This year marks the 25th year of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, initiated in 1991. Given such insecurity and lack of safety in relation to education, the theme of the 16 Days Campaign was “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All”. This theme recognized that structural discrimination and inequality is perpetuated in a cycle of violence that does not end even when girls and young women are in the act of gaining an education. Gender-based violence with respect to the right to education is a consistent threat in public spaces, schools, and homes and is a detriment to the universal human right to education.
As part of activities to mark the 16 days of activism and 30 years since ACFODE’s inception, a two days’ National Women’s Convention was held in Gulu District. The theme for the regional event was: “Celebrating the Journey of Passion: Taking Stock and Renewing Commitment Towards Gender Justice in Uganda”. The regional event is geared towards enhancing the involvement of the rural woman in the movement building and rejuvenate energies for a new Gender equality agenda for the next 10 years. In attendance were religious leaders, cultural institutions, civil society, private sector, youth above all the rural woman who was at the helm of discussions.
The colorful event kicked off with a Street March through Gulu town, over 500 people joined the procession to show solidarity with ACFODE and commemorate the 16 days of activism. The Chief Walker was the Chairman of Uganda Episcopal Conference, Archbishop John Baptist Odama. In his remarks he appealed to Ugandans not to mistreat the girl child but empower her for development. He criticized parents who prefer educating the boy child while leaving a girl to stay at home doing chores. The Archbishop instead encouraged parents to treat both boy and girl equally. “Don’t mistreat a girl child because she is a girl but treat them equally,” The Archbishop condemned domestic violence in families and called for harmony.
The Gulu Resident District Commissioner Capt. Santos Okot Lapolo urged men to give women equal opportunity in decision making process. “The woman is an important creation God has ever made, without her the world would be incomplete.”
In her remarks The Country Representative, Diakonia Uganda Ms. Anabel Agwang Okot highlighted the good relations and years of work between Diakonia and ACFODE and how this has contributed to the increased representation for women at all levels of leadership and increased access to finance and productive resources among women. She called for candid discussions on the problems that women in Uganda have and how to overcome them, not just during these 16 Days of activism but throughout the year.
The Chief Guest, Ms. Karen McCormack Country Director British Council Uganda in her key note address also highlighted the strong partnership between British Council and ACFODE especially on Promoting Women’s Rights project. This project contributed to strengthening the participation of women in social, economic and political life in society where women and men are valued equally and have equal access to opportunities, resources and government programs. On how to promote gender equality, Ms. McCormack called for women to influence their sons to treat women with respect, women to involve in early childhood education of their children and join the efforts to end child marriage for both their sons and daughters. She ended her keynote by reiterating the British government’s commitment towards gender equality, justice and women empowerment programs.
The event also had break-away sessions dubbed conversation circles. A total of six conversation circles convened by rural women, youth, religious leaders, cultural leaders, civil society representatives, private sector and media. The selected topics were Promoting Education as a Vehicle for Gender Justice; Youth as vectors for Gender Justice; Challenging stereotypes and defying the status quo; Faith, culture and gender justice; How can faith and culture play a positive role in addressing VAW/G; Women, Land and Property Rights; Property rights and the land question in Uganda and how it can be used to promote Gender Equality Women; Media and ICT; Using traditional and new media to advance women’s rights and challenge discrimination against women.
The stakeholders in the journey towards the empowerment of the rural women and building of the Women’s movement called for the enactment and implementation of laws that directly or indirectly support women to participate in political, social and economic spaces; sustained community efforts to change attitudes towards girl child education and promotion of peaceful conflict resolution and respect for one another between men and women in the family.
Running throughout the event was a health camp; over 200 people participated in the camp. There was free screening and testing for breast Cancer, HIV/AIDS testing and counseling, eye sight pressure, diabetes, sickle cells and blood donation drive.
The event closed off with a friendly soccer match to kick out Violence against Women and Girls in Uganda. The game was between the Women of Gulu and the Women from the rest of Uganda, and despite the efforts from the women from the rest of Uganda, the women of Gulu won the match.
This event was held with the kind support of Diakonia Uganda.