephine Ahikire from Makerere University, Department of Gender and Women Studies, who is also the lead researcher . In her remarks, she pointed out that women political leadership is at the apex of a society and it comes with  its costs and benefits.  She further mentioned that the attitudes of  men towards women’s participation in politics  has not changed. Men still look at women as sex objects and who are supposed to remain in the bedroom and the kitchen.  She also noted that principally, the political space was not supposed to be for women  and women have constantly pushed to be there.

Global statistics indicate that women in political leadership  at  17.7%, Sub Saharan Africa 17.7%, Asia 16%, Arab countries 9.1%, Nordic countries 41%. Meanwhile, Uganda is at 35% which is  beyond  the global and Sub Saharan range which shows that the country in doing well in terms of numbers of women in political leadership. Thanks to the Affirmative Action

“in 1986, when the current government had taken power, they were looking for women at local councils to be secretaries  and they were nowhere”. Hon.Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny

Today, there are 134 women MPs (34%) out of 383 Parliamentary seats. With this, it is presumed that gender equality concerns would take centre stage in the policy making process. However, despite women’s increasing numbers in governance and decision making, the lives of women are not improving.  Feminised poverty, increased gender violence and the lack of respect of the rule of the law and women’s rights are escalating.

At the same time a study conducted by the Daily Monitor that analysed Parliamentary Hansard that keeps track of all the MPs’ contributions to debates showed that 34 women MPs have spoken less than 15 times in the House dominated by the male lawmakers from May 2011 to May 2013.

Influencing Policy

With the support of the first ever female speaker, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, the women legislators have pushed hard and succeeded in influencing the legislative agenda up to 61%. This has been demonstrated through the passing of gender sensitive laws such as; The Female Genital Mutilation Act, Domestic violence; influencing the national budget to be gender sensitive especially on the issues of health’ the introduction of Mama Kits to encourage women to give birth in hospitals/ health centers. The women legislators have also influenced leadership within parliament committees and 40% of heads of the Parliamentary committees are women;

Despite the above achievement, there are many challenges especially the issue political party affiliations as one  women PM noted “ Parties are influencing us and making  us loose out, we are being manipulated and  in the end we will come out with nothing”.

As the number of women in decision making positions continue to grow, women must find ways to translate their numbers and presence  into action and influence. It is therefore hoped that this research will be a measure of how far women leadership has come in Uganda and what needs to be done to increase their participation.

Watch out for more  findings from  the research as it is still going on.

Let me also leave  you  with  justifications for women’s political participation that have been agreed internationally;

  1. Excluding women is  simply un fair because  they  have the population
  2. Fear to lose resources because women bring  new values on board to make life more humane
  3. Cleaning up politics because women  stand up for justice
  4. Women leaders will represent women’s issues better and more likelihood that  they will represent interests.
  5. Democracies will be more legitimate  if you bring on board  more diverse group  such as women, disabled, workers etc

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Every year around the world, International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. Thousands of events are organised at international, national and grassroots levels to celebrate  the economic, political and social achievements of women. Each year comes with a unique theme that reflects on women and  relevant to global and local gender issues.

Like many women, Agnes looked forward to celebrate 2013  international women day on march 8, little did she know that it would be her last celebrations. Her husband cut her life short as soon as she returned from the celebrations.This years’ theme was the gender agenda gaining momentum. Reading Agne’s story, one wonders whether the gender agenda gaining momentum? or it is loosing it after over 100years of celebrating this day. Readers, what is your reflection on this?

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On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize that empowerment of and investment in girls is  critical for economic growth and  the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community,

The Resolution further  calls on  all Member States, relevant organizations of the United Nations system and other international organizations, as well as civil society, to observe the International Day of the Girl Child, and to raise awareness of the situation of girls around the world;

For its first observance, this year’s Day focused on child marriage, which is a fundamental human rights violation and impacts all aspects of a girl’s life. Child marriage denies a girl of her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk to be a victim of violence and abuse, jeopardizes her health and therefore constitutes an obstacle to the achievement of nearly every Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and the development of healthy communities.

Child marriage

From AWID Friday File, child marriage is most prevalent in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, there are 60 million child-brides the world over – 25 000 each day – many wed to men more than twice their senior. It is also common in Latin America and the Caribbean, where 29% of girls between 15-24 are married before reaching 18. Overall, 82 million girls in developing countries will be married before they turn 18.

In Uganda the day was celebrated under the theme “Too young to marry. End Child marriage and Teenage Pregnancy. The celebrations were spearheaded by the Ministry of Gender and Plan International in campaign Because I am a Girl

According to Isis-WICCE research on Child marriages in Kasese, almost every home in Kasese has a child mother or a girl who had been defiled and only 70% of young mothers only accessed primary level education. The controlled mobility of child mothers restricts them from accessing education and realizing their full potential. Therefore, child marriage entrenches the vicious cycle of poverty, illiteracy and underdevelopment.

Cultural norms also dictate that at birth, a girl child  is booked for marriage and earmarked for trade in exchange for dowry. At five years, she is sent away for grooming to her in laws to-be and at her first menstrual period between 8-12 years she is married off.

I got married at 15 years to a 43 year old man in 2008. My parents forced me into marriage because they wanted to get money. It was a traditional wedding”. a child mother in Kasese.

This  story represents many voices of child mothers in Kasese.  Is all hope lost, is n’t there redemption out there? Let this landmark  of the Day of the Girl Child be the first step towards eradicating this vice by investing in girls’ education. The  Chineese say   a journey of a 1000 miles starts with the first step.

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 I came across this article in the  NewVision, Uganda’s  National Newspaper of 18 September 2011. I felt compelled to share it with my audience for them to understand the silence suffering of women in conflict and post conflict settings. This article brought out the gender dynamics of conflicts which are always under looked in post conflict recovery and development programmes.

THEY CALL ME MOTHER OF REBELS CHILDREN. At nine years of age in 1994, Christine Aol was on her way from school when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels abducted her .From her home area in Patongo in present day Agago district, the rebels walked with her across valleys, woodlands and forests, until she could not even guess where they were.

Her first assignment in the bush was to kill a boy who had been caught trying to escape.” I was forced to hold a panga, cut off the boy’s head and hold it in my hand” says Aol.

The LRA immediately assigned her to a rebel fighter as a wife .Every day, Aol wanted to return home, but she feared the repercussions. She bore two children with the rebel fighter before she got a chance to escape in 2004 during heavy fighting between the army and the LRA.

But life after escape was not easy .Her neighbours often referred to her as the mother of a rebel’s children. Aol’s mother, Rose Anono, tried to send her away because she did not want to live with rebels’ children .However; she changed her mind after being counseled at Patongo Youth Centre, a local charity helping former LRA fighters re-integrate into the community. ‘Even then, the old woman often reverts to her old attitude. When mother gets angry, she tells me to take the children back to their father in the bush “, says Aol.

To make matters worse, she cannot find a man to marry. In this part of the country, it is rare for a man to marry a woman who has produced two children. It s million times more difficult if those children were fathered by a rebel .Men fear that ex-abductees became violent in the bush or might have contracted HIV from the rebels.

Like Aol, many girls are still suffering from the pains of war .According to the United  Nation as estimates, about 10,000 girls became child mothers when the LRA abducted them between 1988 and 2004.Another 88,000 girls, who were not abducted, became child mothers due to the conditions in internally  displaced people’s camps.

Alice Achiro, 24, was abducted in the 2000 on her way to collect fire wood.

‘I was forced to kill and remove the heart of a woman who tried to escape. I was also forced to have sex with a rebel .By the time I escaped, I had three children” she says .But her parents did not allow her back to their home in Palenga, Gulu district. Eventually, she became a sex worker.

Another former abducted, Annette Akello, 31, escaped in 2004 after 15 years in the bush .By then,she had four children fathered by a rebel .On reaching her home village in Padibe ,Kitgum district ,She found both her parents dead.”All her relatives, including other members of the community chased her away ‘, recalls Simon Odwee, an LC1 chairman of Padibe village in Kitgum district.

Akello then went to a bush and strangled all her children before hanging herself.

Such is the suffering of girls who were abducted, forced to sleep with rebels, turned into mothers at a tender age and then rejected by their own p

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Last week on Friday 20, the Uganda media broadcasted a video clip where the Police officers were seen squeezing the breast of the opposition woman politician Ingrid Turinawe. Ingrid is the leader of the women’s league for Forum for Democratic Change(FDC)  which is one of the strongest opposition political party in the country. The police squeezed Ingrid’s breast  while arresting her  on her way to a rally in one of the city surburbs. This cruel and brutal act has been condemned by human rights activists and the general public

As a woman, I couldn’t image the pain Ingrid experienced  in the hands of the police. Why did the police target her breast? This is  pure sexual violence perpetrated by the state which is supposed to protect its citizens. If the police can behave like this in broad day light and before the cameras, what happens in isolated places? Isn’t worse that this?

This action by police also shows that the country has no respect for women which is very sad as they are mothers of all nations. One of the reactions from the Uganda Women’s Movement was to organise a topless protest only wearing the bras at  the  central police station to express their anger and action against the police officers who abused Ingrid. Unfortunately they were also arrested though later released. The women were also criticised by the public for exposing their breasts and condemned for being immoral.

In the same spirit, the chairperson of Uganda  Women parliamentary association Betty Among   and on behalf  of the Uganda Women’s Movement presented a statement in parliament condemning in the strongest terms the police act and demanding an apology from the Uganda Police and government  in general on behalf.

To the surprise of many of us from  the women movement  who attended the parliamentary session, members of parliament from the ruling party, National Resistance Movement(NRM) who stood up to talk condemned the police  act with reservations  and blamed Ingrid for resisting the arrest and added that she deserved it.

There was also another controversy on who actually effected the arrest as police claimed that it was done by the female police officer while the cameras clearly showed that it was done by the male officer. The Uganda constitution says that female offenders are supposed to be arrested by the female police officers

When the Prime minister honourable Amama Mbabazi  stood up to speak he stated that he watched the clip and  apologised.  He also said that action had been taken and the Police Officer who was involved has been suspended.

And when he was tasked to give the details, he could not explain,  the Prime Minister however insisted that he did not have the name of the officer but said he would bring the details to the house when police investigations have been concluded.

The speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga asked the state minister for internal affairs to table the findings from the police investigation before 18th May when the Parliamentary session ends.

Since the  presidential elections in 2011, Ugandans have experienced  increased police brutality  especially targeting opposition leaders.

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