The Surge Project
The Support Uganda’s Response to Gender Equality (SURGE) is a four-year Programme funded by UKaid/ DFID. SURGE has the overall aim of strengthening efforts towards achieving equal access for women and men to opportunities and a life free from violence, and ultimately gender equality. The SURGE programme is being implemented in the 13 districts of Amuru, Gulu, Kampala, Katakwi, Kumi, Lira, Masaka, Mbarara, Moroto, Mubende, Nebbi and Pallisa. The program is being implemented by ActionAid International Uganda, CEDOVIP and MIFUMI. In the arrangement AAIU acts as the grant manager besides being an implementer. SURGE is also implemented in collaboration the district local governments in the 13 districts, Ministry of Gender, Labour and social development, Equal Opportunities commission, ministry of Finance, the Uganda police, religious and cultural leaders in the 13 districts.
The Programme intends to achieve Gender equality through;
- Building Government of Uganda capacity to lead on integration of gender and equity in public financial management,
- Improving public awareness and progressive change in social norms away from gender inequality and gender based violence (G.B.V)
- Increasing access to safe spaces/shelters which can provide response services such as legal, health, psychosocial services and economic opportunities for Gender Based Violence (GBV) survivors.
- Enhanced knowledge and skills of women initiate and manage economic enterprises for improved household income and self-reliance.
- Ensuring that effective programme management arrangements are established to achieve programme outputs and objectives.
In this tripartite partnership, CEDOVIP works to inspire community activism to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls (VAWG) using the SASA! Model. SASA! focuses on analysis of power dynamics between women and men. ActionAid and MIFUMI on the other hand focus on providing comprehensive response services to survivors of violence in 13 districts. In addition, AAIU and MIFUMI use the alternative GBV prevention approach which seeks to mobilize communities for dialogue, campaign and peer to peer to challenge normalized harmful social norms.
Impact of the SURGE Programme.
According to Ms. Harriet Gimbo, the program quality learning and Impact advisor ActionAid International highlighted the huge impact SURGE has had on the target beneficiaries.
“SURGE cannot be ignored in the 13 districts where it has been piloted,” says Gimbo. “The more reason Local Governments there are providing the units where they are based, apportioning their limited resources to the services and doing everything possible to ease the operations.” Gimbo commends the districts of Kween, Mabarara, Masaka and Gulu for embracing the Shelters whole-heartedly.
She goes on to comment “SURGE has not only sheltered Survivors of GBV but economically empowered them, psychologically treated their trauma and offered the legal guidance where necessary. You see, he victims have started savings groups, in addition AAIU provides the groups with enterprise inputs that support income generation for the entire group. Moreover, the groups act as places for experience sharing, peer to peer support and solidarity.
Despite the above impact, we still face several challenges, including among others;
“Culture which remains conflated with identity and is treated as unchanging. Many duty bearers and decision makers remain unwilling to view culture as evolving. This is seen in Kween and Karamoja with our fight against Female genital mutilation and Buganda,” said Gimbo. “Some of the culture aspects anchor negative social norms which silence survivors who consequences should they speak up for fear of being ostracized’’
Gimbo goes on to highlight how practices such as marital rape, forced widows inheritance, forced marriages of girls are still rampant.
‘’If the dream of a violence free country is to become a reality, the Government of Uganda ought to fund the responsible Ministries and other organs like the Police and Judiciary to do their jobs of protecting the lives of citizens.” Says Gimbo.
Prevention with Response are what works in the fight against GBV!
The Director of Programs and Policy Interim AAIU, Nickson Ogwal, is of the view that with the high increase in reporting of cases against gender based violence and the changing attitudes in the community, there need to be safe spaces to receive those traumatized by GBV.
“Having 13 shelters serving the 130 districts is just a drop in the ocean’’ there is still a gap which requires to be filled as afar as GBV response services are concerned,” says Ogwal. “Worse still the existing Shelters are poorly-equipped to respond to complaints and follow them up to conclusion.”
Furthermore, Ogwal says ‘’there are many silent victims among the population who are trapped because of being economically dependent on their husbands. “|Worse still as the perpetrators are being tried in court or mediated upon,” “the victims suddenly decide to drop the cases. In most cases this is connected to the peer pressure from the relatives of the perpetrators, who apply coercion to the survivor. The blame is piled on the survivor until they have no choice but to give up on their justice.
In the case of psychological Violence, it becomes hard for the police to trace and even give support to the survivors, this requires training of officers to detect and deal with this type of violence which is currently only provided at the 13 shelters. Ogwal strongly advocates for the continuation of response to GBV where services like legal aid, sheltering and mediation are provided for those traumatized by GBV.
Shelters have been proven as an option that works in responding to GBV
AAIU manager women access to social justice Nivatiti Nandujja says the Shelters have proved very necessary to communities that have for centuries not listened to a woman’s cry when she is not safe in her home. The blame for being battered or insulted is always put on the survivor.
“To bridge the gap, at the Shelter, the Survivors are helped to heal with the support of psychosocial officers. During this period of pain and trauma, they are given temporal shelter which is secure and not accessed by their abusers,” said Nandujja. “Later, the abuser is summoned and through alternative dispute resolution, the couples are helped to identify the root cause of the conflict and reconciliation is an option that is considered.”
“The Shelter also offers legal and health services where there is need,” stressed Nandujja. “Besides that, there are now Male Champions who link hands with religious and cultural leaders to reach a bigger audience in the communities we work in”
Nandujja says there is already a change in behavior but work on cultural norm change will take time as we are dealing with centuries long violation of women’s rights. what counts now is more efforts where we are working to see that communities let go of negative social norms that perpetuate GBV. the message is being spread during: burials, weekly market days and at any gathering.
Adding that, a lot has been achieved in the fight against GBV, but the hurdles remain in seeing it stopped.
“Unfortunately, the existing organs like: Uganda Police, Ministry of Health and the judiciary remain under funded,” sums up Nandujja. “It is the time, policymakers, legislature and the judiciary sart seeing GBV as more than a household or individual issue.”
There are also complaints “that some perpetrators are so rich they pay their way out of police investigations,” says Nandujja. “for example, there have been instances when evidence of rape survivors goes missing. Moreover, many women, girls remain ignorant about their rights and the court processes necessary for one to pursue justice. “There is also the challenge of the big backlog of cases that are pending. The judiciary is overwhelmed by the number of cases being reported and needing resolution. The Police say they are short of finances to deliver evidence collection services when need be.”
Shelters give hope to those left behind by the formal justice systems.
Project Coordinator GBV women protection centers Uganda Caroline Abilat says to cope with escalating numbers, the SURGE program uses three approaches, beginning with prevention where we work with community structures to prevent Violence from happening in the first place. If this fails and Violence does occur, then we respond to this violence using our shelters. In these shelters, survivors are given services like legal aid, psycho social counselling and a feeling that they have someone who cares about them. When the survivors come to us, they are broken, scared and on the verge of giving up. At the shelters they find a legal officer and Psycho social officer, who give them back hope. Slowly by slowly they regain their power and purpose and you can see a stirring of hope that there is a way out of this pain and despair’’
“What the SURGE program has done is to support strengthen community structures, mobilize cultural and religious leaders and extend these services to far off places where people difficulty accessing say courts of law, said Abilat. “We have recruited Male change makers, empowered the women economically after realizing their abuse is related to their low bargaining power with in the household and a lack of exposure.
On the issues of halting the funding of the Shelters by DFID, Abilat said ‘’it will be a huge knock on the fledgling GBV response work currently in it’s infancy in Uganda’’ Our Partner DFID has supported GBV response work for all this long, through their support we have seen how vital these shelters are , now we are hopeful that the government can be persuaded to take on a more active role of funding agencies that support GBV response work’’
“Though prevention is key, GBV response work must also exist where violence has occurred, shelters provide the accommodation, reception and rehabilitation of those traumatized by GBV at minimal financial cost’’. Prevention and Response move together, especially if a holistic response is to be considered, therefore “AAIU strongly advocates for the continued funding of GBV response work through shelters. Abilat calls upon government to boost funding to agencies like the Police, Judiciary and local government to be able to deliver GBV response services where there is need.
Local governments support GBV response work
M&E Officer SURGE Program Uganda - Dennis Okello
The pioneer Women protection centers in Mubende, Palisa and Nebbi led to the establishment of seven others in Kumi, Katakwi, Kween, Mubende, Bwaise, Gulu and Lira. Through this four year program is supported by DFID, GBV response has grown from what it was back in the day to where we actually have structures at district level to receive and support those affected by GBV.
“Fortunately, most local governments are very supportive of the Shelters,” observed Okello. “Given the fact that we live in a Patriarchal society where men have more power and all aspects are viewed with male lenses, women’s position becomes the default second. Through our work on creating awareness on negative social norms we are sensitizing the people about the benefits of a healthy equal relationships in the family and the public spaces.’
SURGE as a program enables equal access to justice for women and other vulnerable groups of people by increasing awareness of gender equality in different communities. Consequently, the gender and equity issues are being seen in a positive light in the 13 targeted communities.
“Our partnerships with Police, the Ministry of Gender, Judiciary, Equal opportunities commission and Ministry of Health has been of tremendous help,” says Okello. “We are using drama to drive the message home very effectively. The community Activists (CAs) are trained to engage the communities in different forums while addressing issues of power using the power poster. The community activists address issues like inheritance rights, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and commercial sex work that are on the increase.”
“Already there is a progressive change in social norms. Negative social norms of gender-based violence and inequality are slowly waning,” stressed Okello. “However, there are some very conservative communities like the Karimojong in Moroto and the Sabiny in Kween.”
“The public awareness about the ills of GBV has improved compared to what it was in the beginning as more cases are being reported at the Police Stations and at the Shelters,” said Okello’’
“Although most Local governments are saying they have limited resources to continue with the Shelters, they appreciate the counseling and psychosocial support given to survivors of GBV’’ The districts support the continued provision of Legal aid, case management, and representation in courts of law. They are worried about the fate of the survivors when the shelters are no longer resourced to provide services like rehabilitation and resettlement of survivors. Through the shelters we have been able to know what works and what does not in responding to GBV.”
According to the Principal Women in Development Officer at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development Idi Mubarak Mayanja, GBV has dramatically dropped from a prevalence of 72% to 50% nationally. He credits AAIU, UKID, government and other partners for a concerted effort to prevent and respond wherever necessary.
“Parliament put in place a GBV policy in 2016 which serves as a guiding framework for stakeholders,” said Mayanja. “This is in addition to several studies of GBV in different parts of the country. We came with a view of involving men in the reduction of GBV.”
He says the Government of Uganda appreciates the Shelter model that was initiated by NGOs because it has a comprehensive service which benefits the survivors.
“The accommodation, psychosocial support, legal advice, and food for the women and children is needed in more than the 13 pioneer Shelters spread across the country,” stressed Mayanja. “Feedback has it that land squabbles and inheritance are a common occurrence in hard to reach areas of the country.”
Adding that, worse still, the victims are ignorant of their rights or cannot afford the services of lawyer when need be.
“More than 4,000 victims have been given them hope and protections against further hurt by the Shelter,” says Mayanja. “Some victims have been reconciled or transferred far away from those who hurt them.”
Much as GBV levels have dropped, a lot remains not done because of a shortage of funds to deliver the required services. Things like bride prices that are termed as gifts, bridal wealth or tokens of appreciation are steadily being abandoned in most communities.
“Depending on where one hails from,” stressed Mayanja. “Dowry is given in the form of cash and livestock. This African tradition has become an expense today. It denies women fair treatment in the home. The more reason other players in fighting GBV like FIDA and UNFPA come in to highlight the fact that marriage and divorce are pertinent. And that the issue of bride price and dowry contradicts the push for equality and development.”
The Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP)
Determined to realise significant gains in preventing violence against women and vulnerability to HIV,CEDOVIP currently works to reach out and build a critical mass across the country. The concerted efforts aim to promote the prevention of violence against women in Uganda by bringing together civil society organizations (CSOs) and government structures to strengthen skills, influence institutional practice and transform individuals and communities.
Gender-Based Violence (GBV) occurs in different forms and is steadily changing with the times.
Changing Culture is gradual and a slow process
CEDOVIP Executive Director Tina Musunya says that
Working to change the status quo of women from being submissive to a point where they can speak for themselves in a slow process requiring time says Tina Musuya.
Musunya says ‘’cultures are hard to change but there is a gradual response in as far as forced marriages, female genital mutilation (FGM) and inheritance rights are concerned’’
“Traditionally, women are expected to say ‘yes’ or risk failure in their marriage,” says Musunya. “If the husband wants children, it is the woman’s duty to bear them regardless of health risks she might be facing.”
“The shelters spread in more than 13 districts are doing a commendable job of educating the women about their rights,” stressed Musunya. “At least the survivors have a place where they can stay when driven out of their homes which is often the case when GBV reaches it’s peak.
“Through SASA! We are taking analysis of power and it’s link to violence to the community through the community activists. Our activities bring discussions of GBV to the individual and the community, seeking appreciation of how power works to leave women vulnerable to violence and how this can be reversed. For example we are working to tackle the issue of victim blaming where for example people always ‘’ blame the woman for having put on a mini skirt or tight pair of Jeans trousers as the cause of rape, I believe this not right as that takes the focus a way from the perpetuator and the community that condones this behavior towards women’’ say Musuya. In addition, we hope that the Police and Judiciary learn to handle the survivors with dignity and respect.”
Musunya sums up by saying that ‘’although most men are reluctant to leave their privileged position, there are those who are converted and supporting the fight against GBV. They sensitize their communities about the dangers of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and support those traumatized by GBV to seek justice, we commend these change makers for their work’’
‘’ In the end we hope that our work leads to a time when the public no longer tolerates what they consider archaic or violent behaviors that infringe on the rights of women and girls’ concluded Musuya.
Mubende’s GBV burden
The state of gender-based violence (GBV) in MubendeDistrict is appalling as poverty, archaic cultural practices and illiteracy are deeply entrenched in the community. This at a time when memories of one Annett Naziiwawho had her arms chopped off by an irate husband, are still fresh.
“The assailant was imprisoned after being tried in court and sentenced to seven years in jail,” narrates the Mubende Probation and Welfare Officer, Mariam Nagawa. “Unfortunately after serving his term, he returned to his marital home and raped his biological daughter. He crowned this by threatening his wife with death if she reports him to the authorities.”
Nagawa laments that with several tribes residing in Mubende, the Police are receiving between five to ten rape cases every week. Many others are never reported as a result of the cultural unwritten law that “ebyo’munjutebitotolwa” (never wash your family’s dirty linen in public.)
“Other victims or their guardians opt to settle their cases out of court, others are given small sums of cash or are threatened by the perpetrators,” asserted Nagawa. “However, the Probation Office, like The Uganda Police, are overwhelmed by the volume of cases reported from the more than 30 Sub-counties that are served.”
True to her word, a man only identified as Charles is on the run after killing Bisirika Kevin, 30, in Kitayunja village. The hunt is on but nobody knows the suspect's full name nor has his photograph. All they’re doing is to describe him as a lanky man standing 5.6 inches tall and of medium in weight.
There are Open Court Days when residents get the proceedings demystified and are taught how the Judiciary is supposed to deliver justice and punish those who break the law of the land. The district is close to Kampala City but is centuries apart when it comes to the state of GBV.
Mediation leaves a family happy
RobinaMbabazi in Nansimbi Village in KasandaKinoni Sub-county reported a case of being beaten and denied the use of land for agriculture. Efforts to get justice from the Local Council, elders and the Police were futile.
“I needed money to travel to the Police Station to have my case addressed,” recounts Mbabazi. “That is when I heard about the services of the Shelter in Mubende on the radio. I approached them and Lawrence Kalemera was summoned. We reached an agreement to construct our house far away from my mother in law. We were counseled and we live a better and happier life today.”
After mediation, the couple reconciled and are living together with their three children. They till their land, which is cropped with coffee, bananas, beans, and potatoes. They also have livestock and poultry. Also, they are constructing a commercial house in the trading center.
Kalemera says he has talked to his mother to avoid clashing with his wife and the two now talk to each other while they arrange to move house.
“I got six children in my first marriage,” confided Kalemere. “I guess that is what is making my current wife feel insecure. I am hesitant to leave my elderly mother here on her own. She needs my attention because she is sickly. I hope AAIU boosts our farming with more capital in order for us to afford a better life while educating our children and building a permanent house.”
GBV Victims abandon reported cases before conclusion
Police officer Nasaka Bena the in charge Kawala Primary School zone says the role AAIU plays in service delivery cannot be ignored in the community. She says culture and binge drinking are the cause of increased GBV.
“Unfortunately, while investigating and almost concluding a given case,” revealed Nasaka. “The perpetrator and the victim reconcile. Before you know it they are very happy. After two weeks history repeats itself and she resurfaces with a black eye, broken limb and threats.”
Adding that, most victims fear for their survival when the men are apprehended or sentenced to some months in prison.
“So we have a vicious circle of GBV,” says Nasaka. “Unless the women are economically independent they will continue to be miss treated by rude men. We hope religious leaders, elders and decision makers in the country decry this practice in the strongest term possible.”
She says the frequency of report of GBV has shot up in the recent past.
Acid victim gets a second chance
Joan Nakinda 22
My husband wanted to sell off our family land and I was opposed to the idea. What he did was to hatch a way to get me out of the way. He went and bought acid. He waited for me to go bathing when he splashed it at me.
I made an alarm as I heard footsteps sprinting away. I was rushed to Kiruddu Hospital where I was asked for my next of kin and I gave the doctor his telephone number. He declined to pick it. Then I sent him a message but he never showed up as I ailed in hospital.
Five days later he surfaced and whispered to me that the acid had burned his fingers too. This made me suspicious after he told me that he got the acid on the towel and my clothes that I left in the bathroom.
I reported the case to police and he was apprehended but mysteriously released after 30 days. I went to stay with my mother. But the cost of living became so unbearable for her. She asked me to leave. That is when I heard about ActionAid International Uganda. I submitted my problem to them and they accommodated me and my children for some days.
Later I was given some money for rent and up keep. I wish there was a way to enable my three children have some education to become better citizens in future. To make matters worse one of them is physically disabled.
Husband abandoned responsibility of twins
Rita Byeganje Nalongo of Bwaise Katogo zone
My husband fled like the devil was on his heels when he heard that I expected to have twins. Soon the landlord was asking for rent and I was not earning any money. He used to buy the food and pay rents for the family.
Lucky enough I gave birth and one of the twins died. It was at this time that I heard about the services of ActionAid International Uganda. I reported my problem to them and soon the assisted me with sh1m. This brought back the smile on my face.
I started some petty business of selling sweets, pealing potatoes and fetching water. This was the only way I and my son Waswa can survive in Kampala City where the cost of living is so high. I urge every abandoned woman not to surrender when their husband neglected them. That is not the end of life. There a kind hearts willing to improve the status quo.
Mediation resolution abused
Suzan Okory is mentally challenged but was pregnanted by man who used to beat her. ActionAid International Uganda would mediate. They man would apologize, they reconcile and after few days the same would happen again. This is in addition to neglecting his family and investing his resourced in spot betting and beer.
“When I heard of a Shelter on Sir Appolo Kagwa road where abandoned of abused women can seek refuge I ventured to go there,” says Okori. “There I met Aunty Rita and Aunty Flo who patiently listened to my problems. They got school fees of sh60000 for the school going one.”
Today Okori peels fresh cowpeas and beans besides selling sweets on the roadside to be able to cater for her budding family.
Baby defiled by father
Akite Jamila Owuni’s
“My husband asked me to go and pick some clothes from his friend in the neighbourhood,” recalls Sharon. “But when I returned I found the child crying endlessly. I summoned the neighbor for help. When she tried to bath the baby is when we saw blood oozing out of her private parts.”
Sharon ran to the Local Council leader who forwarded the case to Uganda Police. There she was checked and found defiled by the Police surgeon.
“That is the point when a friend told me to go to ActionAid shelter for help,” narrates Sharon. “We were sheltered until the baby got well. But the man is still free
The Pallisa District Community Development Officer Dawson Wamire says they are doing their best to contain Gender-Based Violence but remain challenged by shortage of resources and an entrenched culture of violence against women in the populace.
“We have male campaign agents preaching the gospel of couples living in harmony but there is need for the Police to investigate reported cases to the end or we risk losing trust from the victims. The idea of victims providing fuel to the cops to reach a given destination is keeping many people away.”
The Probation Officer John Michael Okwalinga concurs. He says that they currently have more than 115 cases reported and being handled.
“This is in addition to numerous more cases reported at The Shelter and The Police Station by victims who now know what to do when violated,” says Okwalinga. “The more reason I am of the view that The Shelter is still relevant in the district.”
Additionally, he says that so far they have more than 115 reported cases. There are similar numbers reported in the Shelter and Family Unit at the Police Station as well.
“The Shelter serves to protect the victims,” says Okwalinga. “The type of GBV varies from one perpetrator to another. There is a man who ordered his wife to breastfeed his puppies. The woman was salvaged by the Shelter. Another man chopped off a piece of flesh from the thigh of his wife to concoct some fetish.
On the same note,ActionAid International Uganda (AAIU) is hailed by the Women Empowerment Officer RitahNanyonga who revealed how they have launched a concerted campaign to sensitize GBV victims on their rights. This is besides, as a preventive measure, enabling them to generate income because poverty is the major cause of GBV.
“Economic dependence on men makes the women very vulnerable,” says Nanyonga. “Through talk shows, we train women to generate income through saving schemes, reporting cases of abuse to the Police and reversing the archaic cultural practices. This has since increased the volume of cases being reported at the Police Station and the Probation Office.”
The Shelter Project Officer Stella Rose Atunyo says the major causes of GBV in Pallisa are: poverty, cultural beliefs, and neglect. The shelter, which happens to be one of the first ones in the country, serves the three districts of Kibuku, Pallisa, and Ngora.
“The victims are given accommodation for between three to thirty days where they are assured of security, privacy, shelter, health care, and legal aid,” says Atunyo. “In the six rooms with nine beds, they are rehabilitated, mediated, reconciled, resettled and counseled.”
The most prevalent cases are: child neglect, land ownership disputes, defilement, rape, and unwanted pregnancies.
“This is one place with a diversity of tribes comprising of: Bagwere, Iteso and Banyole who share one unwritten belief that women have no right to own land,” reveals Atunyo. “Worse still, as most of the community is trapped in poverty, when it comes to education, the boys are given first priority as the girls are prepared for marriage.”
This is made worse by the randy lifestyles of the fishing community on the shores of Lake Kyoga.
“They are mobile because they keep migrating where the fish catch is high,” stresses Atunyo. “In the process, they leave behind single mothers aged between 18-25 years. The place is overwhelmed by needy single mothers.”
The Psychosocial Officer Catherine Tusiime revealed that efforts being undertaken to prevent GBV and to reconcile the victims with the perpetrators is evidently bearing fruit since it started in 2012.
“Some warring couples have been reconciled and are now living together in harmony,” said Tumusiime. “Others have been given what had been denied them when their marriage split. And wife battering and inheritanceare some of the practices that are reducing as the law practitioners, religious and cultural leaders in the area embark on the effort to de-campaign them.”
Police Child and Family Protection Unit Officer Margaret Akiding says the district is experiencing different forms of Gender Based Violence as a result of promiscuity, poverty/dependence, cultural norms, and harvest season consequences.
“Some men deny their families maintenance and elope with other women,” says Akiding. “This happens mostly during the harvest season when they have money they got after selling rice, potatoes, and beans. They often return home broke during the planting season.”
This is a time when they are polite to their spouses and children because they need them to provide labor while opening up gardens, planting, weeding and harvesting the crop.
The cultural leader of the Babulanga clan Umar Nduga says archaic practices like girls not having the right to inherit property, to own land, denial to eat eggs and chicken, etc, are being reversed. The only challenge their pooled efforts face is the lack of transport to reach the entire Pallisa especially the underprivileged areas.
“Corruption is the major obstacle to fighting GBV as the officer in various offices are often compromised by the perpetrators giving then hefty sums of cash,” said Nduga. “This puts the less privileged victims at a disadvantage either in the Courts of law or at the Police Stations.”
Consequently, all the chiefs are now sensitized about GBV, human rights and the legal implications of perpetrating GBV.
Child Protection Family Protection Unit Margaret Akidingadds that there are a variety of GBV practices in Pallisaperpetrated by both men and women.
“They comprise: physical, economic, sexual and psychological practices,” says Akiding. “This occurs especially during the harvest season when the cereals are sold and husbands spend the money on beer and marrying second or third wives.”
The biggest hurdle in fighting GBV is when victims abandon the pursuit of their cases halfway and opt to reconcile. Shortly after, they return reporting the same abuse.
Male Champions transforming behavior
Stanslus Omukude Okale,53, of OpwatetaSub-county, is a GBV male Champion spreading the gospel against the dreaded practice. He is a role model husband whose duty is to advise warring couples to live together in harmony.
“The first change agents are the cultural leaders, Local Government, religious leaders and the Police who need sensitization about GBV,” says Omukude. “With the pooled efforts, the practice can be reduced. The cases are followed up lest the perpetrators repeat them.”
Separation conflict resolved
Margaret Auruga (28), Apapa Larak village, Oloki sub County
She had a marital problem with her husband called Faustino Otimong who was working in Entebbe. He began beating her. The frequency of fights increased as time went on until they separated.
That is when I heard on the radio about the services of the AAIU Shelter. I reported my ordeal. Otimong was summoned but proved very rude even to the cops, the religious and clan leaders. My last resort was the Shelter.
This was in 1998 when, with the help of the lawyers, he was summoned in Court. The ruling had it that I should be given a portion of the land we had got during our nine years of marriage.
Today, I am happy with a place to farm and I operate a food kiosk called Star Hotel by the Taxi Park in Pallisa town. We talk with Otimong but stay worlds apart from each other.
Ex husband returns to marry off daughters
Christine Acanit(38), Agule Sub County,
I was married to Steven Okode with whom we had five children. Soon he was chasing us away from a piece of land we had been staying on. I managed to educate the children single-handedly but when one of my girls was in S.1 at 14 years of age, he opted to have her married to a man of his choice.
Now,our younger daughter Christine Acan, 13, who is in P.6 is afraid the same might happen to her. And yet he divorced me for giving birth to girls only. All he wants is to get dowry and satisfy his economic needs from their spouses. What happens to them thereafter is none of his business.
I do odd jobs like weeding, planting and harvesting people’s gardens to be able to fend for my children. We live in three grass-thatched huts. We are thankful to AAIU for saving us when our breadwinner abandoned us.
Today all I am missing are farm inputs and capital to improve my harvest. Climate Change is also making agriculture very unpredictable. But I have a place the family can call home.
Hope after years of rejection
Norah Akiteng(75),Kalaki Sub County has reason to beam with smiles of satisfaction after getting her rights to a piece of land, that had been grabbed by relatives of her dead husband.
“We had four children now aged between 20 - 31. But he had some other children with another woman. After his death, they wanted us off the land. If it was not the intervention of AAIU, I would be homeless today,” said Akiteng. “I was given legal advice and told about my legal rights to own the property with my biological children. Good enough, I got it.”
This follows the Shelter’s effort to save me from being destitute. I advise any woman trapped in a situation like mine to seek advice from the AAIU Shelter. They do not charge you anything for the services provided.
The LC5 Christine Apolot hails the Shelter for a good it is doing to accommodate, give psychosocial support and mediate between couples.“Local Government lacks the resources, expertise and facilities to offer the services that the Shelter is offering today,” says Apolot. “Our tax base is too low to facilitate the Shelter and yet given the concerted campaigns against GBV, more cases are being reported by the aggrieved.”
Corruption, according to Apolot, is crippling the GBV fight as some stakeholders in the health sector and Uganda Police are compromised by the perpetrators who give them bribes and the case stalls without justice being delivered.
“Trapped in poverty and hard-to-reach areas, many victims lose interest in following up the case after dragging on for long,” stressed Apolot. “But we are seeing attitudes changing tremendously among the populace. The number of calls from the audience during talk shows, is amazing.”
District Community Development Officer Alex Okiringi says GBV is as old as mankind in KumiDistrict where: early marriages, poverty, cultural norms, and poor access to resources are rampant.
“Traditionally, women in Teso do not own or inherit land when their parents or spouses die,” says Okirigi. “Women need economic empowerment if they are to stop depending on men for their livelihood. It makes them a burden, and compared to children, as shopping list providers.”
Teddy AngellaAkello AAIU Psychosocial Support Officer says all is well in Kumi until the harvest season arrives. GBV is on a steady increase in Kumi as more cases are being reported, mediated and resolved. The challenge in the district is low funding which can’t cover the entire district to enable the community to be sensitized about their rights through talk shows.
“We have a very low tax base,” says Akello. “This leaves our hands tied when it comes to facilitating the services required by the victims. The situation is being made worse by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, archaic cultural practices and beliefs.”
Akello says the Shelter remains very relevant in supporting the victims of GBV besides halting those that are likely to be committed in the future.
“The elders, cops and local leaders have all been sensitized and see GBV through a different lens,” said Akello. “But change does not happen overnight. It is a gradual process. It might take decades.”
The Project Officer Kumi Joyce Ajilong sums up by saying that there are different ways in which GBV is manifesting lately.
“Widows and orphans are the biggest culprits especially where girls are never allowed to inherit land,” says Ajilong. “Regardless of their HIV status or will, they are forced to be inherited by the relatives of the dead man in continuity. Many women find themselves trapped and emotionally challenged.”
Lesson learned the hard way
Solomon Obela, 37, a petty trader, fell in love with another woman called Atim Deborah in addition to his wife Vicky Epodoi. The marriage got so strained that his wife had to walk out of their marital home and return to her parent’s home.
“I left my children, gardens of groundnuts, beans, potatoes, and livestock,” recalls Epodoi. “My husband Obela was made to pay a fine of five cows for eloping with a married woman. He paid and replaced me with her. My four children were underfed, their grades at school dropped and they were mistreated for two years.”
Epodoi heard about the services rendered by the AAIU Shelter and approached the officials in Kumi.
“I was accommodated for three days as Teddy Akello, the Psychosocial support officer, listened to my plight,” recounts Apodoi with nostalgia. “To cut the long story short, Obela was also summoned and we were reconciled. He no longer wanted his new wife and requested me to return home.”
She later returned to her home but on condition that, he builds her a new house, furnishes it and buys a new mattress and cutlery.
Today, the couple is happily living together in the new family house. They have bought a motorbike, which earns the family some income in addition to what is got from subsistence farming.
“We hope to wed in Church, educate our children and live ever so happy as husband and wife,” said the repentant husband Obela.
Disability no inability
Harriet Adikili, 58, is a disabled survivor in Asinget village in Tisai Sub County; where her land was being grabbed by some unscrupulous relatives who connived with officials to manipulate her land title leaving her and the three sons destitute.
“I approached the NUDIPU officials and the Police but got no help,” recalls Akiding. “Not until I was referred to AAIU Uganda Shelter in Kumi did I board a boat, motorbike, and a bicycle to go to Kumi to have my problem resolved.”
She was given legal services, transported to and from Tisai, besides being helped to see the right officials to address her concern.
“My nephew, who had manipulated the documents, was summoned and she apologized for having manipulated the title to belong to the IkariBwok clan instead of myself. I appreciate the services rendered to me by AAIU. They did everything possible to help me salvage my property of 40 acres.”
She celebrates her sons Samuel Okwi, Lazarus Okwi, and David Emorutfor having something to inherit when she passes on.
GBV victim becomes counselor
Leah Acom, 44, is a living example of a GBV survivor who has risen to the top, to the utter admiration of her former abuser Charles Osere.
“What brought about the problem was my cervix ailment,” recounts Acom. “My husband could not wait for me to heal but instead rushed to marry another woman. To marry a second wife, according to his tradition, required carrying out some rituals.”
Being a practicing Christian,Acom declined to be a party to the ritual.
“They threatened me that I risked being struck to death by lightning!” recalls Acom. “That is when the entire clan converged on me to evict me from their midst or their relative risks his dear life.”
She was once almost killed whenher grass-thatched hut was torched but she escaped narrowly after pouring water on the flames.
“To cut the long story short, I was sent away without anything,” recounts Acom. “I went and rented one room in Kumi town serving as the bedroom, kitchen and living room. I left with my children who were also threatened with poison if left behind.”
The single wrap she wore at day time doubles as a sheet to sleep within the night. However, Acom heard about the AAIU Shelter from which she benefited with psychosocial support.
“To regain my confidence and self-worth, I was counseled for two days,” recalls Acom. “Today I am a counselor and educating my children in Entebbe. I am a single parent and also taking care of my widowed mother in her old age.”
Land rescued by the Shelter
Hellen Among, 50,of Ogasian village,Kibale sub-county in PallisaDistrict, beams with smiles of satisfaction after she got back land that had been grabbed from her by unscrupulous relatives.
“They left me and my eight children without anything when our loved one passed on,” reveals Among. “Efforts to seek the services of a lawyer did not bear fruit as they dragged on for a long time and proved very expensive for me.”
It was AAIU through the Shelter that came to her rescue. They got her legal services, right from filing the case, to its conclusion without charging her any money. Today, she is happy in her modest home with gardens blossoming with cassava, maize, and potatoes.
“I can now go to my grave sure that my sons and a daughter have some property to fall back to when faced by hard times in their lives,” confides Among. “People like me are very many out there – we still need the Shelter.”
The Katakwi District Local Government signed a Memorandum of understating with AAIU to coordinate and address the challenges faced in fighting GBV, according to the senior gender officer, Mr. Steven Opio.
“There is still alot that is desired in the community where the rights of women and children continue to be abused,” lamented Opio. “Unfortunately, our hands are tied financially to do what the Shelter does such as offering psychosocial support to the victims, giving them a home and food when need be.”
He said the number of land conflicts is on a steady rise and the oppressed are always the women and their children.
“When one refuses to be inherited,” says Opio, she and the orphans are given marching orders out of the property that was theirs while their father lived. Good enough, AAIU is giving the victims skills to sell in a competitive market and sensitizing not only the conservative elders but the law makers and keepers.”
The OC Katakwi Police Station Peter Oduko says their work would be crippled if AAIU pulls out of supporting the services of the Shelter.
“The Shelter is the link between the victims and the law keepers,” said Oduko. “They enable rape and defilement victims, who are on the increase, to get medical checkup to get evidencein Court.”
Oduko says GBV cases shoot up when the men have money usually after the harvest season. This when they go on beer-drinking sprees, marry more wives or indulge in extramarital affairs.
“They get back to their senses when it is another planting season,” explains Oduko. “But this is after neglecting their families for a long time.”
Justice for the less endowed
NusuraAnyait, 58,is the mother of five children in Opedongor village, Odot parish in Palam Sub County, who had her life threatened by a man she had lent sh600, 000. The case dragged on in court until she felt it was a waste of time and resources. Her tormentor went on to grab her two acres of land as well and break down her house.
“As a single mother, I was powerless but thank God I learned about the services of AAIU and went there in 2016,” recounts Anyait. “My enemy was summoned and our dispute was resolved. Today we have reconciled and live within the same neighborhood amicably.”
He was made to pay the money owed and to reconstruct the damaged house. Anyait is now happily settled on her land where she plants groundnuts, sorghum, cassava, and potatoes.
“If it was not for AAIU,” recalls Anyait, today I would be a pauper.”
Saved from alcholism
Josephine Achom(65) in Palan village Amorwongora sub-county, a mother of eight children, is a typical example of what rural women go through when relationships go sour. She had become the talk of the village when day after day she resorted to consuming beer and fighting to survive.
“I did odd jobs to fend for my eight children after their father abandoned us,” recalls Achom. “To make matters worse, there was rebellion in the village. We migrated to Soroti town where I brewed millet beer to earn a living. We returned to the village after the cost of living got so high in town.”
Growing up in an Internally Displaced Camp came with its challenges on the morals and upbringing of her sons.
“One of them became a total mess like me,” laments Achom. “He would drink beer and fight even armed UPDF officers on duty when they crossed his path. It was at this point that I learned of the AAIU shelter and sought advice. That is when I was counseled and helped to rebuild my life.”
Today, the family grows groundnuts, and boast of havinganimals and poultry. The sons are doing casual jobs in the village to supplement their income from selling what they harvest.
“Ours was the biggest IDP with more than 150 homesteads with a population of about 600 people,” recalls Achom. “The children grew up believing in sports betting to earn a living. When the money is lost in gambling they would seek solace in drinking beer. Young girls too were forced into prostitution.”
Music Dance and Drama fights GBV
Tumtum Drama Group in Katakwi is ably fighting GBV through entertaining the community. The mobile group is common in markets, burial ceremonies and other public gatherings where they sensitize the public about the dangers.
“We are campaigning GBV and the spread of HIV in the community,” says Steven Etiboi. “We link hands: with communities, institutions, civil society, and the Government to promote the rights of women and girls so as to create safer, healthier, and happier relationships, homes and communities.”
The group, which is supported by CEDOVIP, has the aim of bringing about change in the attitudes, behavior, and practices that perpetuate Violence Against Women and Girls (VAW/G) in the communities.
“Here, we have a movement battling violence against women and girls in the district,” said the OC station Peter Odako. “The drama helps drive the message home as the judiciary and Police also play their roles.”
On stage at a former IDP camp called MoruNgora, the group captivated the audience with its skits, which made many laugh and cry in equal proportions. The cast of about 30 used their clothes as the costumes and plastic cans as pots to de-campaign alcoholism.
“The men drink and dance themselves lame,” said a commentator. “Only to return home asking for foodthat they never bought and when served vegetables they beat the wife saying they wanted beef or chicken…”
The coordinator MIFUMI Moroto Dinah AdupaLorika says they have removed cultural obstacles since they began operations in 2018 and the number of reports is shooting up on a steady pace.
“There are marriage breakups reconciled, forced marriages involving underage or unwilling victims have been resolved,” said Adupo. “There is quite a big change in what was a love for cows(dowry) being much more important than the life of their daughters.”
Adupo points out that change in Karamoja is facing some hurdles when it comes to practices like female genital mutilation.
“While it is outlawed in Uganda,” confides Adupo,the girls escape into Kenya where it is allowed and then return after being mutilated. It has become a hide and seek issue.”
Assistant Inspector of Police, Joseph Oumo admits that GBV in Moroto is as bad as it was among the conservative Karimojong men who took their wives as property after they have paid the high bride price.
“Here in Karamoja, a woman has no say like children when it comes to decision-making in the homestead,” says Oumo. “A woman’s work is to produce food and children. If she leaves her marital home – then her family is challenged to refund the dowry. Today it stands at ten for twenty-five cows,” he says.
The same animals are used for the bride’s brothers to marry. This implies that if divorced from an abusive relationship, it would economically impact the entire family.
“Arranged marriages are still the order of the day in Moroto,” revealed Oumo. “A teenager can be married off to a man who is more than 70 years old so long as he can afford the dowry. We recently saved a girl from Nadunget Primary School from such an arranged marriage. She is destined to sit for her Primary Leaving Examinations and dreams of becoming a nurse.”
The Community Development Officer Paul Mickey agrees that GBV is still rampant in Karamoja where the perpetrators do it and seek refuge in very hard to reach areas on top of the mountain.
“These men are very polite and loving when sober,” says Mickey. “But after consuming beer, they become warriors and turn their spouses into punching bags. We have a woman whose eye was punched and permanently destroyed by a drunken husband. This was followed by the breaking of her foot after 30 days.”
Miki Paul Lokeru ,the Community Development Officer, says the area needs the Shelter more than when it was first initiated. This is because as the communities learn about their rights, the cases reported just have to increase.
The most reported cases comprise child neglect, early child marriage arrangements and forced labor at gold mining areas like Tapac and Rupa, according toLokeru. “The community still needs sensitization about HIV/AIDS, dialogue between spouses and conservative cultural practices,” he says.
Emmanuel Risa Bole, the Women Economic Empowerment Officer, says that traditionally, the cows belong to men in the Karimojong setting. The women, who are seen to be equal to children, may own goats and chicken.
Revolutionizing the empowerment of women in Karamoja, women are being equipped with income generating activities that make them assets on the family income.
“Previously men have been very loving when it is time to open up land, plant crops, weed or harvest,” said Bole. “When it is harvest time or selling the produce they chase away their wives and marry second wives.”
“What is needed is strengthening the economic power of the women as done by the restocking exercises where even women were given cows,” said Bole. “For the first time in the Karamoja, history women now own cows. They even take them to the markets for sale or go to buy them.”
Girl rescued from early marriage
Maritina Longok, 16, Atedeo village, Mogoth parish, Rupa sub county
I love SST and Science. My dream of becoming a nurse nearly failed when I heard news of my arranged marriage. I feared to tell my best teacher Enoch Ediara and went straight to the AAIU office. There I was given accommodation for three days as my parents in Atedesi village were contacted.
My father Paul Nyangilo and MotherRukiaNyangilo have accepted to take me back to school. Next week I am sitting for my PLE. I thank AAIU for their intervention.
Mother of eight blinded by abusive husband
CiciliaLopuwa 30, married with five children, LuburiakweVillage, Nadunget Sub County
I was beaten by my husband Lowu with whom we have eight children. One of eyes got damaged and I am now one-eyed. Recently he again came back drunk and beat me till he broke my leg.
I fear to leave his home in LoburAkwoManyata because of him going back to claim for his dowry. I wish the Government can save me from being killed by this man who says he can do anything with me since I am his property. I fear one day he will beat me until I die. He does not even take me for medical attention. It is my brother Loduck who does it. All my husband does is to just come back asking for sex.
Spouse choice beats forced marriage
Regina Abong 19, Mogos village
Was forced into a marriage with LokoriKem, 72, in Looya village in Rupa sub-county but he made love to her twice in the two years of their marriage. Unlike my peers, I failed to conceive and became a laughing stock among my friends and the village. I was the topic on market days, at the well and during village ceremonies.
When I went back home, I was brutally beaten by my brother who had used the dowry of 30 cows, that my husband had paid to marry a wife. He told me that I now have no space in my parent’s home. This left me feeling trapped until AAIU came to my rescue. After the case was reported to Kidepo Police Post, I left the old man. Today I live with my the husband of my choice LoteMaruk, and we have a baby. Good enough, my parents and elders are okay with my decision after they were advised.
We dream of having more babies and living a life without violation of each other's rights. I thank MIFUMI for enabling us be what we are today.
Girl rescued from arranged marriage
Ngoya Pasha from Lokal Village was a victim of forced marriage to a man called Kidong aged 72 years. To her dismay, her peers who got married at the same time reproduced babies and bragged about it when they met while fetching firewood in the bushes or water at the borehole.
“The man-made love to me only two times in two years of our marriage,” recounts Ngoya. “Somehow, there was very litte in common between us. That why I chose to return to our family home but my brother beat me up when I got there.”
He chased her to go back to her marital home or risk the family missing a fortune by paying back the bride price of 30 cows paid by her husband.
“Fortunately, I heard about the services of MIFUMI and went there instead of going back to the failed marriage,” narrates Ngole. “My family and I were summoned to meet my abandoned husband. A solution was reached and his cows were paid back by MIFUMI.”
Today, victorious Ngoya 18 is searching for a husband of her choice.
According to the Kween Assistant Police Inspector, community Liason officer Fredmark Chesang, cases of Gender-Based Violence are dropping compared to what it was five years ago. He attributes it to a sensitized populace and combined efforts between law enforcement, civil society and the Ministry of Gender and Labor.
“But the challenges of the hard-to-reach terrain remain in place,” says Chesang. “For example, a case may be reported in Kween. This is made worse when there is a need to gather information to file a given case when the Police force is short of transport to access a given area for investigations. Worse still, after putting in so much time and resources, the complainants often withdraw their case before it is concluded.”
Cases of genital mutilation are rarely talked about but they are still secretly being done in neighboring Kenya. According to the Kween Shelter Project Officer Marie Lwanga, the Police, elders and cultural leaders are working as a team to fight GBV.
“Previously education was a preserve for the boy child and the girls dropped out of school,” observes Lwanga. “But the trend has taken a dramatic turn for the better though there is still a high incidence of human rights abuse in the community where we have to date handled more than 3,700 cases from an initial 2012 registered.”
Luckily, women are evidently enjoying better rights than their ancestors did before. Unfortunately, the Shelter has limited space to contain the ever-swelling numbers of victims. Some are given seed capital to engage in income-generating activities like piggery, poultry, and livestock.
“They now own property. The only problem is that the Shelter can serveonly 14 out of the 35 sub-counties,” said Lwanga. “We give those we receive some first aid, refer them to Police if need be or have them handled by the empowerment officer.”
The Kween District Planner Robert Mangusho says the area is facing the incidence of Gender-Based Violence which makes the Shelter still important in the community.
“Besides, victims are secretly going for Female Genital Mutilation in Kenya and returning later being mutilated. There are many who are denied their inheritance rights of the husband’s land when they pass on, arranged marriages are still a common practice,” says Mangusho. “Therefore, the Shelter is not only relevant but we need it replicated in other parts of the district to take services closer to the victims.”
Additionally, he says this is the more reason the Local Government has solicited funds and is in the process of constructing a similar facility.
“For 20 years, ActionAid has gathered experience in prevention and response to Gender-Based Violence here by designing and implementing the Women Won’t Wait (WWW) campaign aimed at addressing the intersection of HIV infection and violence against women and girls,” saysMangusho. “This is what gave birth to the piloting of Women Protection Centre (WPC.)”
The results and experiences from the pilot deeply informed DFID’s support in the establishment of seven sheltersKween inclusive.
“The Kween Gender Based Violence Shelters project greatly contributes to SURGE (Strengthening Uganda’s Response to Gender Equality), a four-year program (2016 -2020), that is supported by DFID,” stressed Mangusho.
James Cheptarar is a male model who is helping to change the attitudes of the community. He recalls hearing the campaign against GBV and taking keen interest in it.
“After engaging with lawyers, psychosocial workers, and religious leaders, I was able to take the mantle to battle GBV,” recounts Cheptarar. “Soon, we had mobilized and recruited 65 clan leaders to preach the anti-GBV ‘gospel.’ Together we do follow up of victims who report their cases.”
He sums up by saying that there is a drastic change in attitudes but it will take some time to realize a total transformation.
“We actually need more Shelters to contain the swelling number of reported cases,” said Cheptarar.
Blind widow sees hope
Jennifer Yamangusho 67, no child, Binyinyi Village in Kasange ward
I got married in 1971 but produced no child for my husband George Sokitol who was a parish chief. Unfortunately, he fell sick and died. I was denied a share of his property. I approached the Police and Courts of law and Probation Office but got no response.
I approached the ActionAid Gender Based Violence Shelter, which counseled me, my husband’s other two wives and the relatives. We sat on a round table and that is when the sons accepted to give some money (sh1million) for my upkeep. I used the money to buy some land on which I grow crops today but I lost my eyesight and this has limited my movements and the nature of the business I can do.
Now I stay with my aging mother where we farm beans, vegetables, maize, Irish potatoes, and brew millet beer. With us lives an extended family of four kids.
Juliet Chemayek, 45, widowed with 4 Children, from Chemuron village in Benet Sub County
I got married to Steven Yesho in 1990 but as bad luck would have it, he died three years later in 1993. The family members rushed to grab the four acres of land we lived on and destroyed our house. I was left homeless with our sons. That is when I decided to go back and stay with my parents in Kewaarwan village for 19 years.
It was while I was there when I heard about the services of AAIU and the Shelter on the local FM radio. I remembered how I was denied inheritance of what we had worked for together. Worse still, even the biological children of my late husband got nothing.
I submitted my complaint to the Shelter and it was handled. They visited the contested piece of land, summoned my in-laws and the clan leaders. By 2017, we were reconciled. I have since been given a portion of what was grabbed from us by panga-wielding relatives. I have brewed beer, planted potatoes, and cereals, which I sold and built a house. We are happy as a family and dream of a better life for me and our children: Chemutai Doreen, Patrick Ayeko, Philomena Yoko and Sunday Nicholas.
Family disowns mother of girls
Claudia Chemutai, 67, from Rwakoi village in Kaptoi sub-county was married to a polygamous husband but only produced girls while her co-wives had sons.
“When our husband called Samuel Cheromit died,” recalls Chemutai, “I was left destitute with my daughters because in Sabin culture girls do not inherit anything when their father passes on. That is how the sons took everything and left us empty-handed.”
Chemutai went to the Shelter to report her ordeal. All the12 siblings including girls were summoned and reconciled. After mediation, it was agreed to give her five acres of land and cash. Today, she is full of joy.
“Today, I am able to raise my head in public because of the assistance rendered from the Shelter,” confides Chemutai. “Otherwise the heir Kalakwan was selling off all the deceased’s property and educating his children forgetting and completely ignoring his sisters!”
The Deputy RDC, Francis Adiang, says the Shelter with seven beds is too small as the numbers of victims who need help is on the increase. The most common problems include land disputes, witchcraft and archaic cultural practices.
“There is a many cases of rape and defilement in Nebbi during the grasshopper season, which often has people going out in the night to catch them,” says Adiang. “Worse still, the ratio of unwanted pregnancies is on the increase as more men engage in binge drinking.”
The AlurExecutive Secretary Alur kingdom Valentine Oyukutu says the Shelter is doing a commendable job to halt GBV in the area.
“The Shelter is more needed now than before now that the victims learned about its existence,” said Oyukutu. “All that is needed is for the Police to improve on the management and investigation of the cases to the end.”
Allan Keraliis a male champion who is satisfied when he is able to see a couple reconcile and live together in harmony.
“It is my challenge to bring to their notice that household chores and economic emancipation is not the duty of women,” says Kerali. “I urge them to work together when opening up land, sowing. Weeding and harvesting. But most of all budgeting together after selling the produce.’
He says men are in the habit of sharing the labour when planting and weeding but when it comes to budgeting after selling the harvest it they're sole responsibility.
“They marry second wives or go drinking beer and gambling,” points out Kerali
LC1 Rogers Owekmu of Pabelo Village in Mbaro Parish says there is a spate of witchcraft-related misunderstanding in the community.
“When someone falls sick or has their business ventures failing,” says Owekmu. “They put the blame on relatives or friends who do not wish them well.”
Talking about the challenges in the fight against GBV,Owekmu says its practice is culturally-ingrained in the community. Some men blame their wives for “tying” after indulging in extramarital affairs and they fail to function sexually.
A psychosocial supporter Grace Madit says the most common problem reported by spouses is child neglect. She says people produce very many children and end up economically challenged to fend for them.
“The cost of living is too high,” says Madit. “Given the small income from subsistence farming, one cannot feed, dress and accommodate six children on their meager income. What they do is to run away from responsibility and leave the burden on their wives.”
He argues that trapped in such circumstances, the victims will have no fallback position should the Shelter close.
“As we preach to them to raise a family not a fist, the Shelter remains crucial for mental solace and a place to stay as they decide on the next move in their lives besides being equipped with income-generating skills,” says Madit. “The Shelter remains fundamentally relevant in our community.”
Reunion after mediation
Beatrice Oyangein Panyango District and gave birth to 10 children. Nine of them leaving her with only one. After 28 years in marriage, she started noticing a change in her husband. He became increasingly promiscuous.
“For fear of being infected with HIV, I vacated our marital home and went back to stay with my parents,” recounts Payange. “Nobody could believe I had left a marriage after 28 years.” While there, she met a male championto whom she narrated her plight and he promised to help.
The couple has since been mediated and reconciled. They are living in harmony as peasant farmers. Their gardens are blossoming with cassava, sorghum, and fruits. They keep some livestock and poultry.
Godfrey Achola says the condition he was given for his wife to return to him was that he had to be faithful and not neglecting the family.
“We intend to build a permanent house for the family and to educate our children to high standards of education,” says Achola. “I advise men who are having disagreements with their spouses to give it a second chance. Never give up.”
Rescued by the Shelter
Isabel Akello, 67,had her world crumble before her when her father died and her brothers took possession of all the family property. They sold off most of the family land that he had left behind and asked the girls to go to their husbands.
“I heard about the services of the Shelter and sought their indulgence,” recounts Akello. “The boys were summoned and counseled. That is how I got some five acres, on which I built my huts and plant my crops today. If it was not for The Shelter, I would be homeless today.”
Economically empowered woman
Georgina Adok,the wife of AngelloAzonga, sells beans in the market. Their marriage nearly fell apart as the man had the habit of over drinking beer and returning back home late to embark on battering her.
“When I reported my case to the Shelter, he was summoned. Mysteriously, he stopped drinking. It is as if we have just met,” confides Adok. “We are looking forward to having a Church wedding and looking after our three children.”
The successful reconciliation between Adok and the retired soldier Ozonga took the intervention of counselors, the judiciary and the Police.
Salvaged from witchcraft accusation
Florence Akumu, 55, from Jupanja village in Nebbi Municipality, has seven children with her husband Wani, 64.Unfortunately two years ago she was accused of being a witch responsible for the regular occurrence of diseases among the community members.
“This followed a neighbor's daughter called Faith falling sick and having hallucinations,” recounts Akumu. “She would talk intelligible things in her stupor. The soothsayer said she had put the blame of being possessed by evil spirits on me.”
Like fate would have it, Akumu was dreaded by all the neighbors until her in-laws asked her to vacate her marital home.
“It was at that time that I got wind about the services of The Shelter,” recalls Akumu. “I went there. They summoned all the parties. Today the girl does not have any seizures and the entire community lives in harmony.”
OgoroPii Clan leader Dennis Lemoi attributes GBV to women being regarded as assets after paying dowry for them.
“Like our forefathers, there are men who still think that educating a girl is a waste of resources,” said Lemoi. “Worse still, they are still denied opportunities to inherit their father’s property when they pass on. I appreciate the work being done by AAIU in changing the mindsets of our elders, cultural leaders and society as a whole.”
Practices like a woman being denied burial until the dowry has been paid are being renounced in the strongest terms possible and the raising of men to be rough with women is being denounced.
The Project officer GBV Shelter Amuru Josephine Laker says the number of defilement, rape and land dispute cases keep shooting up as the populace get to know what they can do to check cultural imbalances.
“For example widows who have been threatened with violence because of property inherited by relatives is being checked,” said Laker. “Being fresh from the violence of LRA people returning from IDP camps find their land grabbed or sold.”
Used to handout from NGOs most people are reluctant to cultivate crops for their upkeep.
“We are linking hands with the Police, Judiciary and heakth service providers to improve the status quo,” said Laker. “Better still cases like the man who burned his wife’s private parts is serving a term in jail others are being investigated.”
Mother set on fire by abusive husband
Faida Irene, 40, in Pailei Parish in Kololo center lost her first husband and married another Milton Lemako in 2009. Shortly after that, he started beating her and hurling insults at her.
The worst was when he started having sex with me when our children from a previous marriage were watching. This climaxed in getting a bundle of grass, setting it on fire and asking me to undress. He then put the flames on my private parts.
I got terrible burns whose scars still hurt today. AAIU learned about my plight and came to my rescue. They took me to Lacor Hospital for treatment. This was in addition to fighting for my land whose ownership he wanted to change to his name. He was taken to prison for assaulting me and is still serving a term of more than seven years.
AAIU is still battling to recover my 30 acres of land that he unlawfully sold to a Police Officer called Oyo. I need to look after my four sons who I am bringing up as a single mother. Life is not easy especially now that even the climate is very unpredictable. We have a common occurrence of floods and droughts. The rain pattern has changed.
Girl’s youthfulness exploited to cure HIV
Sharon Atimango, 14, formerly of Peckiceke Primary School.
I have not yet celebrated my 17th birthdaybut I have a baby I got when a witchdoctor lured me into her house and forced me to have sex with her husband. They believe he will be cured of HIV/AIDS by having sex with virgins like me.
There are some four boys who hunt for the girls and drag them into the woman’s shrine. In my position, I do not know whether I am going to live long enough to care for this child. I do not know whether to love the baby or not. It disturbs me in the night when I go to bed. It is a constant reminder of the torture I went through while being forced into submission.
I thank AAIU for the good job done in counseling me to cope with the challenges in my life today. I feel sad seeing my former classmates going to school. I miss the play, storytelling, and learning I used to get at school
Shelter Psychosocial support Alice Kipwola says the Shelter is equipped with 13 beds to accommodate victims of GBV and their children. Gulu remains challenged to change the negative cultures and practices that are entrenched in the populace.
“We have trained 95 men to serve as positive masculine role models to denounce polygamy, promiscuity and wife beating,” said Kipwola.
Detective Moses Ayar at Gulu Police Station says there are many men who are still insulting the modesty of women.
“Much as the force is determined to reduce the incidence, we are limited by resources, manpower, and cultural beliefs,” observed Ayar. “People fear retribution from relatives where cases of either rape or defilement are reported and the perpetrator is imprisoned.”
Rape victim gets justice
Agnes Apio (Mary not real name)22
I live in Koch Ongako village in Bobi Sub-county I was raped by two thugs when I went out for a short call in the night. This happened when I had accompanied my cousin to sell a cow so as to raise money to sit for my O Level examinations. I had lost my father in 1996 and my mother in 2004.
They left me almost dying from suffocation after holding my mouth for hours on end as they raped me in turns. It was a passersby who saved me. The Police came and investigated the case after the Shelter came to my aid. The men were arrested and sentenced to prison. But the memory is as fresh as if it happened yesterday. I contemplated committing suicide. I felt as if life was not worth living.
The Shelter footed my bills to sit for the examinations. When the results came back, I had scored 11 points and I could not believe it. I eventually completed my course at Kyambogo University. Today, I am a secretary in the office of an MP.
Sports Outreach in Koro
Aber Feddy, 16, has a light clay complexion. Her face splits into a smile upon seeing even a stranger. She whispers “Hello” before protectively crossing her arms on her chest. After mediating through her keepers, she braces to narrate an ordeal that has transformed her life; in no words but expression. Tear beads begin running down her cheeks. Her chest rises and falls with each breath.
To make her peaceful, social workers Eunice Lapolo takes us aside and tells us the spine-chilling experience Apio went through.
“Today, she is a social and hardworking girl,” starts Lapolo. “But she has mood swings after she was taken as a house help by a policeman whose wife was a teacher. The man started abusing her until she conceived. He took her for an abortion when the fetus was four months old. Later, he wanted to continue having sex with her.”
This made Apio escape without any money and trek the long journey up to the Gulu bus park where she looked for means of transport to take her to her aunty in Amwa.
“It was while there that a sympathizer got her and took her to a Police Post who later referred her to the Shelter where she lived for three days before being transferred to the Sports center.
Nancy Akidi the Psychosocial Officer, says the frequency of GBV is on the increase in a post war area, which is also a patriarchal society where men are regarded as supreme and women are subservient. The reported cases declined from 189 in 2018just 82 in 2019.
“This is because the community appreciates the services of the Shelter despite having a few beds for the victims and their children,” says Akidi. “We make sure they feed well and have a peace of mind while with us.”
Community Development Officer Francis Okello says the violence is as a result of poverty, a history of civil strife, and the negative cultural practices of the Langi tribe.
“We are trying to address these issues through public dialogue, revolutionizing the culture by training cultural leaders and holding talk shows on the FM radio stations,” says Okello. “Given the responses, we expect change for the better.”
The Langocultural leader, popularly known as the Speaker Benson Dilla of the traditional parliament. Awitong of Orupudaga Anywar Clan and speaker Laongo chiefdom,says no effort is being spared to save the girl child from being a victim of GBV.
“In the first place, we have outlawed the display of young girls during traditional wedding ceremonies as it is done in Buganda,” said Dilla. “This follows a kid asking her parents and teachers why she is still going to school after she was wedded last weekend,” he says.
Dilla says the time has come for the girl child to enjoy equal opportunities with the boys. Adding that there is nothing either gender can do that the other cannot do.
“In Acholi culture, women are sacred. That is why even during the tribal wars they were never touched by either warring party or they risked the wrath of the gods,” stressed Dilla. “Today, prostitution is on the rise in our community, which we think can only be fought by regaining our lost glory by respecting the power of the woman.”
Music Dance and Drama for change
Ayamo Primary School has an enrolment of 511 pupils, most of whom are members the newly-introduced GBV Club. The Senior woman Eunice Atim, says that traditionally, the girls used to afraid of saying what they wanted but there is a big change now.
“They will openly say they lack sanitary towels, books or hygienic toilets,” says Atim. “Through music dance and drama, the club is de-campaigning the use of strength to beat women. Parents are being urged to educate the girl child if their sons are to get good wives.”
Already, they have filed complaints about their lives being in danger after seeing cracks on a classroom wall and leaking roofs.
“Some have called on the Government to help them stay in school by paying all their school fees or they may burden their parents financially,” says the Deputy Headmaster Moses Ogwal. “This leads many parents to marry off the girls at a tender age.”
The Senior Woman teacher Atim says the school is gaining popularity in the village for the messages they deliver when showcasing their music, dance and drama.
“They are often invited to campaign positively about living in a family unit, avoiding dropping out of school and aiming higher.
Empowering the girl child
I am RobinahApio of Oyam Primary School in Ajabill village. I am the Chairperson of the Anti-Gender-Based Violence Club. I have benefited a lot from joining this Drama Club. I mind my personal hygiene and that of my environment. The Club Master tells us to avoid bad company if we want to avoid teenage or unwanted pregnancy and consuming beer.
We are told to tell what is disturbing us or makes us uncomfortable at school if they are to be addressed.
JenniefrAcio 24 of Ajabil village in Ongwen sub-county was widowed at 20 after getting married at 15 years of age.
“My husband was called by his uncle called Tony Lwak to ride him to a hospital. They were ambushed by thugs and my husband was killed. Before burial, my brother in law wanted to inherit me as his wife but I declined. That is when they gave me marching orders from what was our family land.”
After being evicted,Acio was homeless with her children. They roamed from home to home for temporal accommodation. This continued until she heard about the services rendered by The Shelter.
“They saved me when they managed to secure the services of a lawyer who enabled me to get back our family land,” recounts Acio. “I plant sesame, cassava, and sorghum. That way I am able to buy requirements the children need to continue with their education.”
Saved from committing suicide
Scovia Among, 49, was married and staying in Ngeta sub-county in Ororo village but her marriage fell apart because of a promiscuous husband. Now she is renting a room in a Lira suburb called Kirombe B.
“We were married for 30 years and produced nine children,” narrates Among. “Sadly, three of them died. Unfortunately, my husband is reluctant to pay school fees for the survivors who are still going to school.”
The naughty husband treated Among like a slave. He argues that in the African homestead, a woman is supposed to be submissive and subservient to her husband.
“I have suffered with this man,” cries Among. “At this old age, I was forced to go and stay with my parents. It was AAIU that came to my rescue, counseled me when I was on the verge of going mad with stress.”
Worse still when Among went for an HIV test, she was found positive. But her husband has declined to take ARVs to be able to contain the killer disease. He once threw her drugs in a pit latrine.
Immaculate Akello, Legal Officer and Area Coordinator of the MIFUMI shelter says they are over stretched as they cover Lyantonde, Lwengo, Kyotera and MpigiDistricts where GBV is highly prevalent. In these districts, the GBV survivors’ quest for justice is hampered by limited resources, inability to access legal experts to represent them in court when the need arises.
“In case like the above, the Shelter comes in handy to cater for food, shelter, sanitary pads, health care and upkeep for between 3-5 days, as provided by the Ministry of Gender guidelines” said Akello. The shelter also act as safe spaces where the survivor is shielded from coercion, intimidation from relatives of their abusers’’.
Corporal LyagobaYahya in Masaka highlighted their use of radio talk shows to caution men who commit physical against their spouses and those who neglect their children. “The major causes of GBV in Masaka are poverty, ignorance of the law and negative cultural practices,” lamented Lyagoba. “You can imagine there are women who still believe that being beaten is a sign of affection. Others believe that a man has the right to have multiple partners to help with the household chores.”
In addition, the District Development Officer Lillian Musisi stressed the importance of all stake holders pooling resources as more cases of GBV are reported. ‘’No one can work on GBV alone, it is a complex problem requiring multi sectoral responses’’. “This involves even the men who are in the habit of denying their children support when if they are disabled or sickly.” We have a role in sensitizing such groups and mobilizing communities to support in our efforts to fight GBV.
Child Maintenance secured for single mother in Masaka.
My name is Zziwa Sulainah, I am 35, a single mother of three children. In 2015, I got a disagreement with her husband. My husband stopped providing for the family and got another partners outside the marriage, this is where all his resources were spent. I found myself unable to carry the burden and reported the case to police. My husband was summoned but he went in to hiding. The case proceeded to court and finally the court directed that my husband pay150,000/= per month to support maintain our children.
Although it was a win for me, I found this amount very inadequate to cover our expenses. Through the support of MIFUMI, I was able to start a small hair dressing business to bring in extra income. Through this business I supplement what my husband provides and it is enough to keep our heads above water.
Legal aid helped me reclaim my grabbed piece of land!
I am Zulaika Naluwu of MitugaVillage, Kibinge Sub County, Bukomansimbi District is one of the women who has benefitted from the SURGE programme. She smiles now as she tells her story.
I was denied the use of the land on which I had planted coffee, bananas and fruits. This happened after my husband married a second wife Prosy Nabakoga who would physical assault me to try to stop me from accessing the land. In one of these fights my lower lip was bitten off by my co-wife, I was left beaten and defeated. I was admitted to hospital for seven days, there after due to the violent atmosphere, I decided to take refuge at my parents home. The stress from losing my source of livelihood later led to my developing high blood pressure and lost hope in living a full life.
It was while living with my parents that I heard about the Masaka GBV shelter run by MIFUMI. I inquired what the shelter did and was reliably informed that it dealt with cases like mine. I decided to visit the shelter to get the needed support. When I visited the shelter and narrated my ordeal, the officer there advised me to seek legal redress to reclaim back my land. My husband was summoned and notified about the legal implications of the case. upon realizing what it would mean should I win in court, my husband relented and accepted to settle out of court.
This out of court settlement was supported by MIFUMI who supported me through the complicated process of legal contract signing. I got my gardens back but the culprit who bit off my lower lip was never punished for either trespass or assault much as I reported the case to Police,” she says. I am happy that I can grow food and crops for my sustenance.
Mbarara and the Fight Against GBV
The Community Development Officer Evelyn Kyomuhendo says the fight against GBV in Mbarara is an ongoing process which needs more resources. Moreover, GBV is such a complex problem that there is no silver bullet, different approaches are needed in the fight against this vice. “These conflicts between couples get to appoint where they can seriously harm each other as the struggle for supremacy rages’’,” said Kyomuhendo. Before this happens, we need to be able to intervene and deescalate such incidences.
“It is this complexity of GBV that sees MIFUMI court traditional & religious leaders, duty bearers like me and the community at large to all work together to deal with GBV. MIFUMI has supported survivors access Form 3 and a Shelter for those whose lives are under threat at home. As they seek justice, they are in a safe place where their tormentors are kept away from them.
Likewise, the LC1 Chairman of Rwalire village in Mbarara Municipality Alphonse Nyambale says the common cases in the area include; defilement, rape, property disputes and child neglect. Nyambale highlights that “times have changed for the worst”. “In the past, men found it prestigious to fend for their polygamous families. But these days, they run away from a mother and their own child.”
To Nyambale, MIFUMI’s role in Mabarara is key as they respond to extreme violence cases, for example he points to the recruitment of 20 recruits male change makers to support in mobilization of fellow men in the prevention of GBV. These change makers speak on radio, public gatherings and even do peer to peer support.
For Assistant Superitendant of Police Vellah Mwakire, the area of operation stretches as far as Mbarara, Kiruhura, Ntungamo, Isingiro, Ibanda and Rwampala where the cases committed are replicated. This stretch presents challenges when it comes to resource needed for evidence collection as these are hard to reach places due to the distance and poor transport means. In addition he says “there is ignorance of the law among the community. When people do not know that there are laws that cover GBV, they go on committing these acts knowing they will not be held accountable.
I successfully Challenged my soldier husband on selling family land
I am Shakila Namuwonge, 36, married with four children from Kashenyi cell, Ruhinga Parish, Rubaya S/C. In 2013, I went to MIFUMI after fleeing GBV in my home. It had reached an extent when my life was in danger and I had to flee home. I relocated to Masaka to live with my parents. That is when my husband Elly Biribwonwa serving in the UPDF brought trumped up charges against me, alleging that I had stolen sh8m. I was arrested and kept in detention without trial for more than seven days.
While being detained in police, my husband put me under a lot of pressure to give consent so he could sell our family land. I resisted his wish to sell off the family land. It was at this time that I heard about the services of MIFUMI. I was told they could support people with family disputes like mine. After leaving detention, I went to their office located in Mbarara Referral Hospital. Where I was supported with advice on how to counter my husband’s threat of selling property. MIFUMI managed to provide legal support for me which helped secure our family land. We are still living on the same land he wanted to sell and can grow banana and coffee. These are in addition to poultry. These initiatives provide adequate resources to cover out household expenses.
In the future, we hope to move to an urban setting so that our children can get good quality education and a home to live in. my husband has got an opportunity to go and serve in Somalia as a reserve UPDF officer. In addition, I have also made sure that the names on the contested title have since been edited to include both of us and the four children aged between 7-15 years. He cannot sell it off anymore without my consent and that of the children. I learnt all this from engaging with MIFUMI shelter.
I was able to start life again after divorce
My name is Beatrice Bwasisi, 55, I am divorced. I am a survivor of a violent relationship with my partner Eridad Makuba who is 80 years old. We live in Mbarara. We have two adult children and have so far got five grandchildren. In the later part of our marriage, I was forced out of my marital home when my husband decided that I was no longer good enough for him.
He wanted me out of the house. I had nowhere to go and decided to report the case to Police and the Police Family Court. I waited to be supported by the Family court but I was not supported. In fact since that time, My husband has managed to marry seven different wives, these have come and gone as they too experienced his violent side.
As I looked around in despair, I heard about the MIFUMI shelter and its services. I decided to pay them a visit and consult on what I could do to secure my home back. I was received by MIFUMI where the officials tried to mediate and reconcile us but to no avail. That’s when our dispute for ownership of property was forwarded to court. Through this court actions, I was given a portion of land to earn a living economically. I have since joined a group of 30 other survivors of GBV and are expecting seed money to boost our saving scheme. To empower ourselves economically, we intend to start, a catering service soon and a bakery soon.
In addition, through my hard work and focus, I have since built a house with two rental rooms. I now live a peaceful life free from violence. Recently, my former husband was asking me to go back and stay with him, I declined his offer, knowing that returning would leave me vulnerable to HIV infection and a possibility of re-victimization.
Recovering our land after it was illegally transferred to my husband.
I am Nalongo Nakawesi, 53, married to Salongo Karema Ephraim, 75. All was well even if we both had children from our earlier relationships. But problems started when Ephraim secretly stole the land title for a piece of property we had pooled resources to buy together and transferred to his name.
I had heard about MIFUMI and reported the illegal land transfer. Currently, we were on the verge of separation. I remember I had sold my property back at home to bring the money and help him pay for the land. I felt betrayed by someone I had spent more of my life with.
It took mediation and advice from MIFUMI head office for us to rewrite the title of our land into what is called Joint Tenancy, keep it in a bank for safe custody and are now living happily together. We have built a house in the village where we have poultry and make environmentally friendly gas from weeds and remains of charcoal dust.