Violence against Women (VAW) is human rights cross cutting issue and it affects all the poor, rich, educated, illiterate and all culture, black or white. It happens all over the world and in all ages. VAW is caused by a number of factors including lack of communication between the partners, lack of love, and cultural beliefs. Power imbalance between men and women is the leading cause of VAW; power imbalance makes men feel superior to women hence causing them to reassert their positions and status. By understanding this phenomenon, ACFODE has embarked on addressing VAW and specifically Domestic Violence through the SASA methodology. SASA – Start Awareness Support Action; is evidence based training methodology in tackling Violence against Women (VAW).
It inspires and enables communities to re-think and re-shape social norms shifting focus away from exclusively “gender” towards the root cause of the problem which is “Power Imbalance.” SASA helps communities, individuals and social set ups to reflect on their own lives and relationships before trying to influence others. ACFODE conducted training for 120 community activists (60 female and 60 male) in Apac and Dokolo districts on SASA tool for preventing VAW. The training took place from 27th March to 1st April 2017, targeting sub-counties of Akokoro, Apac, Chegere and Ibuje in Apac district; Bata and Kangai in Dokolo district.
While most communities in Uganda say that Violence against Women and Children is common, participants in Apac brought to our attention that Violence against Men also exists although, the men are silent about it. Despite these few scenarios, majority of participants said that it is mainly men who perpetrate violence.
“In my Parish (Ayeolyec), women violet men; they marry men for money. Much as we talk about violence against women, women of Ayeolyec parish in Akokoro sub-county are more troublesome than men; they are fighting and killing their husbands,” Ocen Charles – Apac district.
“Men fear to report cases of violence, but when they are violated, they call their brothers and talk to them,” Okabo Raphael (Clan Leader, Akokoro sub-county, Apac district).
“One day I got hurt by my husband and I boxed him and he started crying saying; today I am beaten by a woman. I felt sorry for him and I started crying terribly more than him but he later said he had forgiven me,” Conny Abak – Apac.
“In my area, it’s mainly women who report cases of violence,” Connie Abas, LC I Chairperson – Akokoro S/C, Apac district
During the training, participants brainstormed on the contributing factors to VAW and these included; alcoholism, unfaithfulness, poverty, misunderstanding, intimidation and low level of education. They also mentioned the effects of VAW such as separation of families, poverty, death, STDs and HIV/AIDs, early marriages, school drop outs and increased number of street children. Families experiencing violence have more chances of acquiring HIV/AIDs because of attempts to try out non-violent partners, seeking sexual satisfaction in another relationship, polygamy and forced and early marriage.
While expounding on the SASA methodology, we looked at two stages namely; START also known as pre-contemplation stage whereby individuals might not have known the violations against women in their community or the consequences of the violations. It’s during this stage that individuals begin to reflect on the link between VAW and HIV/AIDs. We looked at AWARENESS also known as contemplation stage that helps communities or individuals to re-think and provoke personal reflection about VAW particularly domestic violence. During the ‘Awareness’ stage, emphasis is put on what the situation is, how an individual/community is affected, takes caution or cautions others and reflects on power imbalances between men and women as a cause of Violence against Women and the belief that women have less worth than men.
SASA is an approach that promotes positive power and everyone has a role to play in using their power to promote a positive change. Power is of four types namely; power within oneself (at start phase), power over others (awareness phase), power with others (support phase) and power to act (action phase). “Power is always with us, it influences us to make decisions but we rarely think of it; Power can be used positively or negatively,” Mr. Julius Kisembo (ACFODE Member). Positive change can be brought about by different motivators such as high income levels, positive criticisms, awareness and sharing of ideas.
However there are barriers which might also stop the positive change from happening which include; enabling, blaming, judging, labeling and discouraging other people. SASA approach encourages Circles of Influence. The people around you can influence what you do. Everyone has a role to play. Around all of us are Circles of Influence including family, friends, community members and society. Some of the influence helps us to recognize how thoughts, beliefs and actions of others influence our own. The more people we convince about the benefits of a violence free relationship and society, the more we inspire a positive change.
In reaching out to community to create positive change, various methods can be used such as local activism, media and advocacy, communication materials and training. However, addressing VAW can be challenging as it involves fears such as lack of attention from community members, poor reception, alcoholism, community facilitators lacking adequate information and traditional beliefs. Addressing HIV/AIDs also involves fears such as stigma among positive living persons, peer pressure, prostitutions, and difficulty in meeting couples. In this training, we learnt that obstacles and reluctance is natural but it must not stop us from addressing issues of VAW and HIV/AIDs. Communication should be open and not close ended; community activists were also tipped to always speak less and listen more, offer support not judging.
The training was highly appreciated and SASA was described as a unique approach for preventing VAW by tacking the root cause which is power imbalance. The different sub-county leaders who participated in the training appreciated ACFODE’s work and pledged to influence the council to allocate a budget for sensitizing community on domestic violence. They also pledged maximum support to ACFODE projects in terms of monitoring, follow up of ACFODE activities and community mobilization.
“ACFODE programmes in our sub-county have led to the reduction of school dropout among girls, reduction in early and forceful marriages and communities are reporting cases of Violence against women as a result of community sensitization. As a sub-county, we are going to continue following up on the women’s groups engaged by ACFODE to make sure they continue with saving and loaning,” Ms. Nakato Lydia, CDO – Ibuje sub-county, Apac district
“Since ACFODE came to Dokolo, we have seen peace restored in our homes, women are being respected. We are glad that the project is being extended. We have 10 sub-counties in Dokolo and one town council. We pray that ACFODE chooses other sub-counties such that information is disseminated properly.” LC III Chairman, Bata sub-county – Dokolo district.
“Women who have money are respected by their husbands and community; therefore, I still ask ACFODE and other stake holders to continue supporting women groups in VSLA,” Mr. Samuel Okwir – CDO, Chegere sub-county, Apac district.
SASA being a new approach to the participants needed a minimum of three days training for deeper understanding. Having sessions of translation into the local language also took a lot of time in addition to participants coming late especially on the first day. ACFODE therefore plans for another engagement with SASA activists whereby gap filling sessions will be organized to enable activists gain a deeper understanding on SASA methodology. Sessions on existing laws such as the Land Act, GBV policy and Constitution shall be incorporated in future activities to enable activists understand the legal framework on preventing VAW.
Compiled by Rukundo Rebecca
Gender and Economic Policy Department