By our reporter
NAMIREMBE: As part of the activities to commemorate the 16 days of gender activism, Church of Uganda has joined the rest of the world today to mark World AIDS day with a candle-lit solidarity prayer, Holy Communion service and music, dance and drama competitions to highlight the linkage between gender based violence (GBV) and HIV/AIDS.
Rt Rev Amos Magezi, the Bishop of the Diocese of NorthWest Ankole Diocese who presided over the celebrations at Namirembe Diocese headquarters said that gender based violence especially violence against women and girls continues be a problem that requires continued engagement to address as faith leaders and all key stakeholders.
He decried the increasing rate of teenage pregnancies and high school dropouts of young girls which has a substantial impact on their future, making them more vulnerable to child marriage, poverty, exclusion and illness.
“Young mothers in Uganda risk poor maternal and child health, being isolated, attempting unsafe abortions, failure to continue with school, and poverty. There is a lot of stigma and shame that afflicts the families of the adolescent girls who fall pregnant. Patriarchal value of apportionment of blame, in many instances the mothers of the girls are blamed, criticized and ostracized for the girl’s pregnancy.” Bishop Magezi said.
He added, “The 16 days of gender activism should offer us the opportunity as faith leaders to renew our commitment to ending violence against women and girls – whether it takes place at home, in schools, in the workplace, or in public.”
Bishop Magezi called upon faith leaders and people in position of authority to play their role and ensure the perpetrators of GBV are brought to book, GBV laws are effectively implemented and GBV survivors support to access justice and reparations.
“As faith leaders, we need to concede that we are key stakeholders in responding to the health and social issues that affects our people and country by playing an influential role. I appeal to everyone to stay away from irresponsible sexual behaviors and lifestyles that exposes their life to HIV/AIDS Virus. Always remember AIDS KILLS!” Bishop Magezi said.
Mrs. Rose Bingyi, the Namirembe Diocese Mothers Union President whose Diocese took lead in organizing this year’s main celebrations, re-affirmed the Union’s commitment to fight against GBV in their communities.
“We are strongly committed as Mothers Union of Namirembe Diocese and the entire Province of the Church of Uganda to utilize our various God given talents, spaces and resources to fight against gener based violence. We thank our partners that have given us financial support to go to radio stations, TVs, newspapers and other spaces to speak up and condemn GBV.” Mrs Bingyi said.
Ms. Irene Anena, Church of Uganda’s Coordinator for gender and social justice called for optimum utilization of all available spaces to advocate for conducive atmosphere for boys and men, women and girls to live.
“We need to continue utilizing our faith spaces by denouncing and breaking the culture of silence on impunity to gender-based violence, encouraging survivors to report GBV, provide counselling and support through our structures to survivors of GBV and providing safe spaces for women and girls, men and boys, create awareness through the pulpit and work with men and boys as agents of change for sustainable gender equality.” Ms. Anena said.
She added, “Our theme for this year’s 16 days of Gender Activism should remind us that ending gender based Violence is a collective responsibility that requires all stakeholders to build a critical mass in ensuring GBV survivors are supported.”
Today’s commemoration included remembering victims of GBV and those that affected and infected by HIV/AIDS. Music Dance and Drama completions were held as some of the strategies to increase awareness on the need to prevent GBV, the role of the Church and all key stakeholders to end violence against women and girls.
The event was graced by Church of Uganda’s Director for Household and Community Transformation Rev Andrew Agaba, ACT Alliance Country coordinator Ms. Patricia Akullo, Finn Church Aid’s Eva Nagaba Kanshemeza, Mothers Union leaders among others.