16 Days of Activism campaign against Gender Based Violence in Nwoya District
Theme: Women and Girls Mental Health and Wellness Matters
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda, the government sanctioned a lockdown as a measure to curb the spread of the virus. This brought with it serious impacts especially on those working in the informal sector. In Uganda, 85% of working women are in the informal sector which is characterized with insecure employment, low earnings and productivity. As a result of the lockdown, many women became unemployed and could not provide for their families leading to a spark in Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases and thus resulting into women and girls’ mental wellness.
On 2-3rd December, NAWAD with support from her partner Womankind Worldwide conducted a campaign on Violence against women and girls (VAWG) under the theme “Women’s Mental Health and Wellness Matters” in Nwoya district. This was done following the global theme VAWG in the World of Work, with particular focus on women working in the informal sector.
Activities included a community drive to increase awareness on VAWG, its adverse effects on mental health and the importance of wellness, established two mobile GBV clinics for counselling services to victims and survivors of violence and a community dialogue to strengthen women’s capacity to stand against, speak up and report GBV. This was all possible in collaboration with Local government officials, COVID-19 district task force, the police, Village Health Teams and Nwoya Young Women and girls with Disabilities Association registered under NUWODU.
33 year old Wanican Molly from Anaka town council narrated that she was only fourteen years when she got raped and impregnated by now her husband David. It was one evening when her mother had sent her to collect some water from the well that was hidden approximately 350metres into the dark woods away from their home, when she felt from her back hands tightly wrapped around her mouth. As she struggled in fear to make an alarm, nothing could be heard from her except for the silent granting sighs begging for help. “He quickly drugged me to the wet leafy ground, pulled out a shiny knife and asked me to remain silent otherwise he would cut off my head and without wasting time David rapped me,” Molly said. Unfortunately, to keep their family bond with David’s parents, Molly’s parents forced her into marriage to David on realizing that she had got pregnant.
Consequently after sensitization, different women were able to speak up openly about their past experiences in relation to GBV and offer each other psychosocial support as a sign of solidarity. Among the participants that attended the community dialogue, each left with a flyer to continue sensitizing other members in the community. The participants also committed to formulating an advocacy group (Nwoya Women’s Advocacy Group) purposefully for raising women’s voices against GBV to authorities. They also agreed to meet as may be deemed necessary to support victims of GBV psychosocially or even economically.
NAWAD believes that peaceful families lead to peaceful communities and thus to a peaceful nation. Male engagement in all our activities increased their awareness on the pivotal role they have got to play to the elimination of violence against women and girls in the society. Men were meant to understand that their payment of dowry was not to take their wives as property, but rather as a sign of appreciation to the woman’s parents and hence were advised to treat their wives as companions. Those men that were engaged in the sensitization process, participated as male change makers since in the African setting men easily listen to fellow men for knowledge advancement.