TREATING GBV AS A PRIVATE ISSUE AND NOT TALKING ABOUT IT, ALLOWS IT TO HAPPEN

3rd May 2016 / Kampala Uganda

Patrick Mwesigye

Founder and Team Leader: Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum

President: Africa Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN East and Southern Africa)

Six out of ten Ugandan women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. More than half of these women, or 34% of all women in Uganda have experienced physical violence in the past 12 months.

About 48% of women in Uganda have experienced physical violence at the hands of their husband or partner and 36% have also experienced sexual violence, while 49% have experienced emotional violence. Overall, more than two-thirds of ever-married women in Uganda (68%) have experienced some form of violence (physical, sexual or emotional) by a husband or intimate partner.

Gender-based violence (GBV) can best be defined as any verbal or physical act that results in bodily, psychological, sexual and economic harm to somebody just because they are female or male.

GBV can be done by an intimate partner, a family member, a neighbor, an acquaintance or a stranger. “It also happens because one person chooses to exercise power and control over another person” noted Nuliat 24 years, a mother of two and a once victim of violence.    Nuliat told me that she had been forced to relinquish her relationship about 6 months back because of physical and emotional violence she suffered from the husband who always came home drunk and would beat her resulting into physical harm. Nuliat is a resident of Kiwunya Slum in Nakulabye a Kampala suburb at the heart of Rubaga Division.

This was at a community dialogue organized by Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF) www.uyahf.com a grassroots Youth Lead and Youth serving Organization in Kiwunya Slum, Nakulabye 4 parish a Kampala suburb located In Rubaga Division on 30th January 2016. The dialogue was organized under the theme, ““Empowering and positioning community in the fight to end Gender Based Violence against women, girls and children”.

 UYAHF under its mandate seeks to advocte for and address the health, gender and livelihood needs of young people especially young women and adolescent girls of ages 13- 30 years who are from poor and vulnerable backgrounds and victims of various forms of violence.

Banner Patrick_Gender_Based_Violence 2In the picture above is our social media poster that we use to advertise the dialogues which we intend to hold in 10 more slums.

“In many African societies, men and women are not yet equal. More value is given to men than women. As long as there is an imbalance of power between men and women, GBV will continue. GBV also happens when people do not know how to solve conflicts peacefully, or how to build and maintain healthy relationships based on mutual respect”, noted, Praise Mwesigwa the UYAHF SRHR program officer as she gave her keynote address at the dialogue. Learning these skills will give people an alternative to GBV, she added.

Key among the highlights of the dialogue was agreement from the participants and more so women that GBV continues to happen because it’s never discussed openly in communities. In most cases issues and cases of GBV are treated as private issues and When we treat GBV as a private issue, we allow it to continue, noted by participants as they fully agreed with “Nalongo” (Nalongo in Luganda language- means mother of twins) an opinion leader in the community that is known by many as the “auntie”

It’s also important to learn that Gender refers to the roles, responsibilities and behaviors that our society expects of both men and women. It’s of value for communities to understand gender issues because we recognize that these expectations are different for men and for women in different communities. Although most GBV cases are predominantly among women and girls and children, it’s also very important to note that men also experience GBV.

The community dialogue that attracted about 100 participants including among others, women, men, local leaders, children and leaders from local CBOs also intensively discussed the effects of GBV and how to prevent GBV.

The major highlight of the discussion on effects and prevention was the message sent out by Tukole Wamu community entertainment and dance group that performed, dances, and a 30 minutes play with a message on what causes GBV, effects and how to prevent GBV. The play themed, “ Okumalawo Obutabangiko Bwomumaka” ( Ending Gender Based Violence” attracted numbers to turn up for the dialogue and there was no other way to send the message home than watching and listening to the play.

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Members of Tukolele Wamu Community Entertainment and Dance Group acting their play on Ending GBV to the audience

 The messages from the play highlighted the fact that, GBV does not only affect the individuals who are abused, but It also affects children, families, communities and the entire nation.

Individuals who are abused – or who have been denied opportunity – cannot fully participate in community life. Their ability to share their energy, ideas, skills, talents and opinions with their families, communities, places of worship and in the political process is lost when their bodies and minds are damaged by GBV.

Mastura one of the survivors of GBV noted as she shared her story that “GBV survivors often face stigmatization and discrimination.  Mastura 18 years and a mother of two is a victim of sexual violence and a single mother living with HIV. Mastura conceived her first born at 16 an up today she confesses that she cannot tell whereabouts of the father of her child who forcefully indulged her into un consensual sex that was at the same time unprotected where she conserved her first born.

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Kids pause with the UYAHF SRHR Program Officer for a selfie at the dialogue  

Violence especially sexual violence can also cause health problems (including exposure to HIV infection and unwanted pregnancies, forced marriages), sadness, isolation, and a loss of self-confidence and income in individuals.

In families, GBV creates an unpredictable and frightening environment. Children learn to fear the abuser, and they worry about the parent who is being abused. Children who grow up in violent homes learn that violence and aggression are acceptable ways of expressing emotions or resolving conflicts. These children are more likely to leave home at an early age and to commit acts of violence in their own homes when they become adults.

As we concluded the dialogue Patrick Mwesigye the Founder and Team Leader in his closing remarks could not, forget to mention that Community plays a high price for GBV. Businesses lose money due to the ill health of employees who are abused. Responding to GBV including law enforcement, health services, court and legal proceedings, and social services requires both money and staff.

Some cases of GBV like physical and domestic violence, also lead to children running away from home something that exposes them to early marriages, school dropout and sometimes commercial sex work as they struggle to find survival since they luck parental care, support and guidance, he added.

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Ssozi the area local council chairman and the Director of Tukolele wamu Community Entertainment and Dance Group addressing the participants at the Dialogue. Sozi is also a community champion for Ending GBV and has undergone several training on gender equity and equality and women empowerment.

He also called on the community to continue talking about GBV openly as this is one of the ways to make every concerned party learn about its effects and how to prevent it. I also noted that GBV is a crime in Uganda and is punishable by law and hence all victims have the right to report any case of gender based violence at the police and their cases will be filed and the process to seeking justice begins.

He encouraged the community to always call the government toll free number (116) where they can report any case of violence and seek counseling and guidance on how to about with the case or contact the family protection Unit of the nearby police station that directly deals with and handles the issues of SGBV.

 

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