Miss Uganda Foundation and Kampala Young Women’s Coalition has today come out and teamed together to finally eliminate violence Against Women and Girls.
Kampala young women’s coalition is an umbrella movement of member-based like-minded organisations driven to end violence against women and girls in Kampala. This cluster is led by; Gals Forum International – GAFI. Other organisations engaged in this movement coalition include; Miss Uganda Foundation, Young Women’s Alliance for Human Rights-YAH, Free Mind Hives and Albinism Umbrella which all come together with different experiences in economic empowerment of vulnerable women and girls, teenage pregnancies, mental health and human rights.
In a press briefing, the Kampala young women’s coalition met under a Spotlight Initiative project on the “Elimination of all forms of VAWG” under objective No. 6 “Galvanizing the strength of the women’s movement to eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) in Kampala district.” This event is in commemoration of the International Women’s Day (IWD) themed Women in Leadership achieving an Equal Future in a Covid world.”
Women ignored amidst covid 19 lockdown
Women who experience violence suffer a range of health problems and their ability to participate in public life is diminished. Violence impoverishes women, their families, communities and nations. It lowers economic productivity due to unpaid care work, drains resources from public services and employers and reduces human capital formation (Istanbul Convention, article 33, 35 and 42.).
Following the lockdown that ensued on the 18th March 2020, the government of Uganda has made a series of strides to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic however little or no efforts have been made to tackle violence against Young women and girls in their homes, schools and communities.
Before the pandemic, 243 million women and girls aged 15-49, experienced sexual and physical violence by an intimate partner. In the past year since the pandemic, violence against women, especially domestic violence has been intensified.
A 2020 report released by police yesterday indicated that 19000 people had reported having experienced violence. Of these 14,000 were women and girls. This situation has been exacerbated by factors such as insecurity, poor health, cramped living conditions due to poverty and unemployment, isolation with abusers, movement restrictions, lack of access to justice among others.
VAWG is harmful to not only the young women affected but extends to their families, communities and societies. It is a human rights violation and one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based inequality. Therefore, in an effort to disrupt the unequal power relations between men and women, Gals Forum International together with her alliance partners under the Spotlight initiative has over the past months engaged in community dialogues to find out the causes of the escalating levels of VAWG during this pandemic. The forms of Violence reported by young women and girls included physical, sexual, economic, emotional and psychological violence.
As a coalition, this press release is a call to action for all Development Partners, Government Agencies, Civil Society actors among other stakeholders to challenge all the unequal social, political and economic factors that perpetuate VAWG hence limiting their strength in building a better future in a COVID 19 World.
It also functions as a learning point for community members to reflect upon their characters in relation to ending VAWG in their communities and all other spaces.
The following are some of the critical concerns causing VAWG in the areas of Nakawa, Makindye and Kampala central divisions;
Young women and economic empowerment
According to Development Initiatives, over 23% of the urban poor lost their daily income
during and after the lockdown. The majority of these unemployed people were young women and girls who were employed in the informal sector under industries such as the service and hospitality sector, micro and small scale enterprises. The economic vulnerability of these women and girls rendered them prone to all forms of violence reported.
In the Nakawa division, the women reported that their men had started to engage in vices such as breaking their saving boxes since they can no longer sustain their lifestyles. The men were also reported to neglect their roles of providing for the family needs and any confrontation from them to that effect results in violence.
Women in leadership grow
In the just-concluded national elections, limited numbers of young women actively participated in the general elections. This was due to the scientific nature of the electoral process. The Campaigns were expensive due to the ban on public rallies and over-reliance on media and technology to pass information to the electorate. Young women in the communities could not afford to access electronic gadgets and devices or even foot their data costs.
In the 11th parliament, women represent a meagre 32.89% of the legislators voted to the house and over 98% of these women were voted on positions of affirmative action. These figures are representative of the leadership inequalities between men and women.
There have been increased cases of sexual violence and harassment due to idleness and young women and girls being locked up with their abusers. Over 1600 cases of defilement were reported of which 200 were crimes perpetrated by fathers.
This surge in cases was mainly due to courts of law being non-operational and limited interventions by CSO’s to help render justice to these young women and girls.
Young women’s access to sexual reproductive health services and information was strained
Young Women’s rights violated
There was a rise in human rights violations during the pandemic, especially during the electoral process. A series of police brutalities went unpunished in the guise of enforcing lockdown and curfew restrictions. Some women reported being sexually harassed and forced into sex during curfew hours by men in uniform which we strongly condemn.
Digital exclusion gravely affected women and girls access to information which is one of their human rights.
Mental health concerns.
Many young women and girls were caregivers during this pandemic due to their social orientation thus making them prone to mental health challenges like depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress. They performed roles such as taking care of the sick, cleaning, educating their children etc which were physically and emotionally overwhelming.
Call to action
The coalition has urged the government to do the following
The government, Civil Society Organizations, development partners and the community should address these critical concerns with immediate effect.
Law enforcement agencies and government should prioritize responses to curb VAWG in communities.
We all need continue amplifying voices of violence in the community and encourage survivors to report cases and bring perpetrators to book.
Government and stakeholders should open up shelters for survivors of violence to foster psychosocial support.
Ease access to SRHR services and information and remove tax on reproductive products such as pads, condoms and contraceptives etc
Increase awareness to end GBV such as: Running adverts on ending GBV and child abuse, sharing the helplines that people can use to report these cases, increase information on topics like family planning, sexuality education, violence against women and girls and many more.
Government should prioritize people-centred strategies to deliver services to key populations such as women and girls i.e, the pandemic should not be a deterrent to people’s rights such as health, food, peace and security.
All actors should not only sensitize the girl child and women but the boy child and men as well on issues of VAWG.
More visibility platforms should be created to encourage those suffering in silence to speak up against this vice.
Community leaders should be trained on how to best handle issues of VAWG.
Leaders should push the government to widen the scope of income-generating programs like the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Limited (UWEAL), Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) and Emyooga to curb poverty among low-income communities.
Leaders should encourage people to save as a measure to curb poverty and also lobby for economic empowerment opportunities.
Local council leaders should set up independent committees to follow up on issues of VAWG