International Women’s Day is traditionally celebrated on 8th March; however on 26th February 2015, Kisoro residents celebrated women’s day under the theme Together We Can End Domestic Violence.”

The celebrations which were held at Mayor’s Gardens in Kisoro town were part of activities to commemorate the success of a three year intervention aimed at combating sexual violence against girls and women; rewarding the project partners and beneficiaries; raising awareness on harmful social cultural practices that contribute to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and lobbying the district council to address issues of alcohol abuse as the leading cause of SGBV.

A cross section of the participants during the women's day march

A cross section of the participants during the March

The half day festivities were attended by over 630 guests including police, district officials, religious leaders, community based organizations (CBOs), Media, primary schools, Combating all forms of Rape, Defilement and Sexual Harassment (CODERASH) committee members and the general public.

The day kicked off with a march around Kisoro town, flagged off by the Residential District Commissioner (RDC) Ms. Purukelia Muhindo. In her speech, the RDC appreciated ACFODE’s relentless efforts to put an end to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in Kisoro district and Uganda at large. “I appreciate the work ACFODE is implementing to empower and educate the girls on sexual violence, because an educated woman is an empowered woman.”

Some of the students creating awareness about sexual and gender based violence

Sudents create awareness about sexual and gender based violence through the use of drama

Different primary schools including Mutolere primary school (P/S), Kabindi P/S, Gisharu P/S, Gotora P/S, Gisoroora P/S, and Mabunga P/S created awareness on harmful social cultural practices that contribute to sexual violence, through drama/skits, songs and poems. The day’s highlight was an Award ceremony of the partner primary schools and CODERASH members from Kirundo, Nyakabande, Nyarusiza and Busanza sub counties, for championing the fight against SGBV in Kisoro district.

A CODERASH member poses with the ACFODE Executive Director,  Ms Regina Bafaki, the EIRENE representative Mr Hauke Steg (L) after receiving her certificate

A CODERASH member together with the ACFODE Executive Director Ms Regina Bafaki, the EIRENE representative Mr Hauke Steg (L) and Mr K. Kenneth (M) shows off her certificate

Following the women’s day celebrations, a networking meeting was held with district officials; among these were the Residential District Commissioner, Local Council five Chairperson, District Education Officer, and the District Police Commander, to engage on issues of child and forced marriage, teenage pregnancy, and to lobby them to address these issues.

Despite sensitization on the dangers of early and forced marriage, the district officials reported persistent child marriage and increasing forced marriage cases due to high poverty rates, economic gain and parents’ negligence. “Cases of early marriage are largely fueled by poverty among parents, leading to negotiations for bride price in exchange for the girl. In regards to forced marriage, when a young girl is constantly sighted with a boy, she is forced into marriage,” testified the District Police Commander Mr. Otim John Bosco. He added that often girls go to school without food or money; boys hence take advantage of them, with promises of money and food, leading to early sex and eventually early or forced marriages and pregnancies.

The persistent vice was also blamed on parents who have relegated their parental responsibilities of sex education to senior male and female teachers. “Parents have the ‘I don’t care’ attitude. All they care about is money. After paying school fees, they believe everything is catered for, so they never spare time to talk to their children regarding sex education, leaving no option for the children but to explore themselves,” expressed one of the participants.

A number of proposals on curbing the vice were cited namely; change of approach where couples are targeted instead of individuals to play their role and pass on the message, encourage boys or the boys’ families to pay school fees for the young girls who are impregnated by the boys, police to strengthen enforcement of laws and administer grave punishments to sexual violence perpetrators, as well as relatives who settle cases outside court.

Participants appreciated ACFODE and her partners EIRENE for considering Kisoro a model district and for extending the project to 2018. They pledged to continued support of the project; sensitization of masses on SGBV and strengthening of the available measures of addressing the vice.

ACFODE appreciates the efforts of the different partners especially the Development partner; The German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), in realizing a reduction in sexual violence cases, and guarantees continuous interventions to put an end to the harmful practice.

Esther Namitala

Public Relations and Communications Department

Celebrating Collaborations that Address Sexual Violence against Women and Girls

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